Monthly Archives: May 2006

I am definitely a right brain person. Logic, organisation, timelining, the fine details are not my strong points. Sometimes that's viewed as a bad thing, especially in my semi-leadership position where others view disorganisation or not knowing where precisely something is heading as a weakness. But for those of us who enjoy the big picture, letting the imagination off its chain, playing and exploring, there is hope. I've just started reading another of the edublogosphere's favourite books, Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind, and although I'm only a little way in, my right brain hopes are up. It seems that while left brain skills have been highly valued in our society for a long time (witness the highly paid and valued professions of accountancy, law and medicine), Pink argues that the scene is set for people with creative, visionary, experimental right brain strengths to have their day in the sun. Having said that, creative bookkeeping has been around for a long time.

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The reality is that everyone has a blend of left and right brain skills - Pink points out that you can't have one without the other - but it is possible to spot people's preferences in different ways. For instance, The MYLU team were looking through the abstracts for the upcoming Middle Schooling Conference and I found that I was interested in very different choices for my registration form compared to some of my colleagues. I was really taken by The ideologies of education: Must we choose? Yoram Harpaz but others thought how boring and were far more intrigued by The teacher in a thinking classroom Clinton Golding. It was like, "Give me something I can use tomorrow in my classroom, not this ideology stuff." I could be wrong but maybe that was a left brain choice while my preferences led me to the big picture concept stuff. Anyway, you would need a good blend on any staff of both hemisphere preferers (is there such a word?) and it would be desirable for all students to be exposed to both sides of the equation. It will be interesting to see how this book pans out and whether it supports or debunks any of the "brain theory" stuff that seems a bit evangelical to me at times.

During the latter half of last week, we started our Problem Based Learning program with the Middle Years Learning Unit (MYLU) students. As our teacher-librarian was away in Melbourne at a PBL conference, it was decided to get the students started familiarising and using the cutting edge technology of the wiki before the introduction of the problem. Each class had approximately two hours in the computing room with me and Peter, our extra support teacher for the term. I had already set up the PBL wiki ready to go (or so I thought) with all of the relevant pages set up - the problem, Learning Area pages, sandbox pages, examples, information about wikis and even a link to a Copyright page for kids (poached from Doug Noon's del.icio.us links). I had my plan, use the IWB in the classroom to explicitly walk the kids through the wiki, discuss what a wiki was, touch on the aspects of adding "stuff" to a wiki - text, images, wiki links, outgoing links, navigation, creating pages. I also tried to explicitly show the kids how to join Wikispaces, go to the PBL wiki and request membership to that space. I first worked with my own class although Natalie (my co-teacher) was officially in charge and they had already played with a wiki in a previous lesson. So that went OK - Nat is a very web-savvy teacher and got the kids easily into acquiring space membership and then we tackled the section of the session designed to give them real opportunity to acquire some skills. I had concocted an Internet Treasure Hunt with a page dedicated to it on the wiki where the kids had to track some various web items and put them on their page - links, images, slabs of information. Away they went with varying success. I had also cunningly made all of the items to be tracked of Australian origin so that the kids would already be tuned when we started the problem. I also figured that as I started each new session, my delivery of the lesson and concepts would be smoother and the kids later in the week would be able to get going quicker and achieve more in the two hours. How wrong I was. The spread of wiki-awareness across all of the classes was extremely wide with some of the youngest students being the quickest to create accounts, read the instructions, create their own team page for the Hunt and add content while a lot of the Year Sevens were a bit lost. I also learnt a fair bit about wikis as we went along. For instance, two people can't have a page open for editing and work at the same time because the changes don't update on the fly and whatever is on the page when the SAVE button is hit, it is what is saved on that version. I think it will smooth out as the students gain confidence and they spread the tasks and work on more than just one page at once in their group.
In the three classes that hadn't worked with me before, very few kids had even heard of a wiki and it was interesting that not one of my fellow teachers knew how Wikipedia was constructed. I certainly raised their awareness and I am sure that they will use Wikipedia with a different frame of mind in future. It all depends on your view on "trusted sources" but the kids were really great in identifying the advantages of the Wikipedia system - always up-to-date, links to other resources, many more articles and interactive multi-media extras.
So, in the end, all of the students registered as wikispace users (using net safety aliases, of course) became members of the PBL wiki, created a team page for the Hunt, linked that page back to their Learning Area navigation page and made a start on the Treasure Hunt. It certainly was obvious that the kids and the teachers need more "play time" using this new tool before it is used for the solving of the Problem but I am glad that everyone feels that using a wiki has great potential.
I have to finish with this great little anecdote. In one class, the numbers were odd so one boy had to pair up with his teacher to create a team. That was great - the teacher felt it gave her a chance to get into the task, learn the application and get to know her student a little better. The student? He was fine BUT he was concerned that he was at a disadvantage because he had a teacher as a partner and she might not pull her weight!!

I seem to be harping over this concept of copyright and its implications in educational contexts a bit lately. Luckily, I'm not the only one exploring this lately and I hope that I'm not being interpreted as some sort of copyright supporter. Most of the time, copyright materials produce hurdles that are a pain to navigate and public domain materials and Creative Commons licences are concepts I support fully. I'm just finding that more and more in my daily work, my knowledge of copyright is being tested and I worry that by modelling indifference, educators could really be doing our students a huge disservice. I've already reflected in the past that in my experience, most teachers either are ignorant of or oblivious to the basic premises of copyright. Nearly every task I set in our Problem Based Learning program is going to lead our kids to encounter copyrighted material so I want to make sure I inform them of the most appropriate way to use and cite those resources.
If I recommend that students make an effort to use CC and PD material, then their searches bounce up against the filter which blocks access to "personal web pages" and "web hosting" where most of the material more generously licensed resides. So now copyright and censorship are factors I have to include in any planning for any online learning experiences. "Fair use" can get most teachers by if the students are only publishing and researching within the classroom but if we want to open up the concept of authentic learning, then using wikis and other online tools means careful thought must go into choosing what materials are utilised without stomping on other people's IP. So that's why I'm trying really hard to become better informed and then to pass my learning and my learning sources onto my colleagues and my students. A quick nod to Alexander Hayes (now blogging in two locations) who has reflected earlier today on this very issue and to Doug Noon, whose copyright del.icio.us links have been really handy. My learning continues....

A few posts back I reviewed the second Gibb Owen article from The Education Technology Guide and ended my review with the following query:

My final question for Gibb which I will e-mail on to him if he wants to reply is this - When I leave a comment on a blog, who retains the copyright to that? The commenter or the blogger? I’ll post any insights here with permission.

I did e-mail him. Here's what I wrote:

G'day Gibb,
I just wanted to say thanks for your great articles on Copyright and Intellectual Property in The Education Technology Guide. I am a primary school teacher here in Adelaide with a role in ICT and so much of what you wrote has a big impact in the education sector. I am also a blogger with my blog Teaching Generation Z, where I have reviewed your two articles because I think that copyright is really misunderstood by the majority of educators. The two posts were My Copyright Ignorance and Reviewing Another Informative Copyright Article . I have learnt quite lot from your informative writing, but as always, good writing raises as many questions as it provides solutions or answers. The question I have for you (if you wish to provide a non-legally binding, opinion only answer, of course) is this - When I leave a comment on a blog, who retains the copyright to that? The commenter or the blogger? If it is the blogger, then does the commenter have to ask permission to use their own comment (housed on the other person's blog) back on their site? If you do answer and you are under no obligation to do so - this is a request imposing on your goodwill - could I quote your answer on my blog? It would be very informative for the blogging community to have a clear understanding of where their rights lie,
Thanks again for your articles,
Graham Wegner,
Adelaide.
I received a reply back on Wednesday, with permission to reproduce. To satisfy Gibb's request for appropriate citation, here is his reply in full.
Dear Graham,

    RE: COPYRIGHT ARTICLES

Thank you for your approval of my work.  Your thoughts are greatly appreciated.

The question you have raised is naturally complex in its answer.

Where a Blog is published on the internet the assumption should be that all original material constituted by more than a few words that require the application of intelligence is protected where it is down loaded in a country which is a party to the Berne Convention such as Australia.

Leaving aside this assumption there can be implications arising from the express words that place the whole or part of the material in the public domain and thereby free for all parties to use and copy same (commercially?).

The presentation of a site by its express terms may operate as an abandonment of copyright by any and all contributors or its terms or nature may say nothing about abandonment or licensing.

Licensing can allow copying for non-commercial purposes or may place other limitations on such a licence.

The nature and contents of the material and the environment into which it is published will be highly persuasive as to whether it is protected or not.

Each author can and should make an express reservation of copyright or an express abandonment of rights or expressly prohibited commercial copying. Please have a look at the issue of Creative Commons on the Internet.

You can see that without being given a detailed example I cannot make a categoric statement for you.  You may publish this advice on your Blog provided it is attributed to Clinch Neville Long and you quote my e-mail address.

Yours faithfully

CLINCH NEVILLE LONG

Gibson Owen

Senior Associate

e-mail:  gowen@cnl.net.au

I would interested in any edublogger feedback on his reply which I am a bit hesitant to try and remix in layman's terms. I'm loathe to misinterpret this reply but someone with more background than me could have a go. Or in the absence of a full understanding, we all continue to comment on each others' blogs in good faith that our words will add value to our learning.

I know it seems like a lot of posts here seem to meander around future plans and there seems to be excessive verbiage about what are fairly everyday presentations for a lot of people in the edublogosphere. Some of the bloggers I read seem to present every other month at some conference or another and they certainly don't post about every minor step when planning what they are going to present. However for a few reasons, this space is still going to feature updates and progress reports on the two presentations I have a hand in this year. The reasons are:

  1. Australia is not aflow with conferences and they are a big deal to go to, even bigger deal to present at. I'll go to two, three tops this year. Will Richardson will probably go to three this month!
  2. Some of my colleagues involved read this blog as a way of being informed.
  3. I need all the feedback I can get. I'm not a naturally confident public speaker and it has taken this blogging caper to have the dawning realisation that my experiences and ideas are valuable to others.
  4. It's my blog and I can use any way I want!

So tonight the MYLU team met to continue planning for our Middle Schooling Conference presentation. I got them on board with the wiki, talked through what we wanted our audience to walk away with and then outlined a possible presentation framework. Here's what we came up with - responsibilities to be allocated down the track......

  1. Introductions.
  2. History of the MYLU.
  3. School history of IWB journey.
  4. Linking of the "digital immigrant, digital native" metaphor to our understanding of today's Australian middle school student.
  5. Use of Marc Prensky's implementation of technology into the classroom model - dabbling, old things in old ways, old things in new ways, new things in new ways.
  6. Providing of Flipchart examples showing the MYLU teachers' IWB use moving through these phases.
  7. Examples of student use of IWB's - moving from teaching tool to learning tool.
  8. Use of other new technologies in MYLU - the PBL program using wikis.
  9. Q & A at the conclusion.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been really delving into wikis and setting a couple up for classes at my school to use. It was timely that James announced the edublogs.org partnership with wikispaces because that is the host for several of the wikis currently on the go. I'm also co-authoring a wiki with fellow South Oz edublogger Al for a joint presentation and we have this one at seedwiki. Currently, seedwiki is free from our South Australian schools internet filter system while wikispaces is blocked hence the reason for our choice. Al believes strongly that for teachers in our system to have a go at using Web 2.0 technologies in the classroom, there needs to be as few barriers as possible including not having to deal with filters. I concur (sort of) but I think educators should also have access to the best free tools available and there won't be any shift in filter policy on edublogs or wikispaces if the powers that be can point and say, "No-one in our system wants to use them anyway." We'll agree to disagree.
I haven't really gotten into wikis much before this year even though I have been aware of their potential. I just haven't had a really good purpose and we all know purpose drives learning. So, at the moment I have a personal wiki with nothing on it, the MYLU wiki for our presentation at the Middle Schooling Conference which is starting to take shape and one for our Problem Based Learning program. I was originally trying to combine the MYLU wiki with the PBL so that at the conference we could showcase the program. But as I started adding pages and content, I realised that the two couldn't work together, especially as I wanted the PBL section to be driven by student input. So, I have come to the conclusion that for me, a wiki has to have a singular purpose.

A conversation at last night's staff meeting highlighted the need for all educators to be information literate ourselves. Some comments floating through the air expressed the view that kids need to realise that there is more to learning than Google, that information and learning can be obtained from books, other human beings, play, magazines, trusted sources and peers. That is very true but in some ways, it is a bit of a cop-out. If kids turn to the internet first because that is their natural inclination, isn't it our job as educators to be familar with that path of learning? We can't afford to write it off because it doesn't fit our world view. If students turn to the Web and gravitate to the biggest search engine of all to access the world's information, we have a duty to ensure they know how to operate it and understand its results. My theory says that unless we come to grips with Google and all it entails, then our kids will continue to cite Google as their source instead of the specific URL, continue to click on the Sponsored Links thinking they are legitimate places for answers, fail to differentiate between domain endings and use appropriate search terms to lower the Google hits out of the millions. 
The whole debate about Google having such a giant grip on the world's digital information and resources is another whole issue, and some of the ways it has taken on accessing other people's and institutions' intellectual property. (Unless you specifically say no, you must be saying yes.) But it isn't going away anytime soon and the innovation the Google has developed and bankrolled (Google Earth, Google Maps, Blogger, Technorati) cannot be ignored. We owe to our students to be Google-savvy.
With that in mind, at that same staff meeting, right after the comment that sparked this post, I showed off my ACTIVstudio produced resource from our IWB Training Day which is something that could be used on an ACTIVboard as a discussion point with students on how to use a Google page. If you are an ACTIVboard user that would be interested in this flipchart resource, email me and I'll send it to you. Check the image below for a preview and the post over at Activboarding for more background on the resource. Read Christian Long's excellent post on Google as well - I'm not alone in this, y'know!
Rant over. 

Gibb Owen doesn't have a blog. At least, I couldn't find one. But I'm beginning to wish that he did, because then I would be a lot more informed about this slippery concept of copyright and intellectual property. Owen has written another excellent article for the latest edition of The Education Technology Guide with an article titled simply Copyright. Regular droppers-by of this blog may recall my first look at Gibb's article on IP and some of my conclusions for teachers. It certainly stopped me blogging on school time (even if it was my lunch break) so that all my work on this blog would be my IP, not my employer's.
So, what's struck me in this article? I'm glad you asked. Here's a key quote from the article:

Teachers, tutors and lecturers should particularly aware that all of the works that they write in the course of their employment are copyright material automatically owned by their employer.
It is a question of degree as to whether a teacher owns the copyright and whether a teacher owns the copyright and where he simply developed ideas during the course of his employment and thereafter discretely and exclusively expressed those ideas in his private time using his own private capital. In this case he would be the true owner. 

So, if I develop a resource in my job, it belongs to my education system. Does that mean I don't have the right to change the copyright conditions that automatically apply? For instance, if I wanted to apply a Creative Commons license? What about a resource like the MYLU Wikispaces site which automatically generates a CC license? More questions than answers in my mind!

Some other points from the article:

  • The 70 year rule applies down under where copyright exists for 70 years from the death of the copyright owner or 70 years after the first publication if death has already occurred.
  • If you want to be sure that your copyright rights stand up in court in most countries of the world, identify your work with the¬†¬© symbol.
  • You don't have the legal right to sell purchased software you have used to another person, especially if it's already loaded on a computer. Where does that leave second hand video game stores who also sell used PC games?

My final question for Gibb which I will e-mail on to him if he wants to reply is this - When I leave a comment on a blog, who retains the copyright to that? The commenter or the blogger? I'll post any insights here with permission. 

Tangling with another blogger in the comments section can only be beneficial, I've decided. I don't think I could ever do what Mark Ahlness has done and restrict myself to only one sector of the edublogosphere. Personally, there is too much to learn from some many angles that are outside my realm of immediate expertise - other international perspectives, tertiary and VTE sectors, life in high schools, teacher training - I just can't say that the classroom is where it is at.

So with broadening my knowledge of all technology tangled education a priority, my recent written stoush with Alex Hayes has had me looking through his more recent posts on his blog. I've read his responses to Leigh Blackall's blog before and to be honest, I was a bit scared initially of this writer who mixed insight and complex words in equal measure, and I thought his ideas were out of my comfort zone. So I didn't track down his blog which was a judgemental error on my part. But our three way and eventually, three blog conversations proved that Alex and I had a bit to learn from each other. (I was surprised and quietly flattered to find Teaching Generation Z on his blogroll.)

Now something Alex explores a lot is the concept of mobile learning (mlearning) and one great post I enjoyed greatly was IT: Internet as Medium.

Or, the world wide web is actually the collective human conciousness interlaced as electronic nodes which we sit statically attached to, occasionally claiming family time and football matches as excuse to abandon it......leaving it, lonely.

Or, the internet has gone mobile and we are wearing it, tracking our own moves, sending and receiving global transmissions, waving up to it's call, abandoning watches and calculators and cameras and other peripherals, driving through the world by its maps, finding out the latest gigs and cheap meals and where our kids are and who's meshing with whom.

I like the concept of the internet gone mobile and any excuse to make it a reality in my day to day existence. Ideally, this post could be written and blogged on my Pocket PC via a wireless connection to my online world. Reality - my Pocket PC is still running Windows Mobile 2003 and is not wireless capable.  My mobile phone is of a similar vintage and it's probably a combination of my German heritage and my country childhood that makes me loathe to retire any device that still works just fine! For me, the converged Mobile Phone PC would be the best of both worlds for the purposes of mobile professional learning. However, my mobile teaching  ard learning needs have just been bolstered. The laptop I have been sharing does have wireless and is great for working online whilst moving locations thoughout the house. But my new work machine, an Acer Tablet PC, has just been delivered and I can't wait to try out its capabilities. I almost feel a bit guilty about getting such an advanced device but its mobility, light weight factor, more compact dimensions make it ideal for my work both at school and at home. Here's the frustrating rub - I have to charge the battery for two hours before I can even boot it up! So let the age of mobile learning continue to develop - and keep reading Alexander Hayes to read about where's it's heading.