Copy Copy Copy Copy, Right?

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CC0 Creative Commons Free for commercial use. No attribution required.

I knew at some point we would have to talk about copyright. Why did it have to be now? Cant we just stick with the butterflies and rainbows? That is so much nicer than…


Ok, ok, copyright and use of media is a huge issue. There is a right and wrong. There is a correct and an incorrect. So why are teachers and students so poor at dealing with copyright, citation, and credit? I mean, I know plenty of educators who supposedly deal with this everyday in the classroom and then go home and watch pirated movies. I know many of my students get their media for free from dubious sources. And then we expect ethical behavior in school. Hmmm….

I am not sure if I am going to get myself in trouble here but nobody really cares. I mean the digital frontier is a kind of wild west. Break the law because there is no “Sheriff” that is going to throw your hide in the virtual slammer, or the real one. Giddy up!

But some of us feel guilty (not altruistic). Some of us feel like we should do the correct thing. I need to go back and cite some of the images I used in my earlier posts. I did alright with citation of the articles and links I used but image use and citation was a bit loose. The key is to care about it and to somehow get others to care about it. How do we do that?

When I work with kids on this it always feels like I am smacking them with a wet dead fish. They see it coming. They grimace. They try to take their punishment gracefully (because they are all good kids) and then SMACK the wet dead fish of copyright and citation catches them on up-side-the-head. They get a headache and feel like they need a shower after that. I do not think my teaching of how to determine copyright and make citations helps them care really. Maybe they care because I care? Maybe?

There are many approaches that I know would be superior to mine. I could bring in cupcakes or something. That might make them care more. It might also turn out to be like anything else that we care about though. We have to get to know it intimately. I love the subjects I teach because I know them intimately. (And I am biased and think everyone would love them if they knew what I know) The challenge is that we are teaching our subjects all day long and not spending the necessary time to help student develop the intimacy they need to have with copyright. Wet dead fish anyone?

In all seriousness, this is a problem that I want to work on more and that I will try to model to the best of my abilities here in this class. I am hoping that my cohort peers have some brilliant ideas about how to go about dealing with the issue of caring about copyright. We know there is right and wrong but we have to care.

Course 1 Project

Right off the bat, I find it hard to be a clear thinker when I have to conform to a template. I get a little baffled and bifurcated, so I hope what I have posted is coherent. Please give it a good rip. I welcome your feedback hot or cold.

As far as the impetuous for the unit goes I am working on new units for my design students. This is only the second year of our design program and there is plenty of work to do. The one I have presented here is a new one for Grade 7 (IB MYP Yr 2). I think it is going to be pretty fun.  In design we get to do all kinds of cool stuff with technology already so I sort of feel like I cheating on the tech integration side of things. However, I chose the ISTE Innovative Design Standards to tackle which are difficult for any student in any classroom. Even thought I use creative applications like Google SketchUp, Tinkercad, Fusion 360, Onshape etc. for helping students iterate their designs they are not always innovating. They often do a slap-dash job just like in writing a paper or lab report. When this happens I stop and teach them how to innovate and push what they are doing further. Overall I am going to be focusing on how I get better iteration from my students this year. I feel like the ISTE Innovative Design Standards can help me focus on that.

This project has been good in that it has pulled me out of the IB MYP Unit planner. A few years ago I was doing all of my work in UBD and then putting it on Atlas. Since arriving in Ghana I have only used Managebac which is great for MYP units but I do like the way UBD sets things up a little more. I think it is more focused and makes you think about what you are doing in a different way.

The most important part of this is of course that we create strong learning experiences for students. Course 1 has certainly made me think about how I am using technology. Am I using it effectively and for a purpose that leads to stronger learning? I think I am and I will certainly keep looking for ways to make what I teach stronger and more relevant for students.

I am looking forward to working with my colleagues and students to help them use the technology that they have more effectively. There are so many great things to do and try out there. Teachers have to get at least a few different options working work them. I am thinking that this year I might decide to do some of this unit where the Process Journal is completed as a Vlog al la Avatar or the Martian. We will see how it goes.

This week has been a bit crazy and I can not believe students will be in front of me in a few days but at the same time I cant wait. It is going to be a good year.



Learning Goes Global

How can we embrace globally collaborative projects in our curricular areas to address this facet of 21st Century Learning?

I have had the pleasure of working on a number of projects that break out beyond the walls of my classroom. I feel like I am teaching in an egg carton some times so projects that get us out beyond the school walls either literally or virtually are always welcome. The highest level of collaboration is difficult to do well and many adults do not always do it well. Asking students to do it at a high level may not be possible but there are some really cool things happening outside the classroom that you may be able to tap into. They may give you ideas of things you want to design yourself.

My best experience in this regard was with Out of Eden Learn. This is, in itself, a collaboration between the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Project Zero, National Geographic, the Pulitzer Center among other partners. It was a super rich experience for me and my grade 6 students.

I helped students enroll and then they were grouped in a “Walking Party” by our guides at HGSE. Our walking party consisted 6 schools from all over the world in different timezones. Some were public schools. Some were private. Since you can read more about it in the links that are available I will not go into the mechanics of it to much. You can read a bit more on my personal blog if you like as well.

The basic idea though was to read articles, watch videos, look at photos, and respond to them in different ways using visible thinking routines on a blog like website. Students first made Avatars to protect their identity and then they were asked to make maps, write short texts, post photographs, make videos etc. reacting to different information and ideas. As all of the media was being posted by the schools in the walking party my students were commenting on the work they were seeing. Then those schools commented on our work too. This was very engaging for students.

Since my students were too young to have Twitter I took on the role of asking questions and posting some of my students work which Paul Salopek and others following the project responded to. The buzz that we generated and the excitement of our walking group and the larger Out of Eden Learn community was self-sustaining.

The guidance from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the tools developed by Project Zero, especially around making thinking visible really helped drive the learning home for students. Students learned a great deal but they also expanded their PLNs. They met students like them from all over the world and exchanged more than just online learning together.

It also expanded my PLN. I was engaged with other teachers all over the world doing the same work. We had some rich hangouts and discussions along the way.

I like thinking about how I might design my own global learning project. I certainly learned quite a bit about how to do it, and how to do it well. A few of my takeaways though are that having good coordination really helped. Harvard provided that for our walking party and it would have been a bit challenging to stay on track without it. The other take away was that students needed open forms of inquiry. Our work was only lightly guided by inquiry questions. This made it possible for students from all kinds of backgrounds and environments to engage with the project.

Teachers and schools can create these opportunities fairly easily with a blog, Gdoc, or site. It takes some coordinate but as long as it is possible to get people started and onboard global learning opportunities can grow in interesting and organic ways.




How is teaching and learning changing with the introduction of new tools?

This past week I had a full schedule of IB training in ATL skills and I spend quite a bit of time thinking about how teachers approach education and how students attitudes and behaviors are involved in learning. This fit nicely with thinking about how new media and technology tools also impact teaching and learning.

I was struck by a couple of notes and observations. In Shaping Tech for the Classroom Prensky notes some of the negative “Luddite” attitudes and approaches of schools and teachers to the use of technology. He does pull a prescient observation from Howard Gardner however that Schools are “Conservators” of our culture, which resonates with me. I think this is mostly true.

It seems to me that at every historical stage of development people have had to deal with technology that disrupts culture. Tech disrupts the way we do things. If you look back at a culture you can see certain constants that were not wiped out or disturbed as well. For instance, the invention of the automobile caused a fragmenting of local communities. Your closest friend was less likely to be your next door neighbor. It did not mean that we lost the ideas, attitudes, and values that helped create community, but community looked different after the advent of the automobile. The people you socialized with could be from across town or in the next county. Can we say the same happened with the telephone? Snapchat? Skype? Twitter? I feel like schools are conservators and transmitters of culture and they transmit the ideas, attitudes, and values of our culture but as institutions do not see the forest for the trees. They are rather more myopic than Luddite I think.

Mimi Ito’s video about new media and culture today and her two part question of “Why do we assume that socialization and play are not a side of learning and on the flip-side why do we assume that schools can not have a spirit of entertainment and play as part of what they are doing?” triggered some other aspects of my thinking about my role as an educator and parent.

In the video she talks about the challenge for adults and schools to foster and support kids in the stages of messing around and geeking out because that is where the real opportunity for inquiry learning and engagement comes from. As adults (teachers and parents) we worry to much about things like privacy and protecting our kids and not enough about how to formally support their learning, engaging, and growing (which is happening informally already) In other words, we are focused on the wrong issues. We are using the wrong lens to focus our thinking.

Complimenting this observation is a second one that I appreciate which is that if we view all new media as being social and friendship driven we overlook the interest driven use. We are to quick to see everything as being a distraction instead of recognizing the learning that happens when we investigate, engage in and follow our interests. What she is saying is not that we should abandon formal learning but that we should get informal and formal learning together in a more productive and coordinated way and it is our role as educators to identify how to do this. Educators can play an important role especially in helping students reflect on what they are doing and learning. We do not need to control it but we do need to provide the opportunities to use new media and reflect on what young people are leaning.

It seems to me that at the core of all of this is not the technology itself but the environment that we create for students. If our classrooms are already truly inquiry based we are probably also going to be more ready and willing to use new technology and media in our teaching and students are going to feel engaged because they can apply and use what they learn across their lives in social and interest driven spaces.

New Media and Tech

How can we effectively, practically, and authentically embed technology within our curricular areas?


As a teacher I want to create an environment where students are learning. There is always tension between teaching skills and teaching content. I find this to be a constructive tension for the most part but sometimes the skills take over and there is not enough content or vise versa. As I have evolved as a teacher I have gone through different stages of embracing, rejecting, accepting, and modifying how I use technology in the classroom.

There are quite a few variables at play when we do any kind of lesson planning. The use of technology in a given lesson or classroom session is another variable. I am generally willing to try new things even if they do not work out well but I have to have a pretty good idea of how they are going to lead to a positive outcome for the student.

When I set up a unit of learning for a class, overall, I want it to be inquiry based. I want to be the park ranger (museum curator) guiding the journey but letting the student have their own unique experience with the learning environment, content, and skill development. There are so many ways to embrace technology in the inquiry based classroom.

What I get out of the reading Living and Learning with New Media is that students are already “hanging out” on their own, but in the classroom if given a chance and permission to “mess around” they may eventually get to the stage of “geeking out” where they may even learn to hack their own learning. In general terms I agree with the observations in this article.

I do also take some issue with the generalizations made. The implicit suggestion is that it is a continuum from “hanging out” to “geeking out”. I think that is a mistake. Some students may go from “hanging out” to geeking out but for most students there is not a clear line to be drawn between the two. Some students will never “hang out”. Some students do not want to “mess around”. Most students will not “geek out” without some support or roadmap for doing so.

I am no expert as I am sure the authors of this paper are but in my experience with middle school and high school students the teacher is still in the position of needing to guide students to the most productive and learning rich forms of “geeking out”. I believe this is comparable to any literacy that we want kids to have. We want student to know their letters and numbers. We want them to read and write. We want to expose them to interesting things. And, every teacher loves the moment when a student picks up their first book that they read for pleasure because they independently choose too (geeking out). Am I right about that? There is massive potential when students are exposed to new media. There is massive potential when you put kids in the middle of a big library. Neither case means students engage with the media around them.

I hope that does not sound like a “teacher knows all” rant because I dont believe in that model either. I love giving students new ways to engage with the content we learn in class. The image at the top of this post was my attempt to get students to process the content that they had learned about the meeting of the “New” and “Old” worlds in humanities class. They produced one set of text messages from the Spanish perspective, one set from the Inca perspective, and one from a neutral 3rd party. The text page meant that they needed to be concise but still show their thinking and knowledge of events. It worked pretty effectively, practically, and authentically to embed technology within the unit we were studying.

In the same way that we want students to be literate in all forms of media we as educators really need to be literate in all forms of media. It takes a little effort on our part to think through how to use and apply new media in the classroom but their are an endless number of applications and methods to do so.


Connected Networked and Digital

How are your thoughts changing? How can we utilize new learning theories in our curricular areas to engage and motivate our increasingly digital students?

I lived off the grid for 3 years in a disconnected, non-networked, dynamic and exciting physical environment in the North Cascade mountains of Washington state in the western United States. I loved it for the most part but I also longed for connection, my networks of friends and family, and if I could not be in physical proximity to them I was happy to at least have the digital connection. If there was not snow on the satelite dish I could sometimes get in touch with the outside world. It was a bit like the frontier days of 150 years ago. I mention this for contrast because this is not how most people live today. It is certainly not how youth live today.

Young people live in a connected, networked world. Their relationships in this world are both physical and digital. They are blended in interesting ways leading to interesting changes in literally everything. Bloom’s Taxonomy compared to Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy is a nice representation of the what these changes look like in the brave new world we live in. In the revision the middle bits stay the same but at the bottom now we have remember in place of knowledge, and at the top we have creating instead of synthesis. Students do not exactly get what synthesis is when you try to tell them about it but they do understand what it is to create, because they are doing it constantly.

It is clear that there are different levels of creativity and I think it is fair to say that Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out fit into Bloom’s Taxonomy. Students have a wide variety of opportunities informally to play, tinker, hack, and make new media products. They question for todays teacher becomes – Will I allow this to happen formally in my classroom? Or will I ban it because it can be chaotic and distracting?

As teachers we are still trying to wrap our heads around what the value of the learning in this connected, networked, and digital/physical environment is. Are the benefits all cognitive? Is this really a constructivist way of learning? Or is it something else that is more complex and dynamic than what these two theories of learning suggest? Is it connectivism? (Siemens) To what extent is this helpful in my classroom?

Our students are coming into our classes with a vastly different experience than my generation had. There is likely as much valuable informal learning in their lives as there is formal learning from the classroom. For my generation this might have looked like watching a National Geographic episode. For today’s generation they have massive numbers of YouTube videos, games, chat rooms, and more to learn from. They might watch a video or look at the picture together, while discussing it with a friend on the phone or over chat. (Ito et al.) Somehow, as educators we should recognise this and where possible leverage this learning.

I look back fondly at my days of being off the grid but I am also fascinated and amazed at how students are learning and engaged in the world today. I am right there with them on Instagram, Snapchat, and Minecraft. New media and a connectivist way of learning have enriched and permeated my life. While I want to hold on to some of the ways that I have been teaching I also want to find as many opportunities or ways as I can in the classroom for students to reach the highest level on Bloom’s Taxonomy, Creating. I want to go even further to make sure that there are authentic and meaningful ways for students to share, comment, and get feedback on their work.



Internet: Fundamental Principle

What fundamental principle is the Internet built on? Is the Internet a mass of content or a mass of connections?

I am currently reading The Wright Brothers by David McCullough and I have been struck by the learning process of the two brothers, Orville and Wilbur. Both of the brothers were inventive, industrious, and curious. A critical key to their success was the family bookshelf that was full of interesting books. McCullough describes it as a tall bookshelf with a glass door. Apparently, the brothers read every book in the book case.

The interest that Orville had in information lead him to open a printing business and produce a local newspaper in Dayton, Ohio. The brothers worked to produce the paper together but they were also searching widely for articles from elsewhere that they could include in their paper.

I think it is fair to say that Orville and Wilbur acted as a hub or synapse in the town of Dayton. They gathered and disseminated information but they were also highly knowledgeable in the issues of the day. They were also almost completely local with no reach beyond their immediate community.

The internet of today relies on much of the same foundation to be useful. Someone (ideally experts) needs to produce the content that we find on the internet and people who find the information interesting make the connections and reprocess and digest the information, and often reconstitute it into a new form.

This mass of connections and content is of course not only local. It is available to everyone today.

The Wright Brothers were on their own with as many books as they could get hold of. I wonder what the Wright Brothers PLN would have looked like 100 years ago if they had the internet available?


I am looking forward to this COETAIL journey! I teach at Lincoln Community School in Ghana. It has been a great place to teach and learn for 3 years. If you want to know more about me or see other things I have written please check out my website and follow me on twitter.