Archive for March, 2010

What is up with copyright anyway?

This blog has taken a considerable amount of time to formulate well. Considering that copyright issues have gone back as far as (technically) the 15th century and that there are countless articles, websites and discussions devoted to explaining the essentials of copyright, it has proven to be quite a challenge to summarize within a reasonable amount of time.

Being a teacher who used to copy and paste information, used clip art and showed many useful visuals in my classroom at will to bring an otherwise invisible world of Chemistry into a visual perspective, I am trying to understanding how I am affected by copyright laws and regulations.

My first real memory of copyrights making a big impact in society had to be the lawsuit Metallica made against Napster in which Napster was blamed (for sharing the band’s copyright-protected material for free to thousands of online users without the band’s consent. As a result, Metallica’s profits from CD sales declined rapidly which initiated the band members to fight for financial reimbursement. These days, I don’t understand how musicians make a go of it with fans downloading music instead of throwing money towards the artists. A settlement was eventually reached between Napster and Metallica where Napster became a pay-to-use service much to the chagrin of fans from around the world.

Uploaded on May 6, 2009 by gurdonark

Copyright is the set of exclusive rights granted to the author or creator of an original work, including the right to copy, distribute and adapt the work.

Copyright arises automatically upon creation — it is not necessary to register a copyright in order for a work to be protected. In 1989, a collective called the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (now Access Copyright) was formed to administer the right to make copies of published print material and to ensure that authors and publishers were compensated for such copying. Schools, universities, colleges, and others are licensed by Access Copyright to reproduce works, within limitations, without the need to seek out individual copyright holders to obtain permission. (Copyright Matters, 2005)

Education organizations are asking the federal government to change the existing copyright law in order to make it clear that educational use of publicly available Internet material is not an infringement of copyright. The problem with the existing copyright law is that it may not protect schools, teachers, or students, even when they are making routine educational uses of this publicly available Internet material. Educators want to know that it is perfectly clear that they can legally engage in routine classroom activities involving the use of text, images, or videos that are publicly available on the Internet. (Council of Ministers of Education (CMEC))

As part of my block 7 expectations for ECI832, we were asked to get involved in an online professional development opportunity. I chose to partake in “Classroom 2.0: Copyright, Creative Commons and Databases”, one that concentrates on answering some of the confusions around copyrights and creative commons. The first 15 minutes was a bit disorganized as presenters tried to find a way to sustain videos and websites in the Elluminate experience where the glitches kept the flow from impacting my understanding of copyrights, so I would suggest you start the session there. There are a few great websites that were shared and I have included some of them below in the Copyright Sites section.

The following video taken from their presentation is quite informative and is a must watch.

So what are our rights as educators? Are we as fragile to copyrights laws as it may appear?

From my investigation it appears that most copyrighted material is fair game but the courts will use a formula to weigh out what detriment the copyright infringement has on the creator. According to the above video, “Fair use allows you to use copyrighted material with permission or payment when the benefit for society outweighs the cost to the copyright owner. [It] helps to prevent copyright becoming a charter for private censorship…it favours transformative uses, those  which add content to and repurpose copyright material and it is the law, part of the copyright act of 1976” Peter Jaszi, Law Professor at American University who was a key member in creating  Code of Best Practices in Fair Use For Media Literacy Education found here.

As educators, we need to be able to claim our right to use fair use as it develops critical thinking and communication skills that are essential in participation in 21st century life.  The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use For Media Literacy Education attempts to end confusion about what teachers and students can use and not use with permission.  The bulleted points below summarize the importance of this document to educate teachers and students about copyrights, in an educational setting:

  • The document is a code of best practices that helps educators using media literacy concepts and techniques to interpret the copyright doctrine of fair use. Fair use is the right to use copyrighted material without permission or payment under some circumstances — especially when the cultural or social benefits of the use are predominant. It is a general right that applies even in situations where the law provides no specific authorization for the use in question — as it does for certain narrowly defined classroom activities.
  • This code of best practice, is shaped by educators for educators and the learners they serve, with the help of legal advisors.
  • As an important first step in reclaiming their fair use rights, educators should employ this document to inform their own practices in the classroom and beyond. It also suggests that educators spread the word to educate other teachers and administration staff so that informed practice of incorporating fair use in the classrooms is conducted accordingly.
  • Educators who rely reasonably on fair use are insulated against statutory damages in Sec 504(c)(2) whereas, lawyers and judges decide whether an unlicensed use of copyrighted material is “fair” according to a “rule of reason.” This means taking all the facts and circumstances into account to decide if an unlicensed use of copyrighted material generates social or cultural benefits that are greater than the costs it imposes on the copyright owner.”

However, having said this, “it is not a blank cheque. You need to be sure that your use of copyrights is transformative, the amount you use is proportional to your purpose and that you always try to give credit to your sources” . Attribution, at the very least, is essential to give credit where credit is due.

Larry Lessig gave a TEDTalk presentation, How Creativity is Being Strangled by the Law, and he suggests that 2 changes to copyright laws are required:

  1. Artists and creators need to choose to make their work more freely available (for non commercial use) and
  2. Businesses need to embrace this.

He also profoundly states we are creating pirates as our students/kids live life knowing they live it against the law which is corrupting and in a democracy we need to do better at least for them. I see how this is thriving in my classroom as many labs/assignments that I receive are either plagiarized from each other or the concepts and explanations are taking directly from sites found online.  Student are unreceptive to going against the law as the consequences for their actions are not being reinforced and as a result, they internalize it as being okay to do. Besides, I don’t think most students realize what effect the legal consequences would have on them so we need to do better in educating our kids about copyrights and the impact it has not only for them but also against the creators of the copyrighted material.

How does Wikipedia function and why is it so efficient at collection and organizing true facts?

According to Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, it is a freely licensed encyclopedia that is used and generated by everyone on the planet. Changes that occur to Wikipedia can be channeled through a RSS feed where all user can set up a watch list to change and revert information. Wikipedia is quite organized but how with so many people editing the pages, how does it stay organized an true?

Wikipedia is a self monitoring website where the responsibility is placed onto the users to manage the site for garbage entries; I guess the world isn’t as selfish as the media makes it out to be. These edits are done by anonymous users where 600 – 1000 people who meet daily volunteer to monitor the viability and validity of the site. So how do pages get edited and deleted. Wouldn’t this chaotic realm of gathering material cater to people with political, cultural and religious views with secret agendas? In fact, voting doesn’t necessarily take place to ”page delete” among the editors, it is more of a collaboration to decide which pages to keep. The mandate of the creators of Wikipedia is that they won’t allow opened freedom to undermined the quality of the content by allowing large groups to get pages deleted online instead it is determined by a democratic system of benevolent dictators that are more concerned for quality of the work than the process in which it is generated. Even after watching the video, I wonder how a universal site like Wikipedia protects themselves from copyrights with so many users contributing to the facts of each page.

Terms to know about Copyright:

Public Domain: A work in the public domain is freely available for anyone to use without asking for permission or paying royalties

Copyleft: abolishing copyrighted materials and allowing access to share all information.

Berne Convention today almost all major nations follow the Berne copyright convention. The Berne Convention was first accepted in Berne, Switzerland in 1886 which is an international agreement governing the protection and rights of creators of “creative works”. Individuals used to have to declare their works but now, “as soon as a work is “fixed”, that is, written or recorded on some physical medium, its author is automatically entitled to all copyrights in the work and to any derivative works, unless and until the author explicitly disclaims them or until the copyright expires” in this case it would then become part of public domain.

Creative Commons (CC): CC tells people around the world that they want people to use their work. Licenses for creators to share work with some rights reserved. It works to increase the amount of creativity (cultural, educational, and scientific content) in “the commons” — the body of work that is available to the public for free and legal sharing, use, repurposing, and remixing.

Mashups – A mashup is a web page or application that uses or combines data or functionality from two or many more external sources to create a new service. In other words, it is a remixing of online content. To see “Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video” go here.

Here is a poster mash up site that I found online and I found it interesting that this site uses actual movie posters and remixes a phrase or two and then stamps it with a copyright and explicitly states that no reproduction of the site is allowed.

Links Page:

A great interactive page answering some frequently asked questions about copyright in an easy to follow explanation:

Classroom 2.0: Copyright, Creative Commons and Databases – with special guests: Joyce Valenza and Buffy Hamilton.

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Opencourseware –

What Law Governs Copyright in Canada?

The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education.

Copyright Matters – an orange booklet that sits beside all photocopiers in all our schools in Saskatchewan:

Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC):

National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) code of best practices:

The website “Website Copyright” includes a formula to use when figuring out a fair use total:

Royalty Free Sites and Other Essential Sites For Students and Teachers to Use in the Classroom:



Bibme – formatting site

Flickrstorm : safe picture searches. Can also use Compfight.


Clip Art


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Big Thinkers: Henry Jenkins on New Media and Implications for Learning and Teaching. The USC media professor describes the role of digital media in cultural transformation

After reading a blog on filtering sites in our schools from Kim Brown,  I spent some time watching and reflecting on Henry Jenkins’ views about today’s educational practices and the need to transform practices to actively include the student as part of a mastery role in hopes to provide owner and authorship to the realities that students face today.

The fact that some sites are being filtered in our schools today provide students a disservice according to Jenkins. Some kids only have access to computers during school hours and if we prevent students from using sites to socialize or gather information, we are stripping away a valuable educational experience from our kids. According to Jenkins we are creating a participation gap, “it’s not just about the access to technology, its access to learning experiences, to social skills and cultural competencies to a sense of empowerment and  entitlement which allow them to fully be participants in this new society that is emerging”.

Uploaded on January 4, 2006 by Kevin

By not allowing kids to use and transfer their knowledge via technology in schools, we are devaluing the learning taking place as students feel their learning experiences are unrealistic to the world they occupy on a regular basis.  This disjoint between reality and practice continues to expand and our students don’t get a feeling of ownership and authorship that is crucial in expanding their learning and keeping them versed in this age of technology.Also, students today need to know how to take information and effectively use it to perpetuate the understanding around  ideas presented by others without infringing on copyrights and as teachers we need to teach them how to effectively intermingle their ideas with ideas from others without taking credit away from creators of content.

Imagine how engaged students would be if we mirrored educational practices and curricular objectives with the issues that plague students in today’s rich informational world, mainly using technology. We need to teach kids technological efficiencies and how to effectively incorporate technology into their learning. Without the infusion of technology into our schools and practices, students will turn elsewhere to learn how to use technology with or without our guidance and mastery in which I personally feel we run into the problem of recycling “uneducated” information and technological practices. We need to keep students actively engaged and by promoting awareness and proper etiquette techniques we allow our students to remain competitive in the global markets of information and technology.

21st Century Education Remix

Structural innovation is the new initiative be implemented in all schools under our school board within the next couple of years. Student centered, real life situations are being developed to immerse students into their own learning by creating an active role in problem solving and real life dilemmas in hopes of ultimately providing a rich learning experience for students to find engagement and intrinsic motivation to learn. These type of activities are termed augmented-realities. To watch a TED video in which Pattie Maes and Pranav Mistry demo SixthSense discuss this new technology go here.

Unfortunately, along with these initiatives, we are blocking access to learning avenues by filtering important informational sites in schools preventing students from learning how to incorporate legal aspects, social norms and proper etiquette surrounding the use of the Internet and all of its informational advantages.

In order for this activity based, student centered transition to be completed, teachers need access to all avenues of information on the Internet, proper implementation practices must be rich in providing confidence and competencies in technology incorporation and supports must remain viable via in-school collaborations, PD intitiatives and strong networking between teachers, administrators and IT staff. Jenkins suggests that we need to build on line communities for teachers that they can trust in order to succeed.

Our education paradigm is shifting in the ways that we teach with augmented-reality games becoming a promising form of educating students as it combines real life situations with current technological practices in which students solve problems plaguing today’s society.

Some questions that Jenkins proposes are:

1. How are schools limiting kids’ access to digital tools? Do you agree with these policies?

2. Do you see the participation gap in your school and community?

3. How do we create shared learning opportunities across generations?

4. Are schools ready to give up control to kids, families, and communities of learning? What are the opportunities and challenges?

5. What does authorship mean in the digital age? How do we teach it to kids?

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Wordle: TechTools

1. StoryJumper is a free, online tool that can be used to create student stories. The premium option allows for more variety and choices in story content but the basic version would allow for fun workshops to engage kids at home in online technology practice and perhaps raise online awareness. It caters to younger kids but can be adapted for any writer enthusiast.

Multiple backgrounds can be used as themes for stories including: space, undersea, pirates, animals and big trucks. Images are then added and text can be incorporated to tell a story.  I find this site a bit elementary for any of my high school classes but it could be adapted for a grade 9 Language class or an English as a Second Language class could use this site to promote creativity, curricular engagement or perhaps as an alternative form of assessment.

Parents could easily spend time as a family with this site, encouraging their kids to be creative.  Personally created stories can even be  published and bought as a hard copy book for $25.00 US.

2. Survey Monkey – I spent a bit of time playing around with Survey Monkey and found it to be a great site to create surveys for my classroom discussions and to get feedback on particular units or activities that I perform in Chemistry. To avoid a long essay styled description of advantages and disadvantages, I will bullet the key points.

  • this site is free to use with the chance for an upgrade for some added features but I found the basic membership to be more than enough for my general purposes.
  • a link to the survey can be sent via an email or it can be embedded on my Moodle website where students can submit answers anonymously or by name/student number
  • the surveys are fast to create,
  • provides real time responses as soon as they are received
  • provides a printable report which can be kept as a hard copy.
  • reports can be generated to show where the majority of responses were assigned which can be downloaded into an excel document to be used to create a more visual graphical representation, providing both student and teacher valuable assessment to student progress and understanding of course material.
  • there is a filtering mechanism built in that aids in determining trends in the data to assist in diagnosing problem areas and it allows for a chance to reconcile confusions in real time.
  • my favourite aspect of Survey Monkey is the time that it saves me marking tests or quizzes; instead, I gain more time to focus on creating engaging, student activities.
  • Privacy of results is ensured
  • more than one survey can be performed on the same computer and not restricted to one survey per operating system.
  • an attractive advantage is that there is no limit as to how many questions can be created even with the basic membership.
  • As far as the types of questions that can be performed there are multiple choice with one or multiple answers, short answers where students fill in a one word response, there are rankings of answers that allow individuals to rank a hierarchy of responses.

Multiple choice style questions can be an effective assessment tool & Survey Monkey could meet this need.   Our School Board mandates that major tests contain more than just multiple choice style questions.  Survey Monkey can be adapted to include shorter and longer essay style questions to assess a deeper student understanding.

Note:  Another good survey tool to try would be: feebbackfarm as it offers some of the same options mentioned above.

 3. Mind42 – Another tool worth checking out is Mind42:  

  • It is a concept map that can be used to summarize ideas and key aspects of a course or unit.
  • Nodes (subheadings) can be colourized with a variety of colours, fonts and basic Word editing options appliy with ability to add in pictures (or icons) as topic headings.
  • Can collaborate in real time with colleagues and students,
  • Accounts can be easily and quickly create.
  • Final products are nice and neat as you can minimize different sections and simply focus on a unit of interest.
  • This is a nice way to organize ones notes to be used with students that miss school for variety of reasons.
  • Does allow parents to view what is being done in class
  • There is a “date” option that shows students what day topics were investigated.
  • Provides a birds eye view on the bottom left hand corner to keep track of your progress.
  • It can be exported to a webpage.
  • Has a button on the upper right hand corner that shows any revisions done to the project
  • Can be published for others to use on the Internet
  • This is a great way to organize course material/summaries for teachers and students.
  • Can add in images to replace text in the descriptions where the images can be gathered from Google, Yahoo and Flickr but I am not sure if these images follow the Creativecommons licenses with copyrights infringements. With or without attribution, does anyone know if they are legal to use?
  • I created a mindmap for my Chemistry 20 course that can be viewed here: http://mind42.com/pub/mindmap?mid=a1b73983-5f5a-43ff-96c0-91a1047c2404

 4. Ning – As part of my major project for ECI832 I wanted to play around with a ning. I love how this site acts as a place for my students to go and immerse in Chemistry issues/content. I have just recently set it up so I am learning its full potential as I go but my students are loving it. There are options for students to create their own page, start forums, blogs, add pictures and Chemistry links, an internal email system and the chance for students to engage in open dialogue via a chat window. It is our Chemistry Facebook!

I am finding that my students spend a considerable amount of time on the ning, engaged in Chemistry discussions posted by me initially but the reins have been passed to them to post some of their Chemistry findings. Students are even using the ning in school as one student said, “if they are going to take our Facebook, then we will find other ways to socialize”. Not sure how to feel about feeding one addiction with another but the purpose of the site is intended to be educational and the students are aware of that.

The ning site provides a virtual learning network to get together that is closed off from the general public; providing my students with the privacy they require to ensure my students have a safe haven to express their ideas and opinions. I hope to open up this site to another Chemistry class outside of our high school environment to get others responding and posting topics related to our discussions.

If you are interested, my primitive site can be found here: http://mrgchemistry.ning.com/

5. Xtranormal – Is a text-to-movie site where short animations/videos can be created. I love these videos to introduce topics. They can be varied and entertaining to capture the students attention. There are a number of camera angles, postures, and bodily sounds to use in the video. There are a few different scenes that can be used with the basic memberships. This was a great way to introduce one of my hardest units in Chemistry 20 as the abstract nature of the content could be presented in a fun and more loose nature. Unfortunately, the video kept getting fuzzy and the sound was a little muffled for my videos but for me the videos are to capture the students attention first as part of a set. I asked my students what they thought and most enjoyed it but did notice that the inflections in tone from the characters are lost from the text and it doesn’t pick up punctuation very well. I haven’t found a way to incorporate pauses but I am sure there is a way.

To see a video that I created and showed my Chemistry 20 students in class about an abstract, conceptually tough unit on Electron Configurations, see here:

 6. Some other sites that I quickly dabbled with were: twiddla (A tutorial can be found here), Skype and Google Wave. Twiddla is another collaborative site with access to a shared white board to allow options of drawing, adding colour, changing and formatting uploaded images, documents or widgets. This would be a great site to act as a tutorial page for any struggling students.  

Skype is beautiful as it offers the chance to connect with others both audio and visually. The only downfall so far is that I have had to restart Skype every so often to refresh it. As far as Google Wave is concerned, I haven’t played with it enough to be a fan of it as I felt quite disorganized the first time playing with it. There were 5 people involved in chats and I found it a bit distracting but I hope to try it again very soon as I hear a lot of people saying they love using it. This collaborative site is suppose to replace the slow process of emailing and instead providing a platform for colleagues to engage in real time discussions.

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Last month I had the privilege of attending the Educon presentations online. I was so inspired by the motivation of the project based learning idea that Chris Lehmann has incorporated into his Science Leadership Academy that I emailed him to inquire as to how I could create a student centered classroom and I asked him if he had any ideas that focussed more on Chemistry. He replied within the week and referred me to the Chemistry teacher working at his school and mentioned that the Chemistry teacher would email me to collaborate and share ideas that he has incorporated into his daily teachings. I have received an email from Tim Best at the SLA with lots of links to peruse at my leisure. In return, I gave him a “guest” access pass to my Moodle site in hopes to return the resource sharing.

I finished watching, Chris Lehmann’s presentation, School 2.0: Progressive Pedagogy and 21st Century Tools, his take on school goals is simple yet quite involved. Simple in that it is based on common sense that teachers need to make learning applicable to students and the world they live in, involved in that common goals are well thought out and formally written to match school wide common outputs. These outputs focus to create thoughtful, wise, passionate and deep thinkers with the purpose of applying knowledge in a real life context where students can be apart of the process as opposed to regurgitating facts on a unit test at the end of a chapter. The infusion of technology is required as a tool to accomplish their goals, not as a primary focus in which the idea is to use what is good in the world of technology and not necessarily what is new as the time spent on learning every new tool that comes along is not desirable.

Uploaded on May 15, 2008 by gruntzooki

At SLA, every teacher of every subject is mandated to focus students to use technology as a means to: research, collaborate, create, present and reflect on their project based learning. The idea is that tools don’t teach but change the way that we teach so there is unity among the teachers as every teacher plans the same way by using the following document to plan out their project objectives.


As involved as it would appear to be, the process focuses teachers on the metacognition of the students and on the five required core values: inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation, reflection. These core values create a  universal “language of the school” interwoven throughout the varied disciplines within the SLA. Chris Lehmann’s concept is based on a backward mapping system in which a common goal is presented and then the structure of how students will achieve this goal is constructed. The focus is to transform recall-based classrooms in which learning and assessment are constructing with tests/quizzes being the focus of assessing learning, into an understanding driven hierarchy where tests and quizzes are valued but as an intermitten assessment that ensures learning is taking place in order to lead to the ultimate goal of assessing a project based evaluation.

Obviously, the need to interlock content with project based learning is important and as a result is becoming a major transformation in many schools today including those of Regina Public Schools. We are transforming our focus to one that mirrors Chris’ ideas above in that students need to be taught to think for themselves through project based activities. The need to relinquish a teacher focus classroom into a more student focused environment to empower them to problem solve and to learn how to learn is obvious but with these transformations comes increased work for teachers to which the implementation process becomes key to its survival. Proper PD and collaboration time devoted to create lessons and assessments is crucial to give teachers time to adjust to a new way of practice (for those that aren’t already project based).

For myself, this initiative will prove to be a lot of  work for me as it requires that I create new daily and long term lesson plans with alternative assessments/rubrics to match these plans not to mention the time needed to correct these assessments. All of this while trying to effectively teach 30+ students in a grade 12 Chemistry class; I am not sure if and when I can complete the shift. The issue is obviously student achievement but the ways in which we view class sizes and teacher workload doesn’t easily allow for this necessary transformation and as such I find that teachers in my school, resist any type of change that puts more on their plates. The idea that someone has come up with a “new idea” to try something new along with the constant pressures that plague teachers today, will unfortunately, prevent this reform from happening very easily.

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