Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Copyright Conundrum

Over the past year and a half, I and several district Technology Integration Specialists (TIS) along with our web developer have been working to create an online searchable teacher resource center. The idea is to gather together great district teacher resources including documents, spreadsheets, SMART Notebook lessons, presentations, unit plans, etc and place them where our teachers can access them over the internet. While the idea is good in concept, over the past year we have figuratively hit a brick wall when we looked closely at copyright.

The “Fair Use” clause allows individual teachers working in their own classroom to use many resources available from the internet for up to two years. Unfortunately, shared resources do not have the same copyright protection under Fair Use Guidelines as do materials created by an individual teacher for use in his or her classroom. Last summer, I created a set of multimedia guidelines for our district technology classes that would serve as a guide for resources that our district currently licenses and could use without invoking fair use. This document was approved by the district; however, this still does not seem to be enough. Guideline two allows for the use of “Media sources that utilize alternative copyright standards (royalty free) …” so I have been trying to compile a list of potential royalty free and public domain websites for our district teachers to use. Here is my current list that has yet to be approved. Coincidently, an Intel Teach colleague of mine recently posted a listing of websites that appear to have free use of images and sounds. Dyane Smokorowski’s Best Sites to Find Public Domain Images and Sounds for Student Projects is a good attempt to give educators a place to go to find great resources, yet not have to worry about fair use guidelines. (Although, in my opinion the copyright statement of the Library of Congress disqualifies it.)

But our efforts are simply piecemeal at best. Until our legislators or the courts clarify this chaos, perhaps we need one place that all teachers can go to get information like this. While Creative Commons is the right way to go for letting us know what we can and cannot do with some creation, teachers still need a place to find great resources that they know are truly free to use for educational purposes.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Who Am I?

This title to a recent contemporary Christian song has had new meaning for me this last week or so? Sunday, May 3, was my 48th birthday and I had much to think about. Three days before my birthday, my district boss and Director of Instructional Technology tells me that the district test coordinator position will be vacant because of retirement and he has told the Director of Assessment that I might be a suitable candidate. This was so out of the blue that I did not know what to say. I would certainly like to make more money, but all I have worked for over more than two decades has been to become a better teacher. Nowhere in anything that I had imagined had led me to this outcome. So being perplexed, I have prayed and pondered during the last week. I remember during my original job interview in 1986 for the chemistry teacher job at BLHS that I was asked if I considered myself a scientist or a teacher. As I was in the process of finishing my MS in chemistry in the area of organometallics, I answered truthfully that I considered myself a scientist. Well, they offered me the job anyway and I have never looked back. Over the past 23 years, the refining fires of public education have removed the dross and left the purified teacher within. For over a dozen years I have tried to implement technology in my teaching whenever possible. In 2000, I started teaching a preservice technology classes as an adjunct professor for Newberry College. In 2001, I became a Master Teacher for the Intel Teach program and taught seven classes while in Lexington District Three. In 2004, I was accepted as a Senior Trainer for the Intel Teach program and was able to offer training anywhere in the USA. At the end of the 2003-2004 school year, Lexington District One expanded the number of technology integration specialists (TIS) so I applied and was offered a job. It was very hard to leave the school and the people that I had worked with for 18 years. Still this was an opportunity for which I had been preparing for many years and so I took the job. Even though I am a shy person, I feel like it has been a good fit over these past five years and I have been able to work with some great colleagues. In addition to my normal duties, I have been able to be innovative by learning how to more effectively create software tools for teachers using Mediator and Visual Basic. Over the last year and a half, I have worked with a group of TIS and our district webmaster to create a teacher resource center, a database for storing all kinds of digital artifacts that teachers can use. Since last summer, I have become very interested in place based learning. This year, I have been working with a retiring ELA teacher to capture the local history of the community where I work using iPods and Google Earth. I and two other TIS, Frieda Foxworth and John Geanangel have been working on creating augmented reality activities using mobile computers with embedded GPS. With the exception of impending budget cuts due to the Great Recession and our governor’s limited vision of public education, it has been an incredibly good year professionally. Then why do I ask, “Who am I?” At the end of all this, I realize that whether it is an art or a science or a calling, I am a teacher.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What to do with an iPod Touch

On April 29, I watched a live Ustream video of Tony Vincent describing educational applications that he has found useful for the iPod Touch/iPhone. Here is his list of suggested applications:
Lemonade Stand – adapted from Apple IIe app running a business of the same name
Oregon Trail – adapted from Apple IIe app describing frontier travel
Whiteboard – allows users to share over the network as an interactive whiteboard
Dictionary – free dictionary and thesaurus
Word Warp – find all the words from the given letters
Mad Libs – add different words and it makes stories
Star Walk – astronomy program $4.99
Comic Touch – allows users to create comics with messages
Airport Mania – help at an airport $0.99
Flight Control – users control takeoff and landings at an airport
Iclean – dogs or cats are used to lick the screen

There were also some helpful items offered during the broadcast. In the new 2.0 fireware update for the Touch/iPhone, a screen shot may be taken by holding the select button then clicking the power button. This sends the screen shot to the photos.

Viewers writing in also gave out some helpful information. One was a link that described an iPhone app Trails http://gpsobsessed.com/200-garmin-edge-305-more-acccurate-than-199-trails-iphone-app/ This makes your iPhone into a great GPS unit. Someone else mentioned that an account may be set up at http://www.polleverywhere.com/. This lets you use the iPod touch and iPhone as a student response system for up to 32 students. There is an organization for sharing iphone/itouch apps with teachers K-12 teachers:
The Ning Community iEAR http://ieducationappsreview.ning.com/

I am still interested in how these devices may be used in augmented reality such as ARIS, but overall the review was very interesting. The entire one hour video may be viewed below: