Posts Tagged 'teachers'

Competing copyright curricula

A recent eSchoolNews article about dueling copyright curricula couldn’t have surfaced at a more opportune time, seeing as how I literally just days before had utilized some materials from one of the curriculums in question.

On the one hand, the Copyright Alliance Education Foundation (CAEF) recently published Think First, Copy Later, seen by some as slanted toward the interests of copyright owners.

On the other hand, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), unveiled Teaching Copyright. The EFF is characterized as an advocacy group that serves the interests of users and consumers of digital media.

Admittedly, I was not aware of the CAEF curriculum when I recently selected and distributed some of the EFF’s support documents to a group of pre-service teachers at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. But I am inspired by the prospect of having access to and using “dueling curricula,” if and when I teach about copyright again in the future.

What an opportunity for teachers to exercise professional discernment! What an opportunity for students to see copyright law presented from two different perspectives — owner versus user, industry versus consumer! What an opportunity to engage higher-order thinking and some good, old media literacy skills, such as evaluating audience, authorship, message, and meaning!

Teachers need these resources now more than ever. It was not too long ago that teacher training on the vagaries of fair use doctrine were conducted in the faculty workroom, usually between classes, as we waited in line at the photocopier. We traded in stories, myths, and half-truths and competed for bragging rights to the title of “Greatest Copyright Infringer.” We made half-joking references to a sinister, Gestapo-like “Copyright Police” waiting in the wings. (I know. I was one of those teachers.)

The surge of web-based information and communication technologies makes it easier than ever to facilitate content creation and sharing in our classrooms, but we must first be equipped to engage students in conversation about content creation that is safe, ethical, and legal.

The alternative is to do nothing for fear of violating the law. This phenomenon was documented by Hobbs, Jaszi, and Aufderheide in their 2007 report for the Center for Social Media, The Cost of Copyright Confusion for Media Literacy. In 2008 the Center published the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education, which states that fear and confusion about copyright:

detracts from the quality of teaching. Lack of clarity reduces learning and limits the ability to use digital tools. Some educators close their classroom doors and hide what they fear is infringement; others hyper-comply with imagined rules that are far stricter than the law requires, limiting the effectiveness of their teaching and their students’ learning.

Check out the accompanying video:

Featured student blog: meet Ann

Cross-posted at Fireside Learning and Classroom 2.0.

Many teachers shy away from contemporary music. Why? It could be because their own teachers did the same.

That quote comes from Ann, an aspiring music educator at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. She and 14 other pre-service teachers are enrolled in a section of IT486, Intro to Instructional Computing, that I am teaching this summer. The course examines how to use technology to support teaching and learning and is designed to prepare novice teachers to integrate a variety of computer-based technologies.

One aspect of the course design that I really enjoy and value is the blog for reflective journaling. This is a required component. During the first week of the course, each student signed up for a blog at Google’s Blogger. They were given a certain amount of license in the look and feel of the blog, but the overarching rationale for the pre-service teacher blog is the same: to develop and practice the reflective process. (More on that later.)

But why blend an introspective mode of writing such as journal writing with a public medium such as blogs?

As Christopher Sessums maintains:

Collaborative weblogs promote the idea of learners as creators of knowledge, not merely consumers of information. A collaborative environment like the one I’m suggesting can allow peers to be seen as valuable sources of knowledge and ideas; a connection that participants can rely on beyond any formal classroom structure, i.e., collaboration leading to a community of interest.

So to that end, I have been making readerly comments on each pre-service teacher’s blog, and I am encouraging the class to follow, read, and comment on each others’ blogs.

And now, to go a step further, I seek to shine a spotlight (or, in the case of our music major, “sound a trumpet”) on some provocative posts in hopes of inducting our novice edubloggers into some of the wonderfully generous and nurturing networks of teacher/learners that have supported me in the past — communities such as Fireside Learning and Classroom 2.0.

Ann’s commentary on the state of music education strikes a chord because she describes a phenomenon that transcends content area and grade level: teachers tend to teach in the manner in which they were taught. Why is this so? How do we press forward into new realms of teaching and learning and resist falling back on tired and familiar practices that have outlived their effectiveness for today’s learners?

What do you think? I invite you to visit Ann’s blog and share your thoughts and feedback with her.

Know the feeling

Now I get it all -- all at once! Help!?!

Now I get it all -- all at once! Help!?!

I love this sentiment! It perfectly encapsulates the classroom teacher’s state of mind when faced with the full potential of the read/write web.

The quip belongs to Peter Lane, a California middle school reading and technology teacher.  I stole it from his profile in Classroom 2.0, an online professional network that, if you are a teacher even remotely curious about technology, you must visit!  In fact, Peter’s expression could serve as the tagline for the whole Classroom 2.0 site, which exists, in part, for those “beginners” who seek a “supportive community and a comfortable place to start being part of the digital dialog.”

For his part, Peter is engaging his students in the “digital dialog” using a mix of young adult literature, blogs, and wikis. Take a look at Mr. Lane’s Effective Reading Blog.

21st century mentoring

I just completed an independent inquiry on the implications of Web 2.0 on mentoring and induction of new and novice teachers. The project spanned two semesters, and I learned a lot.

I am posting the final report in PDF. I also have a companion wiki, which is still in development. Stop by for a visit and tell me what you think!

For crying out loud!

A longstanding critique of instructional technology is our penchant for adopting whizbang tools only to reinforce traditional pedagogy rather than transform it. Technology interventions in the classroom often bear the mark of “old wine in new bottles.”

Here is the best evidence to date: a March 16 New York Times feature on the increasing use of amplification systems in U.S. classrooms.

So all that handwringing over how to transform instruction so no child is left behind was for nothing? The children simply weren’t hearing us?

Here is one particularly troubling passage from the article:

The West Orange district [in New Jersey] decided to require amplification after seeing the first-grade reading scores at one school, St. Cloud Elementary, skyrocket to 89 percent at or above grade level at the end of the 2003-4 academic year, from 59 percent before teachers started speaking into microphones.

“That got everybody’s attention, as you can imagine,” said Karen Tarnoff, the district’s testing coordinator. “There was nothing else over the course of the year that was different than in any other year. The teachers and the curriculum remained the same, and nothing new was added other than the amplification system.”

But, of course! Test scores are what drove the reform! (The reform, by the way, comes with a price tag of $1,000 to $1,500 per classroom.) What is even scarier is a testing coordinator who brags that nothing changed in her district for an entire year in terms of evolving instructional practices or curricular approach.

Thankfully, other perspectives are represented in the story. David Lubman, a fellow of the Acoustical Society of America, calls it for what it is: a “triumph of marketing over science.”

What do you think?

My first lil’ mashup

The assignment seemed a little old-school: simply make a PowerPoint presentation and embed a sound clip. Come on, do I really have time for this?!

But it was a way for our professor to engage us in a rudimentary form of “remix” and “mashup,” common practices among youth that were mostly unfamiliar to us teachers enrolled in this semester’s reading education seminar on multiliteracies at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. For that reason, I could appreciate the professor’s pedagogy: giving a purposely unstructured assignment with minimal parameters and setting us free to playfully explore the potential and pitfalls of computer-mediated content creation.

Still, as you will see, my resulting slideshow (or “screencast”), is decidedly teacher-centered and bears that unmistakable corporate imprint that only PowerPoint software can convey — so clean, so slick, and oh so sterile. (The 2-minute, 30-second presentation is designed to be a conversation starter for teens and teachers about the obstacles and opportunities involved in “growing up digital.” It also ties into a thematic, annotated reading list I compiled on the subject of digital literacy.)

Nonetheless, I am proud of my lil’ mashup for three reasons:

  1. Although I did rely on the ubiquitous and wholly familiar PowerPoint application, I prepared my sound clips using Audacity, a free, open source, cross-platform audio editor. Through trial and error, I learned to import and edit music files, cut and paste sound clips, and export a wav file, essentially creating the “soundtrack” for my slideshow.
  2. To push my content out to the wider Internet audience, I used a free Web 2.0 application called SlideShare. SlideShare enables users to upload PowerPoint slides and create a product that is truly replicable, shareable, embeddable.
  3. Before I could turn my uploaded slideshow into a “screencast” with synchronized music, I had to convert my wav file into an mp3. For this operation, I tried a free demo version of Switch Sound File Conversion Software.

Whew! All this without benefit of teacher, textbook, user manual, or live help desk. Just experimentation with a bit of obsession thrown in.

My biggest take-away? The amount of time and dedication it took for me to undertake this style of self-moderated, trial-and-error learning. These are the new literacy practices that many young people regularly engage in outside the confines of the traditional classroom. Amazing!

Overall, I am pleased with the results. What do you think?

Constructive advice

As is wont to happen on the Web, I found this terrific quote by scientist John Seeley Brown by way of this article about communities of practice at The Learning Circuits Blog, which I found by way of this post by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach about virtual communities. In an interview with Line Zine editor Marcia Conner, Brown spoke eloquently about learning, knowledge, and the relevance of constructivism:

We tend to forget that learning and sense-making go hand in hand: we tend to forget that for the learner, the student, there’s always this sense-making going on even if we, as teachers, think everything is clear. Now, suddenly, teachers have been thrown into the same kind of chaos as their students. This has created a symmetry that really focuses on how we need to jointly learn together.

What a gift it is to celebrate balance and harmony amidst “chaos”!

What do you think?

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"What if we just ignored the status of students in other countries? That wouldn’t be especially neighborly, but at least we wouldn’t be viewing the gains of children in other lands as a troubling development."

Alfie Kohn


"When I hear people say it's our job to create the 21st century workforce, it scares the hell out of me. Our job is to create 21st-century citizens. We need workers, yes, but we also need scholars, activists, parents -- compassionate, engaged people."

Chris Lehmann

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These are the communities where I network and cross-post. Come by for a visit!
Classroom 2.0
School Matters (East TN, USA)
Media Literacy