Useful API for Firefox
Why am I posting about a Firefox API on a teaching tips blog? Because it's so useful for teaching, even though it's not a teaching tool per se. The API is called Flashblocker --you can get it here: http://flashblock.mozdev.org/.
It blocks Flash movies from playing automatically when you land on page. For a lot of my browsing, and often when I'm showing sites in workshops or the classrooms, the flash movies are ads, and they do some pretty annoying things. Like move when I'm trying to read. I find movement to the side text that I'm trying to read distracting (you can tell I'm not 18, or 25, 0r 35 for that matter). But it's also distracting sometimes when showing a page in a class or workshop. For example, consider this snippet of an image from the NY Times Online:
As you can see, the ad, with just an acccidental mouseover, expands to cover the text. That's extremely annoying. If you're in rush to get rid of the mouseover, it doesn't take much (well it doesn't take me much, me who is sometimes a mouse klutz) to click the space and then open the ad sponsor's WWW site (in this case Evian, makers of over-priced water).
However, with Flashblocker, the same bit of page, looks like this:
Flashblocker replaces the dancing flash ad with the f-icon you see the image. To see the ad --or any other flash element on a page-- all you have to do is click the icon and the spot is filled with the flash movie that was intended.
There are times, of course, when you might want to see the ads, or another flash element. What's nice about the api, is that it gives you a choice, and a little bit more control over your teaching and/or presentation space. And clear choices and meaningful controls, when you can have them, are friends to teachers.
And lord knows, teachers can use friendly technology.