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!

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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?

 

The Future of Learning

The future of learning is here…and surprise, it involves students using with technology.

Everyday, more and more K-12 institutions investigate adopting 1:1 technology or BYOD programs in hopes of providing their students with the most cutting edge teaching and learning.  However, with each decision, although generally a minority, there are a loud minority of teachers, families and districts hesitant to give students that power.

Since when is students having access a bad thing?!

After meeting with a majority of families for parent/teacher conferences this week, and hearing 10% or so vocalize their opposition to 0ur school’s one-to-one iPad program in some way, I wonder “are we marketing the technology correctly?”

You see, it isn’t about iPads vs. laptops, school controlled vs. BYOD.  Technology is the pathway toward changing education paradigms, as Sir Ken Robinson shows.  For decades, students have sat passively taking notes, raising their hands and waiting to be recognized to regurgitate facts.  What learning has this led to?

It is 2012.  Students have access outside of the school building, why not allow access within the walls of the one area where they can learn to use it in the right way.  It is the wave of the future!  No family, whether in opposition to use of EdTech or not, can emphatically deny their child will need to communicate effectively, collaborate with peers, be creative with technology and think critically in the future.  Education technology is the means in which to teach students the 4 C’s of 21st Century learning.

On Tuesday morning, after @edmodo being down from 2-10pm Monday, I was met with many 7th grade students who couldn’t do their homework due to the outage.  So I asked, “what would we have done if it weren’t through Edmodo?”  Many said they would have written it in a notebook.  Then one student chimed in…”I did the homework, Mr. Reichert,” he said.

“Oh really, how?” I said, skeptical of where this was heading.  “I posted it on Edmodo this morning, on my way to school, using the 3G from my cell phone.”  I congratulated him on how he thought critically to solve the problem.  This is truly mobile learning.

You see, with the technology, students are not only asked to learn the content presented in new and more engaging ways, they learn how to troubleshoot minor problems as they arise quite unexpectedly.  It is stories like these which consistently reinforce that using technology to aid learning is not only the right thing to do; it is necessary to do.

To the schools, teachers and families who are so afraid of the giving power to our students, I ask, “isn’t the job of schools to prepare students for success in the future.”

“If we teach students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” -John Dewey

What are you waiting for?

#edupunk

This week I learned a new term…Edupunk.  Apparently I am an edupunk (or so I think).  In its most vague terms, Jim Groom’s term Edupunk refers to “an approach to teaching and learning which results from a Do-It-Yourself attitude that avoids mainstream tools.” (Wikipedia)  In my book, that is what Ed. Tech. advocates do on a day-to-day basis.  I had called it being progressive.  Others call it bucking the trend or going against the establishment.

Before discussing my own feelings toward Edupunk, I want to distinguish how I am defining the term.  Teaching with progressive pedagogy refers to implementing new tools which advocate for best practices in teaching and learning.  For example, a progressive, technology-infused teacher would use Edmodo to allow students to post their thoughts (as a means of formative assessment).  Edupunks go a step further.  Not only do Edupunks consistently tweak their lessons, read articles and implement emerging technologies to enhance their teaching and learning like progressives.  They also advocate for their fellow educators to do the same.  For this reason, I would call myself a blossoming edupunk.

With the recent rise in popularity of MOOC’s, PLEs and using social media in education, nobody can deny there is a movement building which advocates for progressives to turn edupunk.  But it isn’t that easy…

Like any tradition, right or wrong, it’s hard to step away.  Personally, in my short career in education, I have gravitated toward progressive thinkers such as Will RichardsonSir Ken Robinson and Scott McLeod, each of whom are edupunks in their own right, consistently advocating for change in the interest of the learners.

Image

Before going edupunk, ask yourself:

Do you feel comfortable stepping away from institutionally-supported tools (like LMS)?

I struggle with this.  Though I see no point in using the archaic LMS tools like Blackboard and web portals which act as gated databases to store info, I have come to appreciate newer, hybrid models like Canvas which combines the necessary features of an LMS (grade storing, comments, document sharing) with more web 2.0 tools (wikis, blogs, etc).  Of course, in essence, it is still an LMS.

I have read many articles and case studies advocating the use of blogs or ePortfolios to track and manage learning.  This is exciting and I would love to try it!  However, in order to be successful implementing such a progressive shift, I feel the change needs to be advocated from the top and accepted by all constituencies.

What are the implications of going edupunk for learners?

I’ve been racking my brain for three days trying to come up with negative impacts on learning when teachers or schools go edupunk.  I have come up with very little.  I feel that in addition to students learning the content presented, in a much more learner-friendly way, they would also learn the soft skills needed to succeed “down the road.”  (Wherever the road takes them)  However, until colleges and universities, parents and communities are comfortable with the new normal, it will remain a fringe (punk) concept.

Like the adventurous punk bands of the 1970s, blossoming edupunks need to band together to create a new genre for teaching and learning.

Until then, meet with fellow edupunks but attending an Edcamp near you…

 

Extreme Makeover: Social Profile edition

Task this week:  Evaluate your own social presence to determine what, if any, changes need to be made to better market your skills and expertise.

You see, one of the possible pitfalls of maintaining a social presence through many sites (about.me, Google +,Twitter and the like) is you risk compromising a “follower’s” understanding of you.  I had two main goals when I set out to give a makeover to my social self.  First, I wanted to make everything uniform.  Much as a business wouldn’t want to market multiple slogans, I wanted followers to have one uniform understanding of me, as a brand, no matter the site they were viewing.  Second, I wanted to tie my many social presences together as efficiently as possible.  This task has already proved invaluable (doubling my daily and quadrupling my weekly viewers to this blog!).

How do I differentiate myself from other educators?

To answer this, I went old school.  On a post-it note, I jotted down everything that makes “Mr. Reichert” (my teaching persona) unique.  On the list I noted many things which help to shape my role in education.  I teach social studies to all boys in grades 6-8 using an iPad in a 1:1 environment.  I also coach many of the same boys in soccer and lacrosse.  I serve as the Middle Level Coordinator.  And, last but not least, I am currently in school for a doctorate in leadership and education technology.

–All of these items make me unique and contribute to my brand.  Also, each of these things were mentioned in at least one of my social profiles, but were not consistent across platforms.–

Next, what have I done which others haven’t had the opportunity to do.  Though a notably smaller list, it is growing by the keystroke.  In addition to maintaining social presences in a variety of sites, I have created an ePortfolio to house my educational philosophy and many tools and creations of mine, including two presentations I have made in the EdTech realm.

–Again, these were items which I had not initially listed in my social profiles.–

Makeover Time!

After reading of Klout.com, I decided (after an initial Klout Score of 16) that I was going to boost this as much as possible by linking my social profiles.  I also noted I needed to brag a bit more of my accomplishments.  As Seth Godin notes in his blog, “Great people shouldn’t have a resume’.”   If I want others to see me as great, I need to show my expertise not just to those directly connected but to my weak ties (of, but not limited to, Twitter and blog “followers”), as written by New York Times columnist and author, Malcolm Gladwell.  To truly harness the power of social media, I need my posts, tweets and updates to exude knowledge in my areas of interest and expertise.  I need to treat my social presence as my resume and build an online reputation which can precede me.

NEW!! About.Me profile:

About.Me housed my simple landing page.  By simple, I mean bare bones.  Going along with what I’ve been writing, I made several changes to the landing page, all of which are intended to enhance my brand and marketability.  In essence, this will serve as the one-stop-shopping description of me.  Changes include:

  • updated biography
  • link to this wordpress blog
  • link to Google Site and Professional presentations

In addition to making the three major updates, I explored how often visitors landed on my page.  Let’s just say I felt very lonely and minor.  To increase hits to my page, I attached a link to the page on my personal e-mail signature.  I would also do this to my professional e-mail, but the school is very particular (think branding!).  I also took the advice listed on the “Get more visitors” section of about.me.  I added the about.me link to my LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and WordPress profiles.

Blog:

Another step to take on my quest to solidify my brand, I updated the look of this very blog.  Since its creation, I have switched themes a number of times, trying to find one which I felt was readable and clean. Oddly enough, I settled on the theme entitled, “Fresh and Clean.” (Go figure).

One feeling I have had since the dawn of the blog was that it needed spicing up.  Looking through the blogs I follow, they all have two things in common.  Visually, they pop.  They lure readers through the use of pictures, infographics and other items.  Also, they promote user interaction.

For me, this meant rearranging my pages and adding a few widgets such as a live stream of my twitter feed, a tag cloud and a list of blogs I follow.  To grow this, I need to consciously stay true to my mantras.

From this quest, I take away a few major rules which I hope will govern my future social interactions.

  1. Keep the Personal and Professional posts separate.  Use certain sites and platforms for your personal life and others for your professional life.  Never intermingle!
  2. Solidify your UNIQUE message.  Determine your brand and stay true to it.  Discover (and publicize) what makes you “you.”  Offer something which nobody else can offer.
  3. Promote “You”.  Make it known how readers and followers can connect with you.  To begin this, I am going to arrange for HootSuite to shoot a tweet containing my About.Me profile along with a link to this blog using IFTTT.

Until next time, connect with me at my about.me landing page.

Personal Learning Network(s)

My task this week is to investigate a reputable organization and analyze a few followers, ultimately deciding whether or not to add them to my PLN. But first, a little background.

There is a lot of research pointing toward the benefits of a personal learning network to educators. Essentially, a personal learning network can be a group of fellow educators (or related field) who connect via social media to discuss and share information regarding the improvement of their practice. A teacher should determine their personal learning network, or PLN, based on not only their content area but also their interests in education. For me, many of the people I try to connect with on social media are not fellow social studies teachers. They are in the field of education technology in one way or another.

There are many ways to begin creating your PLN. Check out the article on the Innovative Educator blog!

Over the past few years, I have really developed an interest in implementing technology to improve teaching and learning. As part of this improvement, I signed up for several listservs and attending tech-related conferences like ISTE and Edmodo. With each PD opportunity came one or two more “connections” or additions made to my PLN. Recently, my interests have led me to focus on the use of mobile learning opportunities. One such organization focusing on implementing cutting edge pedagogy and tools is Edutopia, founded by The George Lucas Educational Foundation.

On a daily basis, I read Edutopia articles which mainly are communicated with me through their tweets. Often, these articles are the gems which I wrote of in the Aggregating vs. Curating post last week. They are chalk full of tools, links to sites, other edtech bloggers and the like.

The Great Edutopia Investigation

Because I generally receive articles from their listserv or twitter, I decided to branch out by examining their Google + page. Though Google + is relatively new to the social media realm, it is a great professional resource. Google + enables members to post articles, rather than solely their links, in addition to many of the same functions twitter allows for.

I had never been to Edutopia’s Google + page. At first glance, it was stocked with many of the same articles I had read while deciding what content to curate and share with my Twitter followers. But then, jackpot! When I began to examine who is posting on the page, it really got interesting…

By sorting the posts using the “best of…” feature, I was able to see the most popular (and hopefully best) posts first. Lisa Dabbs had commented on an article which I just sent to members of my school’s faculty discussing mLearning. I decided to check her out. Upon closer review, she struck me as someone worth following since she’s investigating both mobile and blended learning and seems to post frequently.

Juan Domingo Farnos was next on my list of frequent visitors to the Edutopia page. He too posted quite frequently, however, his topics seemed to not align as closely with my own. I decided not to follow him directly, but wait for him to post relevant items to Edutopia’s page.

I blew right by Woody Phillips and Shari Austin who had commented on an Edutopia blog about incorporating arts education. Not only was this topic not of interest to me, but also upon inspecting their pages, they appeared to use Google + way less frequently than those discussed above. Therefore, they aren’t worth adding to my PLN.

After seeing three more posts from Lisa Dabbs (she’s everywhere!), I landed on Audrey Watters. About half of her individual posts were relevant and could lead to a few gems. On the other hand, she seemed to be working for an edtech startup. After weighing whether it’s worth hearing about this company more frequently or not, I chose not to follow her, but to wait for her to post on edutopia as well.

So, 5 users socially stalked resulting in 1 follower and 2 on the “watch” list. Not bad. Honestly, when choosing to investigate Edutopia further, I expected to see a lot of EdTech non-profits posting and was shocked I hadn’t. Maybe Google + isn’t used as often as I thought by such companies…

In the end, I feel that finding a strong, legitimate organization in your content or interest is best. They’ll aggregate all the stories and curate them to those who follow.

Until next time…

 

Aggregate or Curate? That is the question.

Social Media Today: Aggregation vs. Curation

When attempting to organize the plethora of information available to us on the web, a person has two options: aggregation and curation.  Simply put, to aggregate resources means to archive them, or syndicate them.  The most common aggregation comes in the form of RSS feeds (Real Simple Syndication).  Many popular news agencies, blogs and websites offer their material in the form of an RSS feed in which the user (you) would subscribe to the stream of information the agency puts out on the net.  Simple, right???

Curating, on the other hand, occurs when you share the valuable content you have found with your social networks.  In many ways, you must aggregate then curate just as when looking for gold you scoop a pile of sand, then sift through it for the valuable nuggets.  When curating, you are sharing the valuable nuggets you have found on the web with your social networks.

Here’s a recap

As I hinted above, there are many ways to both aggregate and curate.  Here are a few which I found most helpful.

Aggregation

Curation

My take

Over the past year, with my devices (and device use) increasing, I have really become interested on not only how to best aggregate but also how to best curate.  In other words, when I do find something of use, either in my personal or professional life, I want to share it.  So here is how.

Since I generally read the news via an iOS device, I am using one of a few main apps to get the news.  I mainly use Flipboard to search for stories relevant to my field and interest/expertise (Education: Technology).  Within Flipboard, I signed into my Twitter account (for professional use) to allow me to easily curate once I have found a gem.  This also means I get an aggregation of content from those I have chosen to follow (i.e. Adam Bellow, founder of EduTecher).  On the go, I tag those stories into another app (Pocket) so I can read them later.  This is my way of sifting through the sand, and saving the stories that may look like gold so I can properly inspect them.

Though I am a member of many social networks, I use only a select few for my professional life.  Twitter has proven a great resource as I can search for subjects using Hashtags (I aggregate a few topics using HootSuite.  With topics, followers and the like selected in HootSuite, I can send the real web gems out to many social networks with the click of a mouse.

Here’s where it gets tricky.  I have used If This Then That, an algorithm tool, to set recipes to send the aggregated content to places.  My tweets, and tweets from those users and topics I follow (#edtechchat) are archived to my Google Drive for storage.  My tweets also are sent to Diigo (a social bookmarking tool) where I can tag them according to subject and group for future use.  Lastly, when I mark a story as read in Pocket, that story is automatically sent to Diigo so it doesn’t dissappear into the great wide open.  

So there’s my convoluted method.  The choice is yours.  I recommend choosing a few tools which work for you to streamline your workflow.  And always remember, seperate your personal account from your professional one.

Oh…one more thing.

When I hit publish on this post, a tweet was sent (using IFTTT) triggering the chain reaction of curation.

 

When attempting to organize the plethora of information available to us on the web, a person has two options: aggregation and curation. Simply put, to aggregate resources means to archive them, or syndicate them. The most common aggregation comes in the form of RSS feeds (Real Simple Syndication). Many popular news agencies, blogs and websites offer their material in the form of an RSS feed in which the user (you) would subscribe to the stream of information the agency puts out on the net. Simple, right???

Curating, on the other hand, occurs when you share the valuable content you have found with your social networks. In many ways, you must aggregate then curate just as when looking for gold you scoop a pile of sand, then sift through it for the valuable nuggets. When curating, you are sharing the valuable nuggets you have found on the web with your social networks.

Here’s a recap

As I hinted above, there are many ways to both aggregate and curate. Here are a few which I found most helpful.

Aggregation

Curation

My take

Over the past year, with my devices (and device use) increasing, I have really become interested on not only how to best aggregate but also how to best curate. In other words, when I do find something of use, either in my personal or professional life, I want to share it. So here is how.

Since I generally read the news via an iOS device, I am using one of a few main apps to get the news. I mainly use Flipboard to search for stories relevant to my field and interest/expertise (Education: Technology). Within Flipboard, I signed into my Twitter account (for professional use) to allow me to easily curate once I have found a gem. This also means I get an aggregation of content from those I have chosen to follow (i.e. Adam Bellow, founder of EduTecher). On the go, I tag those stories into another app (Pocket) so I can read them later. This is my way of sifting through the sand, and saving the stories that may look like gold so I can properly inspect them.

Though I am a member of many social networks, I use only a select few for my professional life. Twitter has proven a great resource as I can search for subjects using Hashtags (I aggregate a few topics using HootSuite. With topics, followers and the like selected in HootSuite, I can send the real web gems out to many social networks with the click of a mouse.

Here’s where it gets tricky. I have used If This Then That, an algorithm tool, to set recipes to send the aggregated content to places. My tweets, and tweets from those users and topics I follow (#edtechchat) are archived to my Google Drive for storage. My tweets also are sent to Diigo (a social bookmarking tool) where I can tag them according to subject and group for future use. Lastly, when I mark a story as read in Pocket, that story is automatically sent to Diigo so it doesn’t dissappear into the great wide open.

So there’s my convoluted method. The choice is yours. I recommend choosing a few tools which work for you to streamline your workflow. And always remember, seperate your personal account from your professional one.

Oh…one more thing.

When I hit publish on this post, a tweet was sent (using IFTTT) triggering the chain reaction of curation.