Archive for July, 2010

Pull not Push

July 30th, 2010

“Learning has to be productive in order to make sense.”

I agree with Charles Leadbetter, a London researcher who observed different school environments in very poor areas of the world. We promise that education will have extrinsic value, that you’ll be able to make a living because of the education you receive. But for some, waiting 10+ years for the pay-off is way too long. In many of the countries he visited, kids were dropping out at 14-15 years of age to work for a living. What good is an abstract exercise if you can’t pay your bills?

This goes back to the core question of why we have schools. Is it just to train workers? To grab some students’ attention, we need to do at least that. The issue I have is that the world is changing so fast that we need to help students develop critical thinking skills. If we train them on current problems/technologies, those might not be the same issues by the time they leave high school.

This is why I see structuring curriculum through Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships as being key. Give students the challenge, give them real-life application, and let them know that you care if they succeed. That’s how you get motivation. The tough part is filtering out the stuff that doesn’t align with 3Rs, even if it’s how you’ve always done things.

Leadbetter might argue that having a curriculum to begin with doesn’t meet the needs. But we don’t have enough teachers to construct individual lessons for each student. Leadbetter suggests peer-to-peer teaching as an alternative. Also, module-based learning, like you see in well-designed online classes (not the busy work kind), is another way to tackle individual learning. With so much individualism, though, social cohesion is at risk. Definitely some stuff to get your thoughts going.

Check out the video from Charles Leadbetter:

Some of the educational models referenced:
Formal Innovation:
Big Picture schools
Jaringan School in Queensland
Kunscap Skolan schools in Sweden
Informal Innovation:
Reggio Emilia Approach
The Harlem Children’s Zone

Current Fair Use Policy

July 29th, 2010

One of the issues that repeatedly gets brought up by librarians is the concept of “fair use” with regards to copyright.

I wrote this in July of 2010, so it may have changed since then, but here’s a link to the government’s copyright website and the specific page about fair use.

Here’s a general outline of fair use:

Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

The distinction between fair use and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission.

Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.

Those are pretty general guidelines. There are principles for how much you can cite, but those are principles that can be challenged in court. In HARPER & ROW v. NATION ENTERPRISES, 471 U.S. 539 (1985), the publisher of a Gerald Ford biography challenged a magazine for publishing 400 words verbatim from the book in their 1,250 word magazine article. 68% of the words in the article were new. How many words can you use? The bigger question is if the article in the magazine was a review or if its intended purpose was to present Gerald Ford’s life.

With regards to how many words can be used, here’s a quote from the government site:

There are no legal rules permitting the use of a specific number of words, a certain number of musical notes, or percentage of a work. Whether a particular use qualifies as fair use depends on all the circumstances.

That being said, many institutions have great policies to stay safe with copyright. Check out the University of Maryland’s explanation of fair use policy.

Important links:
Circular 21 from the US Copyright Office [PDF]
The Copyright Office’s FAQ on Fair Use
Section 107 of the Copyright Code

The Lessig Style of PowerPoint

July 28th, 2010

I saw this style a very long time ago (ancient by Internet standards) and realized that I hadn’t shared it here. It’s unofficially called the Lessig Style of PowerPoint. It’s what I use for my booktalks when I use PowerPoint and it’s what I like to use for most of my presentations. The only presentation that I don’t use it on is my AIMS teacher instructions PowerPoint. I modify the one from the district and I’m a little scared to leave out a piece of the instructions, to be completely honest.

PowerPoint is old. Like, 23 years old. It’s this simple fact that makes me laugh a little when teachers say they’re afraid to use PowerPoint and other new technology. I need to remind myself that it’s new to them.

Over the 23 years, PowerPoint has morphed like most technology does. One of the trends that I still see is to put paragraphs of text on the screen, all at once (or, even worse, crawling in with a typewriter animation). Usually it’s not others teachers doing this. It’s mostly people from outside of the school who come to present. The mindset is that the PowerPoint speaks for itself. If that’s the case, then why do we have someone standing in front of us in the meeting? To read the slides to us?

What if you put only the most important word on a slide? What if you put the one idea, the one concept you wanted people to leave the meeting talking about? Lawrence Lessig is a great presenter (and professor and advocate and all that).

Check out his TED talk on copyright. Not only is his challenge to current copyright assumptions good (although the remixes can be skipped), but watch how he presents it. Slideshow art.

Thoughts from superintendent hopefuls

July 27th, 2010

Check out the table of information here.

It’s interesting to see who has a background in education. I’m glad AZCentral included that. Also, one candidate said that she would visit all schools. Arizona has a lot of schools. That’s an interesting promise. I wonder if she has a killer iPhone app that manages her responsibilities really well, freeing up lots of time. Or an app that makes her teleport – one or the other.

Star Thrower

July 22nd, 2010

Many educators have probably heard the starfish story somewhere along the line. The kid saves one starfish on a beach and it makes a difference to that one starfish.

I love Jake Parker’s take on it. Click here for the full comic.

Here’s a sample:

Arizona School Superintendent of Schools Debate

July 21st, 2010

Check out the videos here and here or below:

Piano Squall

July 20th, 2010

Piano Squall is cool.

  1. He does concerts for charities.
  2. He does those concerts dressed as the main character from Final Fantasy VIII.
  3. He does his own arrangements.
  4. He puts the sheet music for those arrangements online for free.

Go check out his site here.

Improv Everywhere: Star Wars Subway

July 14th, 2010

Check out Improv Everywhere re-enact the opening scene from A New Hope:


July 14th, 2010

You know when you send an e-mail and forget to add the attachments? Or when someone on your staff hits ‘Reply All’ instead of ‘Reply’? Even the ESRB (the organization that rates video games) makes those mistakes. They sent a mass reply to people concerned about privacy on Blizzard (makers of World of Warcraft) software’s forums. The ESRB responded by revealing everybody’s e-mail addresses. Here’s the apology:

Yesterday we sent an e-mail to a number of consumers who wrote to us in recent days expressing their concern with respect to Blizzard’s Real ID program. Given the large number of messages we received, we decided to respond with a mass e-mail so those who’d written us would receive our response as quickly as possible – rather than responding to each message individually, as is our usual practice.

Through an unfortunate error by one of our employees, some recipients were able to see the e-mail addresses of others who wrote on the same issue. Needless to say, it was never our intention to reveal this information and for that we are genuinely sorry. Those who write to ESRB to express their views expect and deserve to have their contact and personal information protected. In this case, we failed to do so and are doing everything we can to ensure it will not happen again in the future.

The fact that our message addressed individuals’ concerns with respect to their privacy underscores how truly disappointing a mistake this was on our part. We work with companies to ensure they are handling people’s private information with confidentiality, care and respect. It is only right that we set a good example and do no less ourselves.

We sincerely apologize to those who were affected by this error and appreciate their understanding.


Entertainment Software Rating Board

Free Amazon Prime if you’re a college student

July 13th, 2010

You have to have a .edu e-mail address and you need to have a major (thus the college student part). But if you meet those qualifications, you get Amazon Prime for free for a year. I could have used this when I was working on my Masters degree and had to order all my textbooks online. Free 2-day shipping (or 1-day shipping for $3.99) as well as some other cool stuff. It’s worth a look.