This blog post is brought to you by the word Corollary
In my classroom (and most elementary classrooms) students are encouraged to share. . The only exceptions are food (possible allergies/sensitivities/dietary restrictions) and answers during an activity designed for assessment purposes. Sharing is an act of empathy that demonstrates the ability to recognize and fill a need of another person.
So why do we revert to two year-olds who want to claim everything as “mine” when it comes to creative works? Why do we abandon our childhood teachings?
In his Video Sharing: The Moral Imperative Dean Shareski shares Ewan McIntosh’s statement
“Sharing, and sharing online specifically, is not in addition to the work of an educator. It is the work.“ Shareski further states that “When we focus on protecting our own work we are in some ways the antithesis of a teacher.” Strong words, which he admits. But there is a ring of truth to them.
As teachers we share our knowledge with our students. We often share a particularly inspiring lesson with a colleague. If we adopted Dan Meyers’ attitude that the more people we share our work, the more the effort seems worthwhile, perhaps this would occur even more than it already does. As educators we also share our students’ work with the school community on bulletin boards. I have seen the audience effect mentioned in Terry Heick’s article When Student Writers Learn That They Must Make Their Audience Care in action when students know they will be sharing their work with their classmates or others. They are much more motivated. Like many educators in elementary schools I have not yet taken the leap into having my students share online. Why not? I admit that the estimated amount of time required to produce materials I deem worthy of publishing so publicly is a deterrent. Privacy issues are also a valid concern. By allowing these concerns to influence my practice am I sacrificing my students’ education? This is a question I had not considered before.
In this day and age sharing with a large audience is not difficult. Access to the Internet makes it relatively easy. This means that not everything is of the same quality. Heick (2014) states that there is access to so much it is “an ocean of dreck, dotted sporadically by islands of genius.” This begs the question, is it worth the time and effort sifting through the dreck to find those rare gems? I don’t have the answer to that question.
Perhaps it is not the content of what is being shared so much as the process of sharing that matters. Even a poorly presented idea can spark innovation in someone else. In his article How Successful Networks Nurture Good Ideas: Thinking Out Loud Clive Thompson states that “Failed networks kill ideas, but successful ones trigger them.” As educators one of our primary objectives is to foster ideas. This makes me inclined to agree with McIntosh and Shareski that we do have a moral imperative to share.
Coming soon to an Internet accessible device near you...the work of my students!
Heick, Terry. When Student Writers Learn That They Must Make Their Audience Care. (December 7, 2014) http://www.teachthought.com/uncategorized/students-wrote-no-one-cared/
Shareski, Dean. Sharing: the Moral Imperative. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELelPZWx7Zs
Thompson, Clive. Wired. How Successful Networks Nurture Good ideas: Thinking out Loud. (September 17, 2013) http://www.wired.com/2013/09/how-successful-networks-nurture-good-ideas-2/
Visible Learning: http://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/cDhUrEiiRA
This week I feel like I am standing at the edge of an abyss. I have all the materials I need to build a bridge to cross to the other side…except one. The pivotal piece that is essential to making the bridge hold together. Without this integral piece I cannot cross to the other side.
The online training offered by Google has provided me with a good grounding in each of the apps included in the Google Apps for Education Suite. I understand how they work and what they can do. Unfortunately without access to all of the apps (which will not happen until the fall) I am missing the essential piece to attain mastery…..hands on practice. The past week's lessons focused on Google classroom and Google Keep. The only access I have had to Classroom was for one hour at a Google playtime session organized by some staff piloting the suite at their schools. Text and video tutorials, such as those found on YouTube can only take me so far.
Without practical application I am left standing on the other side of the abyss amongst a pile of essentially useless bits and pieces with the potential to one day become a bridge.
In the meantime, I am taking every opportunity to practice with the apps that I do have access to (Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive and Google Keep.) I was excited when I could add due dates from the course I am test-driving in Coursera to my calendar with a single click. I was also pleasantly surprised when Calendar added a map to my appointment when I included an address and Siri proceeded to giver me directions when I tapped it. For such a seemingly simple app it is proving to be amazingly efficient and effective. I hope and get as much background knowledge in the other apps as I can so that I am prepared to explore their practical applications when I finally have access. I am a kid who cannot wait for Christmas.
One of the best resources for learning something new is people. This week I joined some fellow educators in the district wanting to get a headstart with Google Apps for Education. I had my first experience using a Chrome book and got some hands-on experience with Google Classroom. We practiced viewing posts and commenting on posts and sharing Google docs in Google Drive. Many of these features were already familiar to me but the experience still had value. I also learned about a very cool extension called Google Read and Write. It is a voice to text and text to voice app. So cool! It is available at no cost to all teachers. I recommend checking it out if you haven't already.
I also learned that the district has engaged in in depth discussions with other districts and Google representatives to help work out issues associated with he Freedom of Information and Personal Privacy Act. These concerns are the reason for the delay in implementation and why some districts have not yet bought in. So far it is looking good.
Each school will have an EdTech Mentor to help with the transition next year. I am hoping to fill that role at my school. I am hoping that my enthusiasm and vision of the possibilities the technology presents will be contagious. I have not been inclined to take on a leadership role in the past but the timing and topic seems right.
I also took the opportunity to play around with the Google apps that I have been introduced to so far. Google Keep is new to me so I was excited to give it a try.
I also played around with Google Calendar. . I loved it so much that I created a Flipagram, something else that was completely new to me. You can enjoy it at: https://flipagram.com/f/qHzkHu3FWE
The inside of my head is currently a whirling vortex of information, ideas and resources all jumbled together and moving so rapidly it is next to impossible to catch one single thought to hold onto.
I began my week of exploring OER by watching an edWeb webinar a webinar titled "Using OER Smarter, Better & Faster for Elementary Mathematics." The webinar included a short YouTube video called “Why OER Matters”
The video addresses many of the points presented in one of the videos included in our week one reading/viewing list.
The webinar itself discussed the qualities of effective OERs (alignment with learning outcomes, quality of explanation of subject matter, utility of materials, quality of assessment, quality of technological interactivity, quality of instructional and practice exercises, assurance of accessibility) ) It included this link to a document for assisting educators in selecting OER for their classroom: http://www.setda.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Digital_brief_3.10.15c.pdf
It presented some resources that I had not as of yet explored: Rubistar, MIT Open Courseware, PHET, ReadWorks.org. I look forward to exploring these more in depth at a later time.
The webinar proceeded to address both the benefits and challenges associated with utilizing OER in the classroom. Some of the advantages listed included: spurring pedagogical innovation, the ability to modify or reuse materials, the potential to decrease costs associated with providing quality education, and the ability to promote educational technology developments.
The challenges acknowledged with utilizing OER in classrooms included: resources required to produce high quality OER can be prohibitive, quality of available OER varies, OER require periodic updating to retain their value, educator resistance and others.
The webinar than provided a sample Grade Three math lesson that utilized OER.
The webinar was a good entry point. Now I was ready to do some exploring of my own.
My first stop was the OER Commons. As I am exploring Google Apps for Education I was excited to see that it has links to upload content directly to Google Classroom!
Next I visited OpenStax. The content seemed to focus on secondary and post-secondary content. I checked out a text book on Astronomy. As I am not an astronomer I cannot speak to the accuracy of the information contained in the text but I can say that the site was easily navigable, it was easy to download content, and the content was formatted in a way that made it easy to read with the chosen font style and size and inclusion of images.
My final stop was Couesera. I found the range of materials broad. There is something for everyone there. Many of the courses are free (if you don’t want a certificate for credit) but others cost. The fees are, in my opinion, reasonable but does exclude them as free or open content. I decided to explore the resources on this site more in depth. I signed up for three courses. One I was able to begin this week, the other two do not open up until the end of next week.
The first course that I chose to audit was Foundations of Teaching and Learning. The course is introduced with an introductory video. The video is comprised of a mixture of clips of the instructor (the stereotypical professor with gray hair, a beard and glasses) lecturing and PowerPoint slides. In spite of the dated appearance of the professor and background the video contained good, basic content. The first module proceeded with three more videos similar in nature to the introductory video and concluded with a brief, self-reflective assignment.
I am eager to see what the next modules bring. So far the course has been a good refresher in basic teaching pedagogy and practice and even presented certain topics from a different perspective. I can see it being valuable for students contemplating going into education.
I still feel like I am caught in a funnel cloud but I think I am close to entering the eye of the storm where one experiences calm.
This week I explored other open sources of information about some popular Google apps. I turned to my new favourite source for professional development…..edWeb. EdWeb (www.edweb.net) is a site that curates professional learning communities on several teaching related topics, including technology. I am a member of the Tech Tools for Teachers community (among many others.) Members of this community have access to an archive of free webinars. Each lasts about one hour. I discovered 2 webinars hosted by one of my favourite presenters, Shannon Holden (https://www.edleadersnetwork.org/presenters/g-i/holden-shannon) The first was on Google Tools for Educators. It was produced and aired in 2013. It covered Creating an account; creating, adding events, sharing,and embedding a Google Calendar; the basics of Google Plus such as creating circles; using Google Hangouts to facilitate communication between teachers and students, peers and teachers and parents; and using Google Drive to disseminate information to students and colleagues and encourage collaboration., A second webinar focused exclusively on OneDrive by Microsoft and Google Drive more in depth.
While the content contained in these webinars was covered more thoroughly in the first modules of the online training offered by Google but it was beneficial to have a different perspective
My biggest frustration at this point is seeing the possibilities and not having the opportunity to fully utilize these tools. I am eager for my colleagues to get on board so we can streamline communication and work more efficiently.
Next week my learniing will be hands on with some colleagues from a different school. I am excited to see how they are using these and other tools in their professional practice.
Everyone has heard of copyright. And if we are to be honest, all of us have broken it. Copyleft (gotta love the spoof on the term copyright) appears to be an ingenious method of acknowledging the original work of the creator while allowing for the inspiration of further works based on it. I liked how the definitions of open content found on Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_content) I found that the 5 Rs that were articulated (retain, reuse, revise, remix, redistribute) really helped me clarify the scope of copyright and copyleft.
I have used Creative Commons in the past. I appreciate how it allows me to enhance my work while promoting the work of another by including proper acknowledgment. Prior to reading What is Copyleft (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft) and About the Creative Commons (http://creativecommons.org/about) I didn’t fully understand how the freedom offered by open resources was actually secured through copyright. The statement in the latter article that declares that Creative Commons provides an infrastructure that creates a “balance between the reality of the Internet and the reality of copyright laws” really summed it up for me.
My closing comments will be on Aaron’s Law, the recorded lecture of Larry Lessig, Once I got past the introduction, which I will refrain from commenting on, I found it not only deeply saddening to know that we lost such an intelligent, personable, sensitive person with a social conscious at such a young age but engaging and thought provoking. I only wish I had the opportunity to meet him. He seemed to be a dichotomy of introvert and activist. Intelligent and maybe naïve at the same time.
The lecture provokes the questions: Did Aaron actually break the law in liberating the JStor database? It wasn’t clear if he actually “broke in” as the server room itself was unlocked. As a member of the institution he was, in fact, entitled to access the database. Did he exceed his authorized access? Unclear. Did he have intent to distribute? Unclear. Was there proof that his actions caused harm? Again, unclear. As an accomplished lawyer Larry Lessig was careful not to come out and state it but the way he presented certain facts and skirted around others suggested that Aaron’s prosecution was less about copyright and more related to his ability to hack into secure databases. A prospect that would surely scare a paranoid government with sensitive information to guard.
Perhaps what struck me most was not related to copyright at all. What struck me was the essence of Aaron himself. Yes, he was a hacker. Yes he was an activist. Mr. Lessig is correct on these counts. But he was also a poet. Perhaps first and foremost. I wanted to find the description Aaron wrote of the picture he attached to one of his posts because it was particularly eloquent but was unsuccessful in finding it. Here is a different sample from his Stanford blog (http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/) where he talks insightfully and lyrically about the failing auto industry,
An organization is not just a pile of people, it’s also a set of structures. It’s almost like a machine made of men and women. Think of an assembly line. If you just took a bunch of people and threw them in a warehouse with a bunch of car parts and a manual, it’d probably be a disaster. Instead, a careful structure has been built: car parts roll down on a conveyor belt, each worker does one step of the process, everything is carefully designed and routinized. Order out of chaos.
And when the system isn’t working, it doesn’t make sense to just yell at the people in it — any more than you’d try to fix a machine by yelling at the gears. True, sometimes you have the wrong gears and need to replace them, but more often you’re just using them in the wrong way. When there’s a problem, you shouldn’t get angry with the gears — you should fix the machine.
And here is another discussing how mistakes are frequently undervalued...
This is a tale of two nonprofits.
At one, they hate making mistakes. How else could it be? “We’re not ever going to enjoy screwing up,” they told me. But this attitude has a lot of consequences. Everything they do has to go through several layers of approval to make sure it’s not a mistake. And when someone does screw up, they try to hide it.
It’s only natural — you know you’re going to get in trouble for screwing up, so you try to fix it before anyone notices. And if you can’t do, then your boss or your boss’s boss tries. And if no one in the organization can fix it, and it goes all the way to the executive director, then he tries to figure out a way to keep it from the press or spin it appropriately, so the world never finds out they made a mistake.
At the other nonprofit, they have a very different attitude. You notice it the first time you visit their website. Right in their navigation bar, at the top of every page, is a link labeled “Mistakes.” Click it and you’ll find a list of all the things they screwed up, starting with the most horribly embarrassing one (they once promoted their group under false names).
Extremely articulate and even elegant prose, I am sure you will agree, Coders will admit that there is a beauty and poeticness to eloquent code. Is it his eloquence that spawned his ability to appreciate and create brilliant code? Or has his ability to create and appreciate elegant code translated to his ability to communicate with the written word? Maybe a bot of both. The words recited from his blog posts demonstrated passion, vision and eloquence that are the hallmarks of a poet. I would suggest that it was this sensitive soul of a poet that called him to action and resulted in the torment that eventually caused him to take his life. I truly hope that he has found some peace.
Choosing what to focus on for my individual learning project was not easy. Once I opened my mind to the possibilities I was flooded with ideas. I could study French, my ancestral language that for political and personal reasons my father never spoke to me. I could study novel writing. Seeing my work in print has always been a dream of mine. I could learn the nuances of dog training from experts (although I think my nearly eleven year-old retriever is beyond redemption.) Or I could get a headstart with Google Apps for Education which the school district I work in will be subscribing to next year.
In the end I decided to pursue Google Apps for Education. I am familiar with some of the applications that comprise the suite. I have a Gmail account. I Have used Google docs and have saved documents to my Google Drive. Earlier this year I found online training from Google and only had time to complete the first few introductory units.
I went back and continued with the training. This time I had two goals in mind. First, I wanted to expand my skill set. Second, I wanted to be able to share what I learned with staff and take a leadership role in assisting with the transition to this new medium for communicating with staff, students and parents.
So far the training, which includes links to documents in the help center, video and audio clips and frequent quizzes to check understanding, has covered policy, locating experts, Google Docs, Google Drive, Gmail, Google Keep, Google Calendar, Google Hangouts, Google Groups and more.
Part of the training involved exploring Google Education Groups. These are groups of educators who are using Google Apps for Education. It is a place to share ideas and seek help. I was surprised to discover that there were no groups on the Island. There wasn’t even a single group listed in British Columbia!
I saw this as an opportunity to begin my role as a leader. Google recommended that those wishing to begin a group contact an active group close by. I joined the Google+ Community for the Alberta GEG (Google Educators Group) and asked for advice and a nomination to begin a group on the Island. They kindly directed me to someone whom I am hoping can get the ball rolling. I am also going to get together with some local teachers from pilot schools who are already trying the suite of applications out.
My plan is to complete the free training from Google, collaborate with peers and seek out further open resources that can further my competency with the Google products that will be available to me in the fall. #ThisIsGoingToBeFun
Check out episode 1 of Visible Learning at:
In earlier courses in the Online Learning and Teaching Degree program I was introduced to the terms Open Education Resource (OER) and Creative Commons but had not explored either in depth.
The video “Why Open Education Matters” (https://vimeo.com/43401199) presented several points in favour of Open Education Resources. These included reducing financial burdens to those who might not be able to afford enrolment in traditional courses or print textbooks; reaching people in remote areas who would find it difficult to attend face-to-face classes; and the ability to keep materials current.
These are valid arguments. I remember reading an article (I will have to do some sleuthing to find out which one) that cited research that disproved the theory that open education resources and free or inexpensive courses (like MOOCs) would equalize opportunities for less advantaged persons. For whatever reason, the target audience did not respond as enthusiastically as anticipated.. The already educated seemed to be getting more educated and the gap was not closing. It may even have been getting wider.
The video “Laws That Choke Creativity”
by Larry Lessig presented a lot to consider. Are our laws regarding copyright and licensing and property outdated? Do the laws continue to serve their intended purpose? Are copyright and licensing laws stifling rather than promoting and protecting creativity? Mr. Lessig would have us believe so. Maybe he is right. The examples that he showed demonstrated how materials had been remixed in very creative ways.
Would I want to give up all rights to my work? I do believe in sharing and openness but I, too, have reservations. I might worry how my work might be remixed. The videos Lessig chose were irreverent and intended to be humourous. Would the artist whose work had been remixed approve of how his work had become associated with the new product? Or would he find it offensive? As humans our creative works are often highly personal and having them contorted to convey a message contrary to their original intent or completely misinterpreted could be highly distressing.
There really is no original idea. All ideas are sparked off another. No idea can exist in isolation. Like a flame without oxygen it will be snuffed out. We might as well embrace this reality and attempt to contain the flames by offering creators licensing options as in Creative Commons so the fire doesn’t die but neither does it grow into a raging wildfire. Surely, some people will get burned in the process but others will have their imaginations sparked.