Techy Talk via OPAL!
I gave a little talk today to folks from all over the world online! It was delivered via OPAL (Online Programming for All Libraries) and it’s still going strong – I’m definitely tuning in tomorrow for more awesome talks!
In these budget-crunching times, an online conference is a great way to network and learn without traveling and spending a lot of dough. I was pleased to talk about education, libraries, and technology… and pleased to see so many interested “faces” in the crowd!
Check it out at OPALescence (my page is here)! It’s FREE, it’s ONLINE, and it’s EASY. Things don’t get awesomer than that!!!
Uglies free online!
One of the most popular series for teens is a limited-time free download in .pdf format! Of course, they’re promoting Westerfeld’s newest book, Leviathan, but who can complain about that? As more and more publishers make their works available in online forms, I can see more and more ways that you could leverage this free/cheap material for classroom use. Of course, the best aspect of the online text is its infinity – instead of having to police limited numbers of physical copies and tell students to hustle and read so others can have access too, every student could log in and read online, or download to their personal device– no waiting.
On a related note, education stands to gain the most from asking publishers to give up on DRM and concentrate on better ways to maximize revenue.
The year in ed
I wanted to cap off this year’s blogging with a good activity. So I decided to use Wesley Fryer’s prompt to read the posts nominated for Most Influential of 2008 in the EduBlog Awards.
Chris of BetchaBlog posted on the New Digital Divide. Just more anecdotal proof that the education field is suffering from the same (digital?) malaise as the library field:
I think what often shocks me the most about teachers who don’t take technology very seriously, is just how far behind they really are. They don’t have any idea just how out of touch they are with the kids they teach each day… kids who in most cases are far too polite to say anything about their teachers’ lack of technology understanding. But trust me, they know who you are…
Some of the classic excuses for why some teachers don’t integrate technology might include the following… how many have you heard before?
- “Im retiring in a couple of years anyway” (yes, but your students are not)
- “I’m too old to learn this stuff”
- “I’m too busy, I don’t have the time”
- “I have too much content to get through” (this one is usually followed by “you just don’t know what it’s like”… ah, yes, I do.)
- “I don’t really like computers” (you don’t have to like them, you just have to use them)
- “I just don’t understand technology” (as though they think no one has noticed that yet)
Chris goes on to say he’s most scared about the growing chasm between the “information-wills” and the “information-will-nots.” I hear that! Honestly, this has nothing to do with age – I meet just as many younger folks who use these excuses as older ones.
Reading all the nominated posts was a pleasure – it was great to hear diverse voices in the field from all around the world! The international nature of online education dialogue is really what will help change the nature of “doing school” in the 21st century. It’s not going to be just one school or one state/province/district or even one country – I now truly believe that the education revolution is going to be driven from a global perspective. Is there even any other? Thomas Friedman only said what was obvious: the world is flat, and we affect each other more than ever on a daily basis.
I can only hope that holds true and that this magnificent online educational community will grow, keep learning, and use their voice to speak for true change and authentic learning experiences for students the world over. This movement is more important than ever: if we’re all too busy and cannot make the time to do the important work of our day, what sort of example will we set for youth?
The New Ownership
Today I read two very interesting items:
the University of Michigan Library has adopted CC licensing for all of its own content. Any work that is produced by the library itself, and to which the University of Michigan holds the copyrights, will be released under the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial license (CC BY-NC).
2) Scott McLeod is blogging on his attempt to convince ISTE that they should ask their conference presenters to apply a CC license to their presentations for the benefit of the larger K-12 .edu community.
It really seems that a larger awareness of Creative Commons, at least among the .edu technorati, is brewing. Instead of trying to protect and hide intellectual work behind the total wall of traditional copyright, the new conversation looks like it will revolve around how others should be permitted to use that intellectual work.
Copyrights (& wrongs)
It’s been a busy two months since my last post… besides ALA and some much-enjoyed vacation time, everything seems to have piled up! Off to the right you will see myself and Cory Doctorow, happy to meet briefly at a Tor event in Anaheim. I told him how rad we all found his new YA novel, Little Brother, and he was glad to hear it.
When I got home, I got my new issue of Knowledge Quest in the mail and read with interest the article called “Copyright and Portfolios” by Rebecca Butler. I found the ethical questions of the subject fascinating. It concerns electronic portfolios of graduating seniors where the students have used copyrighted materials such as music and film clips: fair use or infringement? Butler concurs that yes, it’s fair use as long as the students were using said clips for public school curriculum and used them to “realize their specific learning objectives.” She cites some sources (this was the only online one, sorry) and goes on to say that such “class-generated portfolios” can be used to demonstrate expertise in applications for jobs or higher ed. Butler adds that you should inform students that the portfolios should not be used for profit (“[don’t] sell any of the pieces […] or use them in a paid presentation.”)
I was worried after reading this, because a quick scan of the article seems reassuring… if your students have “added entire popular songs to their projects, as well as large clips from movie CDs, DVDs, and videos” then maybe everything is just a-ok and kosher. It takes a close reading of this brief article and a little deep thought to conclude that A) you might need to do more research into fair use before you let students create portfolios with such egregious “sampling” (the last time I checked using a work in its entirety is not sampling) and B) you’ll need to figure out how to break it to your students that a more-than-passing understanding of copyright may be the most important “technological skill” thy could have in the 21st century.
While I think it’s imperative that students (and citizens) have the right to fair use of copyrighted intellectual work (especially in the cases of criticism and parody), I believe that it may be encouraging intellectual laziness to reach for the latest Coldplay song and pop it in as the musical backdrop to a PowerPoint report. Sure, it’s popular culture; sure, it’s handy; sure, it’s easier in the short run than searching for music where the creators have given explicit permission for its use. I maintain that in the long run, using apparatuses such as Creative Commons can serve to build students’ appreciation and understanding of copyright so that they may gradually build up to the use of commercially copyrighted works with full knowledge of the risks and benefits. By making the due consideration of copyright and fair use integral to the construction of such electronic portfolios, we can equip students with skills that they can put to good use in the workplace and/or academia.
Rebecca P. Butler. (2008). Copyright and Portfolios. Knowledge Quest, 36(5), 74.
Sherpas Help Teachers
An article from the Christian Science Monitor points out the rewards that teens and teachers in rural Maine get when giving (and getting) tech assistance. I liked the multimedia feature that accompanied the article. But one thing nags at me– they talk about how relieved the teachers are to get tech help and how the students benefit from sharing their knowledge, but I sincerely hope that this program isn’t replacing adequate professional development and training that teachers need to effectively implement technology in the classroom.
When I think back to my high school days in the mid 1990s, the district was bragging about having a computer in every room (for the teacher’s use, of course). But who were the ones actually using it? In many cases, students. There were several teachers who didn’t know how to do something as fundamental as retrieving files… I vividly recall demonstrating how to save a file to one teacher, who was just baffled by the whole process. I guess we were sherpas, too, in our own way. (Ah, the heady days of Windows 95, so radically different from 3.1!)
I guess I hoped that in 10 years, things would have changed fundamentally in the edtech world. Am I being pessimistic? Should I look at these new tech sherpas as an advancement, the next iteration of the teen tech support desk? Or should I be more skeptical of these glossy stories about how “cutting edge” teens seem to perennially be beside us older folks? (and holy cow, am I older folks now?!?)
This time, it’s academic
Wright State University is now providing students with sound-proof spaces for podcasting. This is clearly a trend to watch!
This week was pretty productive, technically speaking. I did a Cyber 6 Pack workshop with some school library media specialists, and made lots of notes about how I need to adjust the presentation as I forge ahead. But in other news, we discovered that we might have problems giving wireless access to a local school participating in a 1:1 laptop program (Macs!).
Our crack IT teams are exploring the issue and will try to isolate the problem. Even though this school isn’t in our service area, the kids with the laptops use our libraries. I think it’s vital to provide all users with a great experience to the best extent possible, so the outcome of this situation is important to me. Plus, when we have users bringing in their own laptops it greatly eases the demand for our desktops – resulting in more access for all patrons. It’s a win – win.
Another awesome thing I saw this week was a recording studio in a NZ library. I have agreed with colleagues for some time that what we need is a sort of library “gadget lab,” where users can come in and explore new technology and find out what it’s all about. If it doubled as a recording studio for video and audio, all the better! We are doing more and more podcasting and vidcasting so a room like this would help us as well as patrons. It’s called Beatbooth, and lots of users are flocking to its affordable hourly rates and cool library location. You couldn’t wedge a 5 piece band in there, but it’s got a keyboard, mic, and Mac. Awesome 🙂
Creative Commons and Content
Tonight I think I hit a tipping point: I decided I’d rather watch a TED talk online than channel surf after class… that’s a huge content choice that indicates, for the first time, that television and streaming video are equal choices in my world. *applause for the 21st century girl*
And this is what I watched:
I am going to recommend this to everyone when I start giving Creative Commons workshops (already have one group of librarians interested, woot woot!). It’s too long to share during a session since we usually have such a short time together, but it will be good “homework.”
What struck me as I watched it was the connection between the message we send to students and the standards we then hold them to… lots of educators (and I include myself here) say to students “oh, we can use (this video, this article, this picture, this music) and it doesn’t matter, we’re not making any money, it’s for SCHOOL.” And I’m afraid all they’re hearing is the sound of the teacher in Charlie Brown (wah wuh wah wuuuh wanh) and “it doesn’t matter.” The rogue librarians or teachers who emphasize the importance of copyright are treated as pariahs who are just totally out of touch.
Then when it comes time to create a works cited page for their term papers, we wonder how they became such flagrant plagiarists. Oh, the morality!!!
Creative Commons gives us a wonderful parallel road to travel and an awesome model to emulate. The most common license I see used is the “non-commercial/attribution” which, in a sense, is the one we have been presuming exists in our classrooms and libraries all along. And what a wonderful thing for students to hear over and over: “We’re not making any money here, and we just need to give credit where credit’s due.”
Now that’s a term paper I can’t wait to read 😉
Sharing new tools
Today I tried to imagine how Rollyo could revolutionize our library practice. Here’s what I came up with:
Would you like an easier way to find county school information? Try my new Rollyo search! I took all our individual school websites and “rolled” them into one customized search: http://www.rollyo.com/erindowney/joco_schools/
This is but one of the awesome tools we learned about in the Internet@Schools sessions. I can see recommending this tool to patrons who need the “right” information rather than a Google search dump… especially for homework. Help kids pick a handful of trusted and authoritative sites, and they can roll their own search engine that gives them very specific results.
If we don’t like to rely on Google, now we have an alternative. Of course, this means adding an extra step and selecting sites in which we place authority. That means that we need to have a better sense of what’s out there to use on the web. And again, more librarian job security to the rescue 😉