Harnessing Effective Education Technology

As Will Richardson writes, “putting technology first-simply adding a layer of expensive tools on top of the traditional curriculum-does nothing to address the new needs for modern learners.” (2013, p.10)  Changing the focus of education is necessary to allow the best learning for today’s students; the learning they need. There is no technology that will change the way a lesson is taught and received without first reforming the pedagogical lens from which the lesson was designed. Once a teacher has successfully transitioned to a student-centered approach, they can introduce the use of technology to the classroom.

Why wouldn’t we embrace this accessibility by bringing it into our nation’s classrooms?  What year are we preparing our students for, 1980?  According to Bill Ayres, “the new millennium and new conditions challenge us to start imagining an entirely new world and new approaches to production and participation.” (2012, p. 199) As educators, we need to develop ways to use this technology to reinvent teaching and learning for the digital age.

Consider that the current freshman in high school will graduate high school in 2016, college in 2020. [Technology] will permit students to not just ‘learn at their own pace,’ as it is often heard, but to learn more or less in whatever ways they prefer, as long as they are in pursuit of necessary and required goals.” (Prensky, 2010, p. 17) These students have grown up in an increasingly mobile world.  Prominent education researcher, Heidi Hayes Jacobs, writes, “Preparation for future work situations requires teaching learners to use their minds well.” (2010, p. 11) To do this effectively, educators can no longer ignore the accessibility of information provided by technology.  According to the National Education Technology Plan (2010), to successfully compete with other nations, “[the U.S.] Need(s) to develop inquisitive, creative, resourceful thinkers; effective problem solvers; groundbreaking pioneers; and visionary leaders.” (p. 27) The best way to develop theses skills is by adding the power of technology to student-centered pedagogy.

 

Spotlight: VoiceThread

This summer, I was turned on to the webtool VoiceThread through a class I took on Multimodality.  Though I had heard of the tool before, I was quick to dismiss it for lack of understanding its capability.

As the folks at VoiceThread say, it allows you to have “conversations in the cloud.”  Capitalizing on cloud-based software, designers of the tool are filling a need for people who would like to comment (and save the comments) online.  Once I found that not only was VoiceThread literally as easy as 1-2-3 but there was indeed “an app for that,” I was hooked.

With an increase focus on flipping the classroom, I have chosen to investigate this tool due to its ease of use, iOS device friendliness and cloud storage.  Check out my journey…

As you can see, VoiceThread has major implications for:

Recently, the impact of VoiceThread was fully felt when my 7th grade social studies class began collaborating with the 3rd grade class for a unit on debating.  After watching a lively debate in my 7th grade class, 3rd graders debated the answer to which is more important: rights and responsibilities?  Due to scheduling conflicts, my 7th graders were unable to watch the 3rd grade debate live.  Quickly thinking, the 3rd grade teacher recorded the debate to a flash drive.  However, this meant that my students weren’t able to comment…in comes VoiceThread…

I uploaded the video to VoiceThread and my students recorded comments to each team there.  The third grade teacher is planning to play these comments for her students in the upcoming days.

Stories like these could occur in any setting, whether in education or not, where time is a precious commodity.  With the help of VoiceThread, educators and professionals alike can move their conversations to the cloud…and store them for future reference!

Dive in!

Fair Use and Copyright in Education

Is it fair to use copyrighted material for educational purposes?

The short answer is it depends.  It depends on the context and situation for which the material will be used.  This, by its very nature, lends itself to more grey areas than 50 Shades of Grey.

Did you know copyright laws were developed to “promote creativity, innovation and the spread of knowledge?”, according to U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8.

As a social studies teacher, I am often gathering resources from a variety of places for both classroom and professional development purposes with little time to pause to check for copyright licensing.  To avoid infringing a work’s copyright, I have developed a simple mantra guiding my use of others’ material, ‘Give credit where credit is due.’  However, its often not so simple…

A journey through the fair use/copyright jungle.

In preparation for the 2012-13 school year professional development days, I was asked to create and lead a PD opportunity on Flipping the Classroom, an emerging best practice in education.  The extent of my brushes with flipping have come from YouTube, Twitter and several blogs and listservs.  All of these resources had been compiled, created or curated by others.  In putting together my presentation, I decided to flip the PD through the use of VoiceThread which would house all of resources.  In doing so, I decided I would show a 3-4 minute clip from TechChef4u’s blog about flipping, a resource I used to gain my knowledge on the subject matter.  Storing this on the VoiceThread meant I had to screencast it and upload the .mov file as a video I “created.”

This experience caused me to wonder if I had been violating copyright or following fair use practices in capturing the video clip this way.  In the presentation, I decided it’s best to give credit by showing where the video (and others like it) had come from originally, the TechChef4u blog.

Though still unsure if my use of the video falls into the fair use and copyright laws, I have been able to discern it most likely doesn’t by examining Cornell University’s Fair Use Checklist.  My VoiceThread was not only educational, it was made for an entirely new purpose of professional development specific to my faculty.  Also, it uses only a small quantity of material where I am not the creator and that material is not central to the work.  Lastly, it was made for one-time, specific professional development distributed to a very limited number of faculty at my school.  Finally, according to the Center for Social Media’s Code for Best Practices of Use of Online Video, my use of the clip was part of the assembly of a new work (VoiceThread) and for the purpose of launching a discussion of how best to implement the pedagogy.  Using these two sources as a guide, I have concluded my use of the video clip was okay as it followed many parts of the fair use policy.

How about when guiding students’ creation?

As the technology use increases exponentially in my classroom and many others, I have come to use a few tools in order to be more compliant with fair use and copyrighting.

  1. Always credit the original source.  Include a link back to the original work if possible.
  2. When using media, try to use works with Creative Commons Licensing.  Use the Creative Commons Search when looking for picture, video and audio files.
  3. Only use small amounts of others’ work to enhance your own thoughts/ideas.

In my quest to discern the extent to which copyright and fair use guidelines apply to my own practice, I have come to three conclusions:

  • Though copyright law is aimed at promoting an exchange of ideas, it is in place to protect authors’ works.
  • When using unoriginal material for education purposes, it is best to adhere to the guidelines of fair use as much as possible.
  • In a world where there are constant productions and reproductions, it is important for educators to not only understand these principles but to also model and teach their students to follow the guidelines.

 

How have copyright and fair use affected your teaching and learning?

 

Social Media Course Expectations

For the Fall semester, I am enrolled in EDUC 639-Social Media. I chose to take this elective for my program for a few reasons. First, with a specialization in Education Technology, I feel that I should know of and understand how to use the latest social tools and websites to better my practice. As a teacher to middle school boys, I believe it is necessary to implement social media in the courses I teach to further engage students by including as much of “their world” as possible.

As we begin signing up for and learning about the latest social tools and websites, I find myself paying close attention to which are iPad friendly. As a teacher in a 1:1 iPad initiative, knowing which web tools work synchronously with the iPad is critical. For example, upon signing up for about.me, I immediately checked the iOS app store and downloaded the app to my iPhone and iPad. As we continue to investigate the social aspects of the web, I would like to learn not only which tools are iPad friendly, but also how to best implement these tools into my study as a prospective education technology leader and practice as a middle school educator.