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 long hot summer
While Scott McLeod notes that global changes are necessary for our American schools to break out of the old mold, our friends across the pond in England are also considering broad, sweeping edu-reform.
Via Schoolgate from the Times Online comes this report from the IPPR: Thursday’s Child. A quote from the exec summary:
Besides this plan for a more continuous school year, they also indicate an intense discussion of the role socioeconomic disadvantages play in school readiness and motivation – I’d like to read the whole report one day! (It’s behind a pay wall.)
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.
Conversations about education
This article from today’s NYT is thought-provoking, but I find the commentary a richer food for thought.
The conversation we are really having is about what kind of society we live in, and what we want to do about it. What would it really look like to truly close the “achievement gap”? Are we asking schools to solve all of our socio-economic problems? Is that possible?
— Eli Rector, Palm Desert, CA
I share the sentiments in other comments – esp. the one where these hand-wringing articles about the state of education today are characterized as jeremiads – but I think Eli’s comment is right on the mark. Obviously, when we talk about education we’re not just talking about books and kids and test scores. We’re talking about our shared common experience as citizens, a loaded concept that transcends any dictionary definition of education and enters into sociocultural commentary.
I am not finished reading all (100+!) comments on this article. But I think it will be time well spent to hear some of these voices. Our education, our selves? Absolutely.
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 😉
Gathering awesome info
One of the most frustrating things about finishing an article is looking around the world of information and seeing all the awesome things you could add. I have been collecting examples, anecdotes, and tools from the web for ages and every day there are still more. Fortunately, this latest article (on how we adapted a patron class to the education environment) is due soon, and I can dive further in to advertising said class to more patrons. I’d much rather conduct a few experimental versions of a new class and then perfect it afterwards, but I totally understand that from the patron side that nobody likes being a guinea pig 😉 I hope that after learning 6 new 2.0 tools in an hour or so, participants will want to go on and create localized cohorts that will experiment together in a more in-depth process like 23 Things or 5 Weeks to a Social Library.
I hope to make some super short Adobe Breeze-style presentations using Camtasia to advertise two of our services to start with: homework help and the Cyber 6 Pack 4 Educators workshop. From there, I want to try and forward these to key people in school districts that can show the presentations in front of large audiences… like department meetings, PTA meetings, and maybe even post them on web pages. I want to create a compact, powerful message that can travel widely and be seen in less than 2 minutes (considering this an asynchronous version of my various “elevator” speeches). More to the point, I want to spend less time personally talking up these sorts of services and spend more time actually delivering said service to patrons. I will be sure and post a follow-up on this topic letting you know how it works.