Sunday, July 25, 2010

Back to School Food for Thought (AKA Anytime Resources for Tech Integration and Your Digital Footprint)

I don't know when the new school year or term starts for you, but in our little corner of the planet known as Texas, most public K-12 schools start up in late August. The closer that start date gets, the more we educators start thinking of plans and goals for the new year. Over the past couple of weeks, several links have come my way via Twitter which I think would be valuable for educators to visit as the summer begins to wind down and preparation for the new school year gears up.

Technology Integration

The links below are excellent resources for anyone aspiring to integrate more Web 2.0 technologies into their instruction. Those just dipping their toe in for the first time as well as experienced integrators will get ideas from these sites. As someone who provides professional development to teachers, I found some ideas I'd like to share in the upcoming school year.
  • Reflection: A Year of Implementing Web 2.0 Tools in My Classroom - Kim Munoz (@techmunoz on Twitter) shares her successes and challenges after her first year of delving deep into Web 2.0 technologies with her middle school students. Visit Kim's post for examples of how she used specific Web 2.0 tools with her students. My favorite parts of this blog are Kim's transparency when it comes to the parts that didn't work, and her final conclusion that "’s not all about the tool, but the content you have to work with to teach the tool."

  • How to Use New Media Tools in Your Classroom - Seven short videos from bloggers and contributors at Edutopia which give you tips on using Twitter, Facebook, wikis, digital cameras, YouTube, Nintendo Wii, and GPS devices in instruction. Even if you do not have access to all of these resources in your school, just watching the videos might encourage you to think outside of the box and investigate ways to integrate these technologies into your instruction.

Social Media and our Digital Footprints

If you are reading this blog, then you participate in social media on at least a very basic level. If you also have a blog of your own or an account on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flikr, or add any online posting/commenting you do here, you're leaving traces of yourself all over the Internet all of the time. Multiply what you are doing by at least ten and that's how much evidence your tween and teen students are leaving. It behoves us as professionals to keep ourselves up to date on the implications of the evidence we are leaving behind - both for our own benefit and for the benefit of the young people we have the responsibility to educate.
  • The Web Means the End of Forgetting - If you click no other link in this blog post, I hope you'll click this one. The story from the New York Times is lengthy, but packed with important cautions regarding what we post online and what is posted about us and the future consequences of that information. As much as I try to stay current in this area, I learned several new things in this story. Here's a teaser paragraph to draw you in:

    It’s often said that we live in a permissive era, one with infinite second chances. But the truth is that for a great many people, the permanent memory bank of the Web increasingly means there are no second chances — no opportunities to escape a scarlet letter in your digital past. Now the worst thing you’ve done is often the first thing everyone knows about you.

    How can you resist reading it now?

  • 12 Healthy Habits to Grow Your Online Presence and Keep Balance in Your Life - Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher on Twitter) has grown a tremendous online presence in the education and educational technology world over the last five years. She shares a great deal of wisdom in this post based on her experiences. The one which spoke to me the most was Beware of Flattery because I'm a sucker for positive reinforcement! All of her tips are helpful for those of us who want to contribute positively to our profession. As an added bonus, Vicki has recently started a Facebook page. If you have a Facebook account and become a fan of hers, you will receive helpful tips for being more productive in your professional environment.

  • Think Before You Tweet - Beth Still (@bethstill on Twitter) wrote this guest post at Wes Fryer's Moving at the Speed of Creativity blog. In it Beth reminds us that anything we say online can be seen by anyone at any time. She is honest about some tweets she posted that came back to haunt her and she shares thoughts on the dynamics of online and offline relationships and how they intersect. I also find the comments on this blog post a fascinating read. I think Beth might make a fortune if she reproduces and sells the sign her husband made for her after her indiscreet tweet incident - I Just Wish My Mouth Had a Backspace Key! The good news is, our keyboards do have one. Do we use them often enough?
As you begin thinking about the new school year ahead, or just improving your instructional and professional practices at any time during the school year, I hope these links will help you and lead you to other resources as well. If you have sites you think are valuable in similar ways, please make a comment on this post and help us all add to our toolboxes!

"Welcome back to school" image provided by Kevin Connors via Used with permission.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Current Real-Life Examples for Discussing Copyright Ethics

I promise I am not trying to turn into a copyright guru as a couple of my more recent posts might imply, but within the space of a couple of hours this morning two different real-life situations came to my attention which put human skin on the copyright debate. These two stories make more concrete the fact that copyright protects property, but it also protects people behind the property with feelings and creative abilities and incomes to earn.

I want to make reference to them here because I believe they both provide real-world situations that anyone we might be discussing copyright with can relate to. Whether you are formally presenting to a group of teachers or students or having a one-on-one conversation with someone, referencing one or both of these stories might help get the point across.

The first example comes courtesy of Broadway composer Jason Robert Brown who grew tired of the free but illegal downloading of his (and others') sheet music which occurs via the Internet. He decided to try a little experiment where he contacted individuals offering his sheet music for free and politely asked them to stop doing so. During the course of his experiment, Brown got into an involved email exchange/debate on the ethics of freely sharing copyrighted sheet music with one young teen, Eleanor. With Eleanor's permission he posted the entire thread of their interactions to his blog. The exchange is a rich source of insight both into the mind of the composer/copyright holder as well as the teen who does not see a problem with freely sharing someone else's music. The comments on the blog, which Brown had to cap at 159 so he could go on with his life, are also enlightening. I can see both the blog and the comments being good reading material in a class or course that covers copyright topics.

This second example may be old news to those of you who are Twilight fans, but it was new to me since I am not part of that group. Vampires just haven't ever appealed to me. But the unfortunate story of Twilight author Stephenie Meyer's last Twilight novel, Midnight Sun, being leaked to the Internet and essentially released before it was finished, did capture my attention. Ms. Meyer's post detailing the leak and its effectively killing her desire to finish the novel properly speaks volumes about real consequences of the lack of respect for the intellectual property of others. In the end, Ms. Meyer went ahead and posted the unfinished partial draft herself, but does not know now if she will ever finish the work. How sad for her as an author, and how very sad for Twilight  fans who may now never get to experience another complete adventure, all because someone could not wait for the final finished, crafted product. This story regarding a Twilight novel might appeal particularly to teens when discussing copyright.

Hopefully these two examples will put a face copyright issues for you or for anyone you speak with on this topic.

If you have other real-life examples along these same lines, please share them in the comments!

Copyright symbol graphic used with permission from

Friday, July 2, 2010

Meeting and Encouraging Teacher Learners Where They Are (Or, Hands off the Mouse!)

When you work with adult learners, especially adult learners who are teachers, it’s easy to forget that even though they are adults, they are also our students. And like any student, we have to meet them where they are and encourage them to move forward in their learning without frustrating them, judging them, making them feel guilty, or enabling them.

Having been comfortable with technology from the start of my career, I admit to having been frustrated at times when I observe teachers who have been around for a while but who have embraced technology on only the most basic, required level. These are the teachers who learn the online gradebook or learned how to use their email because the school required them to do it. Without those skills, they would not be able to function in their jobs. So they make an effort to become minimally functional, but they stop there.

I have realized in the past year or so, though, that I am partly to blame for the people who stagnate at a very basic technology skill level, because as their support person I have done things FOR them for so many years. There is often a time crunch when assistance is needed and it is usually faster to just do something for them instead of WITH them. But I have enabled them to stay at their basic levels by opting for the faster solution.

To become a better teacher of teachers, I'm learning (and it's HARD) to keep my hands behind my back and away from the keyboard and mouse even with the most basic (and sometimes slow) computer users.

This past year I helped several folks in a workshop copy a URL from their web browser into a spreadsheet so they could revisit good lesson plans they found online. (Yes, I know Delicious would have been a better solution, but these folks were not ready for that yet.) I talked the participants through the process instead of doing it for them. They thought it was the coolest thing in the world. For them it was, and that's ok, even though many of us in the edtech world would say that was just a basic skill. Hopefully those folks have acquired this basic skill and will be able to accomplish the task again on their own.

Recently, I was fortunate to receive first-hand testimony that my “no hands on the mouse if at all possible” rule is paying off. Within the last month during a workshop on digital storytelling using Microsoft PhotoStory, we had a couple of teachers who obviously were not super-comfortable with all of the computer skills it took to put a story together. My co-facilitator and I coached them through it. We coached A LOT! Toward the end of the day, one of them looked at me and said something to the effect of, “Thank you for all of your help today and your patience. And thank you for not taking the mouse from me. I learn so much more when I get to control the computer myself.” I wondered how many times impatient (but well intentioned) people had accomplished technology tasks for this teacher. And I felt myself grinning from ear-to-ear, because this teacher was excited about what he had learned, I was excited that my “hands-off” philosophy was working, and as an added bonus, the PhotoStory they turned out was well done and had all of us in stitches at the end of the day.

I'm also learning in more informal circumstances when calls for help come to make appointments with people if at all possible and teach them how to do the task they are struggling with. Talk them through it no matter how basic or complicated the skill. When they see they are capable, they often start to try more on their own. Or at least their questions change from "Can you do this for me?" to "Can you show me how to do this?"

And, yes, all of these folks are amazed when they learn what we more savvy users of tech think of as basic skills. But that’s where they are. Where I am, I’m amazed when I edit audio or video (and it works) or figure out what’s wrong with a web page that isn’t displaying properly. No matter what our baseline is, there is great power in amazement and wonder. Amazement and wonder are closely linked to curiosity, which is the doorway to learning. They create opportunities to for us to say, "You think this is amazing? You want to know what's even more amazing? You can learn to do this. Take the mouse. Let me show you how."

Image Source: (used with permission)