Institutions and Surveillance – Privacy vs Protection; What should Schools do?

Recently the Canadian government put forward legislation called Bill C-13. Politicians cast the bill as anti-bullying, referring to the bill as the “Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act.” For example, the bill makes it a criminal offence to publish or distribute intimate images without consent.1 While some laud the government for taking steps to curb cyberbullying and defamation others criticize the bill for its additional measures that give the government greater access to personal information, particularly of suspected criminals. So there it is, the two-edged sword. In the institutional approach toward cyberbullying there is the tension between steps to protect against cyberbullying versus the steps that allow governments greater access to personal data.

Recently, Microsoft stated that “government snooping potentially constitutes an advanced persistent threat” to online privacy.2 Edward Snowden intercepted Yahoo and Google emails, more than 100 million in February 2013 alone. And then he released to the public those emails.2 And while both Google and Yahoo have since tightened their privacy policies, government court orders could ultimately reveal what the public imagines to be private.

Snowden brought to light both NSA and UK surveillance programs, and some argue that the surveillance happens outside the rule of law.3 The UK surveillance program, known as Tempora is supposedly part of a larger coordinated effort known as “Five Eyes” involving the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.3 Surveillance of this magnitude was revealed by Snowden but has yet to be justified by the governments involved. Without law or proper enforcement of law, the risks of government snooping can exceed the potential benefits. What is the legal framework for surveillance? Who is accountable to whom? Is there a risk of renewed episodes of McCarthyism if the gathering of data becomes pernicious? Is the risk of secretive surveillance proportionate to the benefits of the data gathering?

So…….how do schools protect student privacy while remaining vigilant against cyberbullying? How does a school give respect the data it gathers as it surveys the digital activity across its campus? Are there policies to define and check inappropriate use of the data by individuals within the institution? To what degree is the right to Freedom of Speech respected within the bounds of the school culture, within the context of data surveillance? Well, we may have an answer; there is a test case.

The Glendale Unified School district (California) has recently hired a company to monitor the online activities of over 13,000 students, including Facbook.4 (See here for a news clip.) The company monitors cyberbullying as well as any type of criminal activity, as well as class-cutting.4 Anything publicly posted that poses a potential threat to the school is monitored at a cost of over $40,000.5 Interestingly, the company says that it only monitors information that is already public, and supposedly has already intervened in a potential suicide situation. Nevertheless, critics of the surveillance claim a violation of privacy, as they liken the surveillance to going out and following students to know what they do on their own time.

In practical terms, what does surveillance do to the culture of the school? The school-student relationship is not unlike the student-parent relationship. Nurturing and trust are critical to the relationship. Should parents snoop? Not unless one is willing to have the difficult confrontations with their children that sever the trust. Should the school snoop? Not if the institution wishes to develop a culture of trust.

1) Hawes, J., December 3, 2013, Proposed Canadian cyber law – anti-bullying or pro-snooping?
2) Wagstaff, K, Microsoft says government snooping as bad as ‘malware and cyber attacks,
3) Woods, B., July 8, 2013, Privacy International files legal action against UK government over PRISM and Tempora cyber snooping!vgpz1
4) Kent, E. October 9, 2013, Social Media Today, School District in L.A. Monitors Students’ Social Media Activity,
5) Patchin, J., September 17, 2013, Cyberbullying Research Center, Should Schools Monitor Students’ Social Media Accounts?
6) Martinez, M. September 18, 2013, CNN California school district hires firm to monitor students’ social media,

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The Final Project – A Reflection

Reflection Photo How was this photo taken?
Environmental Topics clearly provided the best options for collaborating with a teacher in a distant school. Thus I chose a content area within IB Environmental Systems and Societies to focus my work.

IB ESS has areas of study that naturally take students to various locations on Earth. With this in mind, I chose biodiversity and conservation as the topic area because students could potentially collaborate with other students. The idea would be that students residing in different locations could provide a first-hand account of their respective local situation and provide constructive feedback (evaluation) on the work of others.

The implementation of the project is not as simple as it might appear. Coordinating with another teacher to teach exactly the same syllabus descriptors in the same way presents various challenges, specifically in timing, emphasis and technology. Are both of us comfortable with all the required technology? As well, having students talk to other students living distantly is not easy if for no other reason than time zone differences.

The project is messy in that involves many moving parts. The teacher will need to provide latitude in the evaluation because not every student will undergo the same experience or be able to produce comparable projects. I worry about the time required to implement the project. As with any course where standards are clearly outlined, teachers must pay attention to the time any one standard consumes. Lastly, my facility with creating Google Earth tours is limited, so I wonder how I can successfully help my students build their own tour.

I found the completion of the project challenging from an organizational perspective. There were many masters I needed to serve: COETAIL, IB Syllabus, and NET’s. While the project attempted to integrate standards from all three, structuring the project was difficult. There seemed to be too many documents, various formats and various audiences, COETAIL vs students to be specific. And lastly, in attempting to integrate the Course 2 COETAIL standards (Fair Use, Digital Citizenship) with specific IB standards, I found myself struggling to give the COETAIL standards the strength they required. While I believe teachers can mix various standards into lessons, such as content and technology, at the end of a day, there is a limit to what can be done in a time-limited classroom.

“Integration” is a word frequently used in education to describe an organic process by which students see the “whole picture” that in some way cements learning into place. More and more, I think young minds are more linear than adults wish they were. Adults love to see the connections and wish they could magically have their students see the same connections. More and more, education appears to be pushing “integration” but this often means “more standards to teach” with no addition time. I’m not sure but, in any case, I struggled to serve well all the standards that meant to be integrated in this assignment.

The project details found in the Google Drive folder here.

The Google Form Assessment Survey for the role play can be found here.

The Google Form Assessment Survey for the Collaborative Movie is here.

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Digital Profiles; What do our students think?

Embedded in one’s digital footprint is the inevitable tension between a positive on-line profile and privacy. I maintain a conservative position on this continuum, but my on-line presence has been growing. And I am more and more aware of protecting my privacy.

I can found on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube, and I have a blog. Most of my digital footprint is important to my profession. I would want a potential employer to be aware of my Blog as well as my Twitter and YouTube activity. I would expect those in the position of hiring me to be asking about my digital footprint, and I would be surprised if candidates aren’t already being asked about theirs. Awkwardly, I recently Googled my name and found little……..little to be ashamed of, but also little to be proud of. With one hundred thirty hours of material on YouTube and regular contributions to a professional twitter feed, I need to better manage my on-line profile if a potential employer is to find me.

But how do we push ourselves out into public yet keep private what needs to be kept private? While I am a conservative user of Facebook, I have friends and acquaintances who are not. My Facebook page is locked down but personal photos can be found on other pages less secure than mine.

What information should be public to anyone who might be searching? I recently posed this question and others to my students (30 respondents). Of various choices about what should be available on-line, less than 20% indicated that an address should be public and 30% indicated that a personal photo should be public. Interestingly, a similar percentage was willing to share their school scores or their IB scores. Most (above 75%) felt that CV’s and places of employment should be available. Generally, students indicated that “professional” information should be available more than personal.

When I asked students whether restaurants should be rated on-line, 90% agreed. Yet when I asked whether individual job performance should be rated on-line, more 90% disagreed. I found this interesting because it appears the students are sensitive to the power of on-line rating schemes, particularly when it comes to the potential harm done to individuals. But students clearly felt less reluctant to have institutions (restaurants) rated.

Hopefully we can remain tolerant, thoughtful digital citizens. If we become insensitive, as suggested in this image, then technology has taken us backwards. Creative Commons:,d.bmk&psig=AFQjCNF8yR8daoN_k3CxM88EUJtCNIFBTQ&ust=1392184370899909

When I asked, “Does someone’s poor taste with photos on their Facebook page reflect poorly on the company for whom they work?”, sixty percent disagreed. Based on the 60/40 split in the response to this question, students appear conflicted about the importance of digital profiles and how they should be interpreted.

When I asked, “Is it fair that someone be fired from their job because of photos taken over the weekend to be found on their Facebook page?”, the responses were mixed but thoughtful. Here are some excepts….

● “No, what they do on their weekends is their freedom.”
● “Yes, they represent the company.”
● “What people do in the privacy of their own lines shouldn’t be mistaken for their attitude at work.”
● “It depends what their job is.”
● “I think it depends on the severity of the photo. If the photo clearly displays illegal or inappropriate actions, or in any way jeopardizes the security of the company, then I believe that to protect the integrity and reputation of the company or workplace, that this action should be taken. If someone chooses to risk their job by doing these things, then they should face the consequences.”
● “No, work and private life should be held apart.”
● “Yes and No, a Facebook page should be private but many jobs nowadays consist of having a good appearance and if you know this and have bad pictures of yourself on online, then you jeopardize the well-being of your company and other people’s jobs.”

We need to be teaching about one’s digital footprint at every stage of the educational process. The implications for careless on-line profiles can be significant. But I’m struck by the thoughtful responses of young people to questions on digital privacy. Maybe older folks are making more of the potential hazards of on-line activity than needs to be made. Young people today may be more conservative and more thoughtful than many adults, certainly more conservative than adults might imagine.

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Images to Powerpoints to mp4 Movies; An Analysis of Fair Use

In an effort to “advocate, model, and teach ethical use of digital information and technology, including respect for copyright, intellectual property, and the appropriate documentation of sources” I’ve wondered about my own practice. “What is our obligation as educators?”1 In this blog, I would like to analyze one form of my own practice in light of copyright rules.

I create powerpoints with images from various sources, slide after slide, twenty to fifty slides in length. The image sources include, hand drawn images (my own), textbook images, Google images and other images I’ve used for nearly 30 years in education. Using a movie-making app, the powerpoints are transformed into seamless movies with my voice and stylus emphasis. The movies are available on YouTube. However, and here’s the problem: No credit is given to origin of the images. Am I exercising Fair use? In my use of on-line tools, have I been less than responsible in “protecting the personal information of others?”1 Fair use? Yes. Irresponsible? Yes.

Copyright law in the field of education allows displays and performances in face-to-face Teaching2 but only in the classroom. Copying of material or posting material on servers is not covered by copyright law. Statutes, such as the TEACH Act of 2002, have come up to accommodate on-line education . The TEACH Act allows materials to be “transmitted” to students at any location.2 In addition to new statutes and proposals (Stanford link) to amend copyright in education, education acknowledges the “Fair Use” of images. I would like analyze my move-making practice in light of the Fair Use standards. One must evaluate works using all four factors2 as given in the Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act.

1. Purpose of Use – Is the intent of the use for commercial use or non-profit? “Materials should be placed online only for the purpose of serving the needs of specified educational programs.2
2. The nature of the copyrighted work. The selected work should be relevant to the educational objectives of the course.2
3. The amount of the work used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole. Materials placed online should generally be limited to brief works or brief excerpts from longer works. The amount of the work placed online should be related directly to the educational objectives of the course.2
4. The effect of the use upon the potential market value of the copyrighted work.2

Am I ignorant as implied in this image?

Creative Commons; This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Courts have ruled on cases that have come before it, and court rulings display the following patterns: Fair use statutes favor nonprofit educational purposes over commercial uses.2 As well, courts favor uses that are “transformative,” or that are not merely reproductions. For example, courts favor “something new or of new utility, such as quotations incorporated into a paper, or perhaps pieces of a work mixed into a multimedia product for your own teaching needs or included in commentary or criticism of the original.”2 And lastly courts provide greater copyright protection to creative uses (fiction) rather than less-creative uses such as non-fiction. 

Images to Powerpoints to movies is fair use because 1) The purpose of my movies is strictly educational. There is no commercial aspect to their use or creation. 2) The movies are strictly related to the educational objectives of the courses I teach. Syllabus details are embedded into the movies. 3) The amount of material from any single source in any one movie is quite small relative to the movie itself and relative to any original document. Certainly the amount of original material from any one source is less than 10% of the original – see the proposed Stanford Guidelines.3 4) The movie’s economic impact on the original document(s) is likely negligible, simply because the two formats are so very different. My movies would not be competing with the text sources from which some of the images have come. 5) The movies are non-fiction and can be seen as “a new, multimedia product for my own teaching needs.”3

But I’ve been irresponsible in not providing citations. I need to respect the source of each image. I need to give credit where credit is due. If I had been more responsible, with citations, I think the educational movies I’m making would be free of criticism.

Interestingly, Stanford is proposing guidelines that would appear to protect my use of the images within the movie-making context. “An instructor in copyright law may use a software program such as Microsoft PowerPoint to create a class presentation that includes still and moving images, music, and spoken words.”3 The propsed guidelines go on pertaining to Fair Use…. “In general, students and instructors may create multimedia works for face-to-face instruction, directed self-study, or remote instruction provided that the multimedia works are used only for educational purposes in systematic learning activities at nonprofit educational institutions.”3 The Stanford proposals set volume limits on use as approximately 10%, and specify no more than five images from the same source.3

As educators we need to understand the rules around Fair Use and be sensitive to abiding by them. As well, we need to model good practices. While my copyright infringement in my movies might be protected in court based on arguments made here, I need to be better about modeling fully appropriate behavior.
Technology is likely to transform education as much if not more so than most other sectors of the world’s economy. The digital transfer of information holds great potential in education. But, so far, education has not changed as much as one might have anticipated. One explanation for the relatively small change in education could be difficulties with copyright law. 4 I don’t think copyright law is holding educators back because universities are leading the charge to alter the rules around digital media. But, that does not give us the license to disregard the work of others by not giving them credit for their images and ideas.

1) Watts, D., Utecht, J., COETAIL Course 2, Week 1;
2) Columbia University Libraries, Copyright Advisory Office, Fair Use in Education and Research,
3) Stanford University Libraries, Copyright and Fair Use, Proposed Educational Guidelines on Fair Use
5) Educational Technology and Copyright Law, Mark Brumley,

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Copyright Law and Education – What are the rules? Are the Rules Changing?

Do we as a global, technological society need to “rethink” copyright laws?1 New technologies have increased copyright infringement2 raising the question, to what degree should society examine copyright law as well as the mores of copyright respect?

Copyright law, as written, is strong but the shifting technologies have resulted in regular additions or changes to the law. Not unlike bandages on a struggling patient, new rules, changes, new concepts (e.g. fair use in education) and the difficulties of international agreements further the argument that copyright law needs resuscitation.

Flicker Creative Commons.

Let’s take a look at the situation. US copyright law states “no one other than the copyright owner may make any reproductions or copies of the work” and examples prohibited by the law are given, such as “photocopying a book, copying a computer software program, using a cartoon character on a t-shirt, and incorporating a portion of another’s song into a new song.” 3 But The U.S. Copyright Act includes more than a dozen statutory exceptions4 and certain forms of human work remain unprotected by copyright law.2

The exceptions to copyright law include derivative works and public performances. An example of a derivative work would be “a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted.3 (underline is my emphasis). Work unprotected by copyright law include: 1) unfixed works, “for example: choreographic works that have not been notated or recorded, or improvisational speeches or performances that have not been written or recorded are both ineligible for copyright protection. 2) titles, names, short phrases, slogans, 3) ideas, procedures, principles, discoveries, and devices covered by patent law, 4) useful articles such as the cut of the cloth, or the design of the skirt or jacket as a whole.3

For education copyright law allows displays and performances in face-to-face teaching but only in the classroom.3 Copying of material or posting material on servers is not covered by copyright law. Copyright law has been tweaked in response to new technologies as on-line education has spawned new statutes. For example, The TEACH Act statute (2002) allows materials to be “transmitted” to students at any location.4 Stanford university is proposing new copyright rules in response to digital use of material. Stanfords’s proposal allows educators to digitize analog images (nondigital photographic prints or paintings). 5 The proposal continues “educators can digitize a lawfully acquired analog image for educational use unless the image is readily available in usable digital form at a fair price.”5 As well, “an educator may display a digital image prepared from an analog image if the display is for educational purposes, such as face-to-face teaching or scholarly activities at a nonprofit educational institution.”5 These exceptions, which complicate the matter, cause fewer constraints in the education but more constraints on the enforcement of copyright law.

And then consider the further confusion international standards. Copyright laws of one country are respected by another if they have jointly signed certain conventions. 6 In fact, copyright law is more rigorous in the UK. But if individuals wish to provide greater protection to their work, if they assume their work will be regarded internationally, then International Copyright is also possible (by application).6 Various international agreements are recognized, such as The Berne Convention for artistic and Literary works (1928), The Universal Copyright Convention (1952) and The Agreement on the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (WTO 1994).6 But, certain countries do not enforce copyright infringement, China being the most obvious example.

So where does that leave copyright law and respect for copyright law? If exceptions, new statutes and adherence to international agreements produce confusion, maybe it’s time to re-consider new laws. But can we predict the future of technology, technology that will require new flexibility in existing law? Answers are not easy here but people need to be better educated about the rights of creative work done by others.1 We all need to be steeped in the respect for other’s work with the encouragement to create our own. According to Matthew Ballard, increased rates of copyright infringement result from “a lack of understanding and education” on writing essays using proper citations.2 In my next blog post, I will examine a personal case study that questions copyright infringement in education. Here’s a short video that explores the impact of open education on copyright rules. Enjoy.
YouTube Preview Image Source:
1) Watts, D., Utecht, J., COETAIL Course 2, Week 1;
2) Increasing Academic Dishonesty and Copyright Infringement in Universities:
A Literature Review , Matthew R. Ballard, University at Buffalo: State University of New York,
3) BitLaw – Copyright in the US, Scope of Protection under Copyright Law,
4) Columbia University Libraries, Copyright Advisory Office, Fair Use in Education and Research,
5) Stanford University Libraries, Copyright and Fair Use, Proposed Educational Guidelines on Fair Use
7) Business.Govt.NZ, International copyright law,
8) UK Intellectual Property Office, Copyright abroad, ,
9) Mark Brumley, Fair Use,

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Fair Use and Educating Students

Digital technology now touches every aspect of daily life. From information gathering to information sharing, we research, buy, sell, bank and entertain ourselves on-line. From Airline tickets, to social networking sites, to music, games and blogs, people are on-line. Do we understand our digital profile? Do we respect the digital profile of others? The focus of this post is the better understand the role of education in the fair use of digital material.
Teaching students the “responsible use of online tools helps protect the personal information of others.”1 Thus, when and how should teachers teach students about fair use and copyright? Are the attitudes of students pre-disposed to taking their on-line fair-use responsibility seriously? What is the prevailing culture of attribution and are teachers doing enough to model fair use policy?
In my view, educators do not do enough to teach fair use policy to students, in part because the technology is changing, thus the “gray” becomes more gray. For example, music files and the peer-to peer sharing of digital media has made the challenge of communicating the importance of fair use all the more difficult. According to W. Fryer (Integrating Technology in the Classroom; Copyright 101 for educators), “educators have a responsibility and legislative mandate to model ethical, legal, and appropriate respect for US copyright law in their own teaching, but they must also educate the next generation about the importance and requirements of intellectual property law.”

Credit: Creative Commons, Compfight
Photo Credit: YayAdrian via Compfight cc

But there are obstacles to fair use. Unclear copyright law and the difficulties of identifying the contributors of digital media are prevalent issues in education? It is important that copyright laws are clear in order encourage the creation of material, not restrict access.4 How do we, students and teachers alike gain fair permission from the originators of on-line media?
Surprisingly, high school students at AES appear sensitive to the issue. In a short survey of my students, 83% of students responded “yes” to the a question on the importance of providing appropriate attribution when using images from on-line sources. The same percentage indicated that they provided proper attribution when using on-line images for school projects. I interviewed two students about appropriate attribution of on-line images in school projects and both spoke clearly about the importance of doing so, although they acknowledged that it was not always easy. Here’s the video. YouTube Preview Image
Teaching fair use is important to maintain the integrity of openness of on-line sources. Teaching fair use is important to respect those who contribute digital content. And our students are pre-disposed to learn about fair use, and abide by law. As teachers we need to emphasize the importance of fair use by teaching students the about copyright and how it fosters further openness, how it promotes further innovation.

1) Watts, D., Utecht, J., COETAIL Course 2, Week 1;
2) Fryer, W. ,Integrating Technology in the Classroom; Copyright 101 for educators,
3) The Digital Learning Challenge: Obstacles to Educational Uses of Copyrighted Material in the Digital Age,
4) Brumley, M., Educational Technology and Copyright Law. Teaching Copyright,

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Privacy and the Digital Shadow

“Online behaviors and actions impact the access and safety of personal information” but the rapid adoption of technology by people, governments of people and employers of people that the rules of responsible use by all parties are not clear. Our privacy is at risk.
Of greatest concern is the “digital shadow”1 and ever-growing trail of digital content that people create every time they log in. The digital shadow is inextricably linked to each of us – our name is on all of it- but the shadow lies almost invisibly behind us because people ignore its presence. How important is it that we pull the shadow out of the dark to understand it and gain some control of it?
Estimates suggest that nearly 50% or more of our digital footprint is within the shadow,1 not part of the our active digital footprint. Our shadow is comprised of bank records, phone call information, surveillance images, web searches and credit card purchases. And beyond the obvious information to be used by spammers, merchants and thieves is the Meta-Data that can display the outlines your life – loves, deaths, transitions. To open your eyes to the digital shadow that follows you, watch this TED talk by Jadish and Smilkov.YouTube Preview Image.

While we might appreciate the recommendations made to us by Amazon or Trip Advisor based on recent searches, who has access to our Meta-Data? US citizens might be protected by the 4th Amendment

The 4th Amendment – From Creative Commons Webcrawler,

as search warrants are required for authorities to search a house. But technology has moved so quickly that it’s not clear that warrants are required to search the digital databases that shadow us. A recent case, currently in the Oregon courts, has the ACLU arguing that DEA conducted a warrantless search of medical records in Oregon.2 Is this how it is? Is this how it will be? Obama, in his recent speech (Jan 16), acknowledged that “high-tech surveillance poses the biggest threat to civil liberties.” Obama indicated an intent to “restrict the ability of intelligence agencies to gain access to phone records”, but did you know that “the N.S.A. has been systematically collecting logs of every Americans’ phone calls and storing the data for five years. Agency analysts may examine call records of people up to three links (or “hops”) removed from any number for which they decide there is “reasonable, articulable suspicion” of ties to terrorism.”5 It makes me wonder about the patterns of my life that might be viewed suspiciously or otherwise by the government or my employers. Following the Boston Marathon bombing, an employer was reviewing employee on-line usage and found an employee had recently purchased a pressure-cooker and a rucksack.6 He called the FBI.
So how does do our government structures, our legal systems, provide respect our digital privacy? It starts by educating young people about safe, legal, and ethical use of digital information and technology.7 Our students need to know, straight up, that online behaviors and actions impact the access and safety of their personal information.7 And students need to know that responsible use of online tools can help protect the personal information of others.7
In the meantime, how do we lurch toward greater digital privacy? We must hope for numerous small gains in the protection of privacy, all of which add up to something larger than their sum. Canada has passed an anti-Spam law that goes into effect in July of 2014; recipients of email spam will need to provide written consent to receive the email.8 However, the law must enforced and many companies chronically “disrespect the rights of individuals”.8 In California, company phone calls can be recorded as long as all parties are notified.9 And, as I mentioned earlier in this post, ACLU is in Oregon court working to protect the privacy of digital medical records.2 And each of has a responsibility to be keep an eye on our digital shadow. We must start by acknowledging that it’s there.

1) Perez, Sarah, March 24, 2008; Calculate your Digital Footprint,
2) Wessler, N., In Court Today: Defending Medical Records from Warrantless Search.,
3) Landler, M, Savage, C, January 17, 2014; Obama Outlines Calibrated Curbs on Phone Spying,
4) Jagdish, D., Smilkov, D., The Power of Metadata (TED EX),
5) Keller, J., Parlapiano, A., Sanger, D., Savage, C., Obama’s Changes to Government Surveillance, Jan. 17, 2014,
6) Fae, J., October 1, 2013; Beware the little brother of surveillance – your employer,
7) Watts, D., Utecht, J., COETAIL Course 2, Week 1;
8) Jefferson C., December 2013, Canada’s Anti Spam Law : Spam isn’t Just Nigerian Princes & Body-part Adjustment;
9) Fact Sheet 7: Workplace Privacy and Employee Monitoring,

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PLN – Not Well Developed

My personal learning network is not well developed in the way of Web 2.0 Technology.

I have colleagues in the office with whom I talk about teaching. Documents, of various sorts, are shared. I depend on the HS Tech coordinator (Maureen and Greg previously) for assistance with technology needs.

Two years ago, I started mentoring someone I’d never met. Jon Benner is the husband of a former student of mine; my former student, Becca Goldman, graduated from AES in 1999. Becca and Jon suddenly found themselves in North Carolina, he was hired to teach Biology for the first time. He needed resources and Becca got in touch with me. In addition to providing him various documents, we had numerous e-conversations on teaching approach, emphasis, appropriate depth of material, and more.

I use the web to find animations, images and references depending on my needs.

The NY Times and the International Herald Tribune supply articles that I use regularly in Environmental Systems and Societies, and periodically in IB Biology.

I’ve got a twitter account and follow (periodically) a few hash-tags. See the image of my tweet deck below.

Time is limited. Time is precious. To be good in the classroom requires many foci. Teachers need to keep their focus on the classroom. It is relationships with kids that matter more than who’s being followed on Twitter. If teachers allocate time to email students and respond to email from students, that is time better spent than tweeting other adults about anything.

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Project Based Learning, Standards and Time – The Uneasy Trinity

Project Based Learning is the rhetorical rage. But what is the evidence that project-based learning (i.e inquiry, constructivist) is better in the context of specified standards and time constraints.

My argument is NOT that inquiry-learning is unsupported by the data or that constructivist learning is less good than some other approach. In fact, I have no doubt that a constructivist approach (inquiry learning) is better for comprehensive learning than any other approach.

My argument is that I have not seen a conversational confluence of project-based teaching, standards and time all inclusive. For example, I have not seen data that compares two (large) groups of high school kids experiencing two teaching styles, with the exact same standards and exact same time frame. At the HS level, standards tend to be lengthy, the designated time period is short and the expectation is that all kids know all standards. If you have X standards and Y specified time frame, are the results of a project-based approach the same or better than any other approach? A teacher cannot escape the incorporation of standards and time into their chosen pedagogy. PBL advocates are rhetorical in their support of the pedagogy, but often not clear about standards and time.

Often it’s heard that project-based learning takes more time than other approaches. That’s fine, but then what of the standards? Are some standards pushed aside? Are the standards different? And either way that’s fine, as long as that’s where the conversation starts and all stakeholders are aware of the magnitude of the decisions being made. In a world of MAP testing and external exams, like-it-or-not, there will be implications if we push standards aside or change them.

What we need in education is for our leaders to get serious about what we expect kids to know within a specified period of time, within a pedagogy that optimizes learning. That’s a conversation that has not taken root.

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Technology in Layers – The Whole is Equal to the Sum of the Parts

The integration of technology into my classrooms this semester has layers. The layers, many of them, speak louder than any technology integration in a single unit. Although I did upend one unit in my IB Biology class, it was the totality of technological layers that makes the best argument for my attempt to integrate technology into my classrooms. While the sum of the parts is not necessarily greater than some whole, the sum of the parts becomes equal to my “whole” for CoeTail 5.

In Biology 1, I have continued to run a “modified” flipped classroom with a one-to-one iPad structure. The classroom is nearly entirely digital (unit tests are done on paper) with a website that provides links to movies and access to documents. Students watch content movies I’ve made (Explain Everything) using material that previously was part of my direct instruction. Direct instruction takes up little time, maybe five to ten minutes in a class. Students are held accountable to the homework (movies) with short on-line quizzes (Socrative) taken the next class period. Most of the class time is spent working in groups on documents (labs, data-based questions, or annotations) I’ve constructed for them. Students use the app Remarks to provide text or sketches to the documents or use Google forms to submit data to a class-data spreadsheet. Students use laptops for the program excel in order to graph data. For me, most of class time is spent speaking individually with students about their work. Students submit their work to a digital notebook (Evernote) where I can provide written digital feedback.

Through the semester, students constructed two movies to orally explain their thinking and their understanding. The first movie incorporated two apps, Explain Everything and iMovie, to explain and demonstrate the movement of chromosomes during meiosis. For the second movie, students used Explain Everything to explain three scenarios of population change due to natural selection given different environmental conditions.

For Biology 1, the iPad, Evernote notebooks, the flipped classroom, and student-made Explain Everything orals are, in combination, my contribution to moving technology forward in a content-area classroom. I’ve tried other apps, such as Nearpod, only to discover limited usefulness.

International Baccalaureate (IB) courses present a different challenge in terms of technology integration. First, the content standards are more rigorous. Secondly, time is limited. Lastly, the stakes around student success are higher. For IB classes, I’ve made content movies to be used by students for review or during times of my absence. I did not employ the flipped classroom for IB courses. As well, documents were available on Google sites and could be submitted to me electronically using the Google drive. Lastly, one unit was given over to students to incorporate IB material into a creative movie. The students used iMovie, ComicLife, and other movie-making app’s to use the metaphors of good vs evil, invasion and defend to describe and explain the details of the defense against disease unit. The unit was not very successful.

Lastly, in a time when I was not able to be in classroom, technology was leveraged to “be in the classroom.” Using Google Hangout and all the tools mentioned above, for one week in my absence, my classes did not “tread water” with a substitute. I was “present” in class through Google Hangout where I was live, and through Explain Everything to present short, daily, instructional movies on the day’s lesson and it context to the day prior and the future. From my remote location I was able to initiate a socrative quiz, and after finishing the quiz, and reviewing the results, I was able to speak with students individually about the quiz. The substitute moved the laptop around the classroom as I spoke to students about specific questions missed.

Let me know if you have specific questions about my integration of technology.

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