Updated February 2019
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Turn Off the Lights

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Handy, lightweight tool helps students focus on video

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Turn Off the Lights is a browser extension and app -- available for just about every major platform -- that does a simple but useful thing: It darkens everything but a video on a website. Whether you're using a video-based site like YouTube or watching a video embedded in an article on the New York Times, Turn Off the Lights will gray out everything but the video player, making it easier to focus. This can be a useful tool for teachers who often project websites in front of the class and want to quickly swap students' focus from a video clip to a website and back again. It might also help students who find themselves easily distracted when watching educational videos in school or at home. Of course, it does beg the question: Why not just expand the video to full screen? That's one solution, and probably best suited to longer spans of video watching. Where Turn Off the Lights comes in handy, however, is during a lesson when you want students to switch their attention between a website and a video. For instance, you might be checking out an article as a class and then want to quickly view an embedded video. With Turn Off the Lights, you can quickly cue students to shift their attention without full-screening the video. When the clip is finished, you can dive right back to the article. It's especially handy on cluttered websites like YouTube that feature a lot of peripheral -- and often inappropriate -- content.

While Turn Off the Lights works right out of the box (so to speak), it also has a shocking amount of customizability. Teachers should dig in to the options and tweak it to meet their needs. For instance, you can alter the opacity and color of the dimming, set it so that it automatically applies when a video is played, and even add background images. There's also a full set of options specific to YouTube, allowing you to set specifically what is blocked out of view when the app is active.

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