Monday, May 7, 2012

URL Shortening: Spread the Word

*Disclaimer: This is not a new concept by any stretch of the imagination, just my take on it.  If you currently use URL shorteners in the classroom, I encourage you to share this post with your colleagues.  Now on to the post.

We live in a Hyperlinked world and so do our students, yet nine times out of ten assignments are given out to students in paper form.  This process is a means to an end in a traditional classroom, but why do we see this practice carried over in to digital assignments too?   Hyperlinks do not work on paper so we end up asking students to type in a URL to get to the digital content on the web.











My suggestion would be to skip the paper altogether and post the assignment on your blog, class website, or wiki.  Don't have one of those you say?  In a manner of seconds you can create a static website with justpaste.it.

We do not live in a perfect world and sometimes your students will need to type in a web address.  When it comes to this, make the process as simple as possible.  Web addresses are very specific and one missing character, or spelling mistake and you will be wasting precious instructional time as your students grow increasingly frustrated.

In the two examples below I have provided links to the same page.  The first is to the original URL, the second to the same link, shortened using a simple online service.  Which would be easier for your students to get to?

Examples:
  • https://sites.google.com/site/linksdonotneedtobethislong/home/link1/keepgoing/finallythere
  • http://tinyurl.com/tinylinksrule
A URL Shortener simply redirects the user from a short domain name provided by the service, to the original web page that has a long URL. The process is as follows.

1. Copy the original web address (the long one).
2. Navigate to your favorite URL shorting service (see some suggestions below).
3. Paste the long link in the space provided and click a button.
4. New short link appears.
5. Use short link with your happy students, parents, and peers.

1 minute video tutorial for you visual learners

The hardest part of the process is choosing which service to use.  Allow me to offer a few suggestions.

1. http://tinyurl.com:  The original. A very basic service, but straightforward.  Paste long url. Get short url.  *Note the "Custom alias" option where you can customize the url.

2. http://bit.ly:  My favorite.  On the surface it is a streamline shortening tool, but becomes a powerhouse when you create a free account.  When shortening links while signed into bit.ly you can create custom short urls, get stats on links, QR codes, and even make a bundle out of a list of links.

3. http://goo.gl: What list would be complete without an entry from Google.  Yes the everything giant has its very own URL shortener.  If used in conjunction with your Google Account, it will maintain a list of your shortened URL's compete with click statistics and QR codes.

4. http://moourl.com: This one is for you elementary teachers or the High School teachers with a sense of humor.  Paste a long URL in the space provided and click the Moo button (yes, I said moo button).  Moourl will return a "milked" (short) URL.  Click the "Give your moourl a person touch" link to customize your short URL.

Please spread the word and put an end to senselessly long URLs!





photo credit: Feggy Art, Jeff_Werner, Cofrin Library and juliatenney via photo pin cc

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