Checking out a Reblog (and finding so much more)


Every now and again, something happens that just reinforces that we live in such a connected world and the value that it generates.  It happened to me recently.

I’ve mentioned many times that I’ve always been about sharing of some of the best ideas in education that come along.  I’ve always done that.  In my previous role as a computer consultant for a school district, we were always talking about the need to be a life long learner.  It’s one thing to send the message and then complain when you don’t see it happen.  It’s quite another to actually do it yourself.

The rewards are so genuine.  You can’t beat a good opportunity to learn.  Fortunately, I follow a lot of people that feel the same way.

A perfect example of this happened this morning.  I’m a big fan of Miguel Guhlin’s thinking.  Just this morning, I read a post on his blog titled “App Smashing Madness!”  It was a great read and I have a few things on my “Need to Learn” list as a result of my read.  Thanks, Miguel.  Although I’ve been to a number of ISTE Conferences, including two in San Antonio, I don’t believe that we’ve actually met face to face.  I sure would like to think that we’ve got a meaningful learning relationship online.  I’ve learned so much about Moodle and Evernote, for example, just following his lead.

For me, it’s a confirmation that we can learn so much just by being connected.

So, back to me.  I like to think of one thing that I’ve learned on any particular day and blog about it.  Unlike some that will talk about a resource and maybe copy a piece of the documentation and call it a blog post, I do like to play around and see if I can make the connection.  If I can, it makes a post.  There’s nothing proprietary about my work – in fact, if you check the “About Me” page, and scroll to the bottom, I have a pretty liberal creative commons license.  Copy, do what you want, but just make sure that you credit me and don’t change the content.

I don’t actively check this out – who but an educator would even care what I’ve written about?

Every now and again, I’ll get a comment from someone taking Educational Studies at a Faculty of Education.  They’ll identify themselves and the course that they’re taking.  It’s pretty obvious that they’ve got to read some educational blogs as a course requirement and somehow they drew the short straw and got mine.

In this day of living dangerously online, I don’t think it hurts to have a bit of healthy paranoia.  So, I do have WordPress configured to let me know if there’s a comment or when a post is created or updated.  I look at the first as a way to get rid of a piece of spam that slips by Akismet and the second as a bit of protection in case someone learns my dog’s name and logs on as me and starts to create a post.

But there’s another notification that comes across every now and again.

image

It’s the concept of a reblog.  In this case, someone has taken an entire blog post and put it on their blog.  Some may consider it an easy way to plagiarize.  Or, it could be a test to see what reblog does.  Or, it could be that the post resonated with someone and they wanted to share more than just the link with someone else.  I hope that it was the latter in this case.

As you see, Ms. Couture liked the post “Watching the World Tweet”.  It was quite a popular post and I, personally, get a kick out of just going to the website and watch it draw itself.  I did follow WordPress’ advice and checked out Rose’ website.  It’s a WordPress blog with many references to courses at the University of Regina.  You know, “those Saskatchewan guys”.  As I poked around her blog, I see that she’s very visible about her learning and her aspirations for a career once she becomes a qualified teacher.  Her efforts have not gone unnoticed as there’s a comment on at least one of her reflections from her professor.  She even reported back about my “Childhood Community” posts.  (which I think encompasses so much that it should be a project at any Faculty of Education…”

One needs to look at the entirety of the digital presence that she’s created for herself.  You can’t help but be impressed.

If someone is looking for a well connected French Immersion teacher who “gets it” when it comes to technology and the desire to create a personal network while at a Faculty of Education, they need to offer this young lady an interview when she graduates.  She shouldn’t remain on the market for long.

Check out her blog and follow her on Twitter.

A Wall of Films


Back around the turn of the century when I taught Computer Science and Business Education, we had days allocated to professional development.  One day was laid on by the board for board initiatives and the other was a federation day where we got together by subject discipline.  Thusly inspired, we were good to go for another year.  My how things have changed.  Video was big as well – we had a media centre and could book video to arrive via courier and then book the television to play the video when it was needed.  Of course, the television was always available when it was needed.  At the PD events, we could even preview the one or two computer science videos that might be bought in a particular year and then see if they fit into our curriculum.

Fast forward to today and think of the advantages we have.

The well connected educator can read and participate with professional learning almost any hour of the day or night.  Given a network big enough, there’s always someone smart that you can contact at a moment’s notice.  I’ve often said that the Computer Science teacher is the loneliest one in a school.  There’s usually just one of you; who do you bounce ideas off?  What about the one or two computer videos that might be available?  How do you know what’s good and what’s worth the time?

Of course, we don’t have these exact problems anymore.  With the amount of video that’s online, you just go to your favourite video service and grab one.

But there’s a better way.  After all, who wants to preview all the videos of a cat flushing the toilet?

Enter Files for Action.

Films For Action is a community-powered learning library for people who want to change the world. Watch over 1,500 films. Add and rate content. Join us!

You can enter at the root level, but take a look at the Wall of Films.

image

The intention is clearly to maintain a collection of video that is significant in the subject area.  I poked around in the Technology and Design area.  http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch_technology_and_design_videos/

As with all video, you’re going to want to preview, make sure that the copyright works for your intended use, etc. but I think you’ll find this to be a nice collection for a particular purpose.

Think of the things that are now possible like assigning a video to watch for homework since your students are so well connected.

And when someone longs for the good ol’ days of education, send them here and remind them that there was a time when technical support was largely the question “Do you have the TV set to Channel 3?”

The Deal with Infographics


I must admit that I find the field of infographics fascinating.  In my Zite reader, I’m excited when one of them makes any of the categories that I follow and, to be sure that I get a daily fix, I have the category “infographics” selected.

What impresses me about the whole infographics concept is that one that is well crafted can convey so much information in one document.  Those of us who do presentations regularly will use pie charts or bar charts to identify data or elements of the data.  However, the conventional wisdom has always been to keep one piece of data analysis on a slide to make it readable.

Infographics take that conventional wisdom for a walk by the river and shoves it in.  In fact, infographics puts it all together in one place.  Unlike a pie chart where the experienced designer stands out by exploding a piece, infographics can share just a tonne of information all in one spot.  They’re not intended to be glanced at and moved on.  They are a work of art and data in themselves.  I’d go so far as to say that they’re another contemporary story telling technique.

Here’s one of the infographics that I spent time looking at this morning.  It’s titled “The pros and cons of social media in education” and was blogged by the Edtech Times who credit the authorship to OnlineUniversities.com.  Meet me under the infographic.

If we take a look at the infographic for its design, we see:

  • four major categories identified; (there are two number threes)
  • some bar charts;
  • graphic organizer showing relationships between items;
  • logos that we all recognize and are immediately drawn to;
  • sources credited for the resources;
  • identifier of the author;
  • a great deal of work with an image editing tool;
  • elements of design – colour, alignment, attractiveness to the viewer.

So let’s step away from the infographic per se, and think about this in the classroom.

A simple way to use the infographic would be as a resource from which to pull answers.  I’d like to think that we could move much deeper with the concept of infographics.  Why not make it the end result of a project?  Consider what the student or groups of students would do in order to be successful.

  • more than trivial use of their graphic tool; (Photoshop Elements, Powerpoint, CorelDRAW!)
  • the need to design the story they wish to tell;
  • research for facts, details, authorities;
  • design element choices – fonts, colours, graphics;
  • respect for copyright and the use of others’ efforts;
  • collaboration and agreement within their group;
  • choose the most appropriate way to display and tell their story;
  • determination of ultimate filetype;
  • critical decisions made about what information goes into the final design.

There is huge potential for this particular activity.  Not only is the process so important, the final product will display so nicely in the student or class blog or wiki.  Where do infographics fit with your curriculum?  If you are doing infographic activities with your class, please share challenges and successes below.

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Fantasy Building(s)


If you haven’t already, you need to take a look at this blog post.

Fantastic Imaginary Buildings Created by Splicing Together Found Photos

Jim Kazanjian is a professional photographer and has put together some amazing imagery.  The end result is actually a compilation of other various images, done in black and white.  The results are spectacular.  Visit his website for even more.

Now, I would not presume to be able to create anything even close to what he’s able to do.

However, looking at his work has lead me to think that I need to play around with the concept.  As my friend Dave used to say, there’s got to be a workshop in there somewhere.

I think of the various things that I’ve done with Photoshop workshops in the past – colourizing black and white photos, editing out street signs, placing myself in wild and exotic locations…

The whole point of doing these sort of activities in workshops is to encourage teachers to try the same activities with their students to become better image creators.  As I look at Kazanjian’s art, I would absolutely bring it to students’ attention and then perhaps try to replicate his artistry.

  • Create fantasy buildings;
  • Create a visual summary of holiday pictures;
  • Create a one picture image that tells the world all about their school and what’s inside;
  • Create a celebration of student achievements into a visual portfolio…

The ideas come so easily.  Students can be so creative and innovative given the chance.

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Freepik


Yesterday morning, I read this story.  Freepik: your graphic resources search engineThere were two things that caught my eye – “Graphic” and “Free”.  I had to check it out, and from the number of retweets, a great deal of my Twitter followers did as well.

Acid test for me – search for “House”.

The results come displayed, first with results from Shutterstock, sponsored results, and then a collection of “free results”.  The thumbnails click through to the full sized image.  You’ll want to be careful here and check the results to ensure that the copyright places them into the public domain or some sort of licensing which will need to be referenced in your use of the image.

What I like, in particular, is the ability to tell Freepik just what type of image that you want – obviously, there are times and places for vector images.  It’s a great lesson for those students who like to stretch out jpg images to fit the target area!

An option that’s worth the time to explore with students is colour filtering.  You’ll notice above that I’ve selected green.  To that end, Freepik has filtered its results to show images that have a high saturation of green in them.  How often have you seen students grab the first image that comes along only to have a primarily purple image into a theme that’s primarily green?  Little touches like this lend to teachable moments and, hopefully, better results whether it be desktop publishing or a presentation or …

Freepik is definitely a resource to bookmark and add to your suite of online tools.  If you have a portal that takes students to useful websites, you’ll want to add this resource to the list.  Like most things, you do need to do a bit more than provide a link.  Use the functionality of the site to talk about copyright, file types, colour saturations, resizing, etc.

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Digital Citizenship and Creative Content


 

I think that many people would like to address the topics of Digital Citizenship and Creative Content and they absolutely should.  I know that we had worked on the concept at my old board and I would provide a link to the resource but it has been taken down.  Working with colleagues, we worked towards what we thought would be the attitudes, skills, knowledge, and understandings that we felt were important.

By its nature, I think that a document of this type would be a never-ending product.  Just when you think that you have it nailed, something new comes along.  But, if you believe this is important (and I personally do), it’s an exercise worth pursuing.  Every spring, the document would be revised.  It was a task but certainly an important one.

Now, we started working our document from scratch but if you’re just starting out, Microsoft has you covered at their digitalcitizenship website.

Here you’ll find four curriculum units:

  • Creative What?
  • By Rule of Law
  • Calling All Digital Citizens
  • Protect Your Work; Respect Your Work

The units are incredibly complete.  Written with an American perspective, you’ll want to work your way through it before going live with your class.  For example, there is a part to a unit that talks about “fair use”, a very important concept in the US.  You’d want to do some research about “fair dealing” because there are significant differences between the two.  Microsoft recognizes that there will be differences from country to country and give a feedback mechanism for that purpose.

However, for the most part, the lessons, assessments, and activities would serve very nicely in anyone’s classroom.  Designed for Grades 8-10 but it’s indicated that, with modification, they could be used 6-12.  You wouldn’t use all the resources in any one grade but spread it out through the years so that students get the whole effect.

I know that many teachers already address these issues.  For them, these would be wonderful resources to confirm you’re on the right track and perhaps inspire some new activities or discussions.  If you have students from a Faculty of Education, make them aware of what’s available.  They’ll definitely thank you.

Registration is required but what you get is totally worth the exercise.   Do it, get access to the four PDF files and start addressing these important concepts with you students.

 

Digital Citizenship Through Legislation


I had a friend send me a “new” AUP (Acceptable Use Policy) today for his school today and asked my opinion.  I did smile as I looked through the three page document just wondering how many people actually read it from beginning to end, understanding the content.  I must admit losing interest after the third “party of the first part”.

Why is this document so important?

After all, when you think of how computers are populated with software, it goes something like this.

  • a technician or team of technicians sit down and install every piece of software to be used;
  • this software is then configured with path names, server names, etc to create a “gold image”;
  • the “gold image” is then deployed to however many hundreds or thousands of computers to be deployed.

But, wait….

Every time you install a piece of software, there is a barrage of legalize that is part of the process.  Everyone who installs software at home knows the procedure.  Does anyone actually ever read it?  And yet, you’ve clicked “I have read the terms and agree”.  You have to.  The software won’t install unless you do so.

So, rewind back to the technician who installs a piece of software.  She or he has agreed to the terms and conditions.  The machine with the software is then passed along to the teacher in the classroom.  The classroom teacher then passes it along to the students.  In a perfect world, the student would have done the installation, read and understood the terms and conditions, and then begins.  The reality here though is that someone else has done the agreement for them.

In fact, I would suspect that nobody reads and understands the significance of the legal terms and conditions when you install a piece of software.  I would then ask – why would you treat an Acceptable Use Policy any differently?

Probably the only time I think through the legality of anything like this is with a Creative Commons License should I wish to use a picture from someone else for a particular purpose.  Do I care more about the rights of a dude with a camera than I do when I purchase software from a large corporation?  Or is it just an easier route?

As I wade my way through the AUP, I came up with a hypothesis.  The length of an AUP is inversely proportional to the seriousness of the content.  How’s that for a thought?

I put it in context to a manufacturing class.  The teacher could spent the time doing all the teaching and heath & safety content very academically by studying the manuals and the legislation.  That’s not typically the approach because it’s not practical and experience has shown that it just plain doesn’t work.  Instead, students are supervised when they’re using the equipment.  They absolutely have to wear the safety equipment.  They absolutely have to have a purpose when they’re using the machinery.  For the most part, they respect the equipment and wouldn’t do something that would hurt a classmate.

In fact, when you think about it, there’s no better way to create successful users of that machinery.

Why can’t the same approach be taken with computer technology?  Wouldn’t we create a better culture of digital citizenship?

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


 

It’s time for a little Friday roundup of some of the best reads from posts from Ontario Educators.  It’s not an easy time to stay focused for Ontario Educators so kudos to the bloggers that get past all that’s going on and to stay the course in the great creating and sharing that happens to regularly


An Interview with Royan Lee

I did an interview with Royan Lee and he was kind enough to make reference to it on his blog.

So often, those of us who use technology are seen as one-dimensional by others.  That’s why I was all over a previous post from Royan about the Thinking Books that he uses with his classes.  If you read the entire interview, you’ll see that not only do those who use technology do so well, but that it’s strongly based in good practice.  We had a few people ask for permission to pass it along to their internal school networks.  It’s really not necessary since everything in this blog is licensed liberally with a Creative Commons license.  Royan gave a great interview and I hope that his words of wisdom can help others.  The post was cross-posted on VoicED.ca.


Why did Government House Leader John Milloy retract his Tweet?

If there’s any doubt that people are following and hanging on your every bit of social media presence, just do something out of the ordinary and see if someone notices.  Peter Beens reports a Twitter message from the House Leader that went missing in action.  Ontario educators especially are keeping tabs on anything political as it applies to collective agreements.  This is an interesting post as was Peter’s earlier one I’m Tired of the Propoganda.  In that post, Peter offered the best advice to parents.


Redefining “Team”

Amidst all the talk going on about Ontario education and Ontario teachers, something that seems to be missing is the professionalism of Ontario educators.  There are lots of great teachers doing great preparation for the new school year in September.  Even tougher are those who are dealing with new subjects or new grades.  Aviva Dunsiger is making a big move in grades this year and talks about the teammates that she has amassed over the summer to help her make the transition.  Don’t we all need a little help every now and again?


What seemed like a simple request…

These are the types of emails/phone calls that those of us who support others with educational technology just love to get.  So often, the calls are “I lost something” or “I forget how to do this” or “Where is my home drive”.  There’s a big difference between helping someone with an immediate, albeit urgent need that may require a couple of mouse clicks and helping someone develop a long range plan.  In this posting, Alana Callan shares her reactions and thoughts when she got that email.  It was great reading and it sounds like her floodgates opened to support her colleague.  Way to go, Alana.


I would encourage you to follow the links and read the complete posts.  There’s great reading to be had.  You can follow the entire collection of Ontario Edublogs at this link.

 

A Colours Project


This morning, I stumbled into a neat project.

Vicky Loras had posted a picture of her purple armchair.

Thanks, Vicky Loras – CC

Now, normally, I would have looked and moved on but I was interested in this.  A purple chair on a hardwood floor.  I have a daughter who would flip for that combination.

I had a little chat back and forth with Vicky and learned that this was part of a much larger project than pictures from her living room!

This was part of an ELT project – this was focused on colours!  Follow the conversation at:  #eltpics

It turns out that the results are shared via a Flickr group where people are shooting pictures of very distinct colours for use in ELT classes.  What a cool concept!  Certainly it’s very easy to participate – just find and shoot an image illustrating a particular colour and share.  All of the images are available for anyone to use under a Creative Commons license.  The full descriptor from the Flickr site is:

A set of photos, based on a weekly theme, taken by ELT teachers, trainers and writers from around the world.
These are, in turn, available free to others in the field of ELT under a CC license.
Anyone interested in joining in can tweet an image with the hashtag #eltpics
For a more detailed explanation of how to join in, see this post.
To learn how to download pictures, watch this screen capture.
For ideas on how to use some of the photos, visit the eltpics blog: takeaphotoand.wordpress.com

If you back your way out of this Colours set, you’ll find all kinds of sets based on different themes.

I really like this concept.  Teachers world-wide working together to support each other (and anyone else) and all shared via Creative Commons.  Kudos to the group and my sincere thanks to Vicky for dangling the carrot that lead me into this in the first place!

What Bugs Me About Creative Commons…


…and it’s not the concept.

It lies in how it’s used or rather, abused.

Read about the concept at the Creative Commons’ website “about” page.

In fact, this blog is licensed by me under Creative Commons.  Just click the “About Doug and This Blog” link above and scroll to the bottom.  You’ll find this:

Creative Commons License

doug – off the record by Doug Peterson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada License.

You’ll find a similar note on my Professional Development Wiki.

I do believe strongly in the concept.

So, why the rant?

Well, yesterday, I was on a newspaper website where the “entire contents are copyright by…”.  That’s fine.  That’s the way that they’ve traditionally done their business and it appears that they will continue to do so.  More power to them.  They make their money by selling their content.  I get that.

But, in the middle of the story, there was an image that said it was “licensed under Creative Commons”.  Now, that could still be legit but I thought I would check it out.  It turns out that the Creative Commons license used was very similar to mine – it includes the restriction of “NonCommercial”.  It was a hot day and I was inside anyway so I thought that I’d send off a message to the reported author of the article.  I doubt that I’ll hear anything back but somehow I feel a bit better for it.

I started to think about how people would understand the whole concept anyway.  In particular, teachers and students.  I think of the number of presentations that I’ve seen over the years.  “Hey, Creative Commons gives you access to free stuff that you can use on your blog”.  Then, the session goes into the mechanics of how you physically get content from Flickr and put it into your blog.  I even saw a presentation once where the comment “the blog isn’t complete until I’ve included a picture and I always just go to get something from Creative Commons for that purpose.”

Sadly, that seems to be the extent of it.  It’s a place to get free pictures or maybe even free music for your work.

Why don’t we focus on the other side of the issue.  Someone actually had to create that great content in the first place.  I know some folks who do this and they’re some of the most creative people I know.  That’s why I admire the work of my photography friends – @gingerpatti, @pbeens, @windsordi, @aforgrave, @Ron_Mill.  I can say this because I know my limitations.  I have such limited abilities when you put a camera in my hands.  I remember an email I got from my son when I posted an image to Facebook.  “Ahem…hello, horizon”.  He’s right; there’s a big difference between someone who can take a picture on an angle and make it look good and someone who just can’t hold a camera straight.

In the classroom, rather than a push for Creative Commons to finish a project, I’d like to see the tables turned and use it as an opportunity to promote publishing and contributing back to the community – whether it be photography, music, writing, video, or any of the other ways that students and teachers create content.  It’s sort of like those “take a penny, leave a penny” dishes that you see at checkout counters.  Perhaps you don’t have the ability to create what’s needed for your project at the moment.  Great, use an appropriately licensed resource but upload one or two of your own in return.  There may just be another great creator in the audience who just needs the environment to make it happen.

There’s far more power in the giving than the taking.