Wednesday, February 28, 2007

ITM Extra: MacWorld 2007

Creative ideas (and a few laughs) from Macworld 2007.

> Quicktime MP4 (12 MB)

Windows Users:
right-click the link above and select "save link as..."

Mac Users:
"control" + click the link above and select "save link as..."

Show Notes:
Here it is - our next episode from the MacWorld Education Symposium - a fantastic day of sessions organized by our good friends at CUE!

Here we asked attendees to share some of their best ideas and imagine what the world would be like if every child had an iPhone. We also take time out to tour the exhibit hall with Hall Davidson.

And don't miss our big announcement of the hottest new ed tech gadget, the "ITM Phone". Place your order today!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Giving Voice – In her own “words”

The other day I was watching old-fashioned media (CNN on the TV) when I heard this story --Living with autism in a world made for others.

I'm always looking for ways that tools, including technology, can support the learning experiences of diverse learners so this story got my attention as well as questioned my assumptions.

It highlighted how Amanda Baggs,an adult with autism, is able to communicate using a computer or a voice synthesizer. She also produces videos and posts them on the Internet. In fact, it was one of her videos titled "My Language” on YouTube that caught the attention of CNN.

Amanda’s comments in the interview, “If they see me write they don’t think I’m autistic”. The reporter picked up on this and shared how interesting it felt talking to her online persona versus meeting to her in real life. A sample video of his face to face interview is available.

The story profiled how Amanda uses the Internet to interact and meet other liked-minded people. This includes going to Second Life, a online society within a 3D world, where users can explore, build, socialize, and participate in their own economy, where she has created her own animated avatar to interact in this virtual world – a world that frees her of the energy required to navigate the complexity of the real world where body language, action, and noise play a big role.

Janet Cole, the Executive Producer of the documentary Freedommachines recently shared, “technology has evolved to be an equalizing force, we have to step back and look at what is really disabled. If people have access to the tools that can enable them to participate fully and independently in education, work, and community, then "disability" is not about the people, but about the systems and infrastructures that are not delivering necessary services and tools.”

Amanda’s story certainly showed the power of how technology tools can open up communication -- for all people. Her story shows how our narrow definitions and expectations can sometimes limit students. The work in our schools by those involved in assistive technology and universal design to offer all students access to the general curriculum is based on inspiring stories like Amanda's.

I invite you to hear more from Amanda and question your assumptions.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Inclusion via Skype

We are living in a remarkably dynamic and interesting era of learning. Our present age bridges the "read-only" educational paradigm of the 19th and 20th centuries and the "new read-only and read-write" paradigms of the 21st. The entire concept of user created content published for a global audience was completely outside the lexicon of educators in the previous two centuries. Today, however, learners of all ages are discovering the amazing power of publishing formats like blogs, podcasts, wikis, and digital social networking environments.


The ability to "publish at will" your thoughts, reflections, ideas and opinions for a global audience is an amazingly powerful but also highly disruptive skill. The potential effect of these technologies in empowering citizen journalists is tremendous. Those who create content for others also bear some responsibility for the ideas and the effects of those ideas when they are shared with others, however. Websites like (especially in its introductory Flash video) are replete with examples of POOR CHOICES when it comes to the use of digital technologies to communicate and share ideas. Issues of digital ethics and digital citizenship are vital to not only discuss but also PRACTICE with learners of all ages. That is why conversations about "safe digital social networking" and the ways educators as well as parents are helping young people (and each other) learn about the safe, appropriate and fun uses of digital technologies is and will be an enduring need now and in the years ahead.

Desktop videoconferencing technologies like Skype, which permit ad-hoc videoconferences between people using internet-connected computers, webcams and microphones, are aptly characterized by some as "disruptive technologies" which many organizational IT departments fear and resist. The value and power of connecting people both synchronously and asynchronously through voice as well as videoconferencing technologies can be amazing, however. Why do we have all these Internet connections and technology devices in our schools after all, if not to use them to connect learners to valuable content and also TO EACH OTHER?

This latter ideal is exemplified well through the work of Brian Crosby and his 4th grade students in at Agnes Risley Elementary School in Sparks, Nevada. The Washoe School District is the second largest in Nevada. After learning of a new, homebound 4th grade student in his class who has leukemia, Mr. Crosby found the resources to connect the student to her classroom from home using Internet connected computers, webcams, and Skype. The five minute video his 4th grade students created about this innovative "Inclusion" strategy is precious. Take some time to watch the video and then leave a comment on the blog page for the students!

In his February 7th update about this project, Mr. Crosby writes:
Videoconferencing works really well for certain types of lessons – brainstorming for writing (which was our first activity on the first day) works well for example – and Celest seems to be able to follow along pretty well in math - I use several web sites to have students practice multiplication facts and she is able to be just one of the students in class when we do that also. Other types of lessons we will have to work out how best to include her. I really want to try involving her in group discussions for example – and I think we can get her in music class too – the music room might be close enough to one of our wireless hubs that I can carry the laptop and web cam in so she can sing along – the music teacher is game, so we will give it a try.

What a great example of a teacher using creativity and available resources to open doors of learning not only for the homebound student, but also for every other learner in the classroom, that wouldn't have been open otherwise! Kudos to the 4th grade learners and producers of the film (including the homebound student) and Mr. Crosby for fantastic work. "Inclusion via Skype." It wouldn't have been possible even a few years ago. But today it is.

I wonder if we'll see any parents requesting "Skype connections to the classroom" on their child's IEP?! Carol Anne McGuire, who teaches children with visual impariments, already has some parents requesting podcasting on their child's IEP. Used effectively, Skype might join the list of assistive and enabling technologies that can open doors of learning possibilities for every child with special needs (because every child IS special and unique) in the years ahead.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Web 2.0 - Future Classic Video

What does the average teacher need to know about the Web, Bogs, Tags, XML or RSS?

Michael Wesch, an assistant professor at Kansas State University, provides The Machine is Us/ing Us as a convincing 5 minute video that illustrates the above acronyms. Yet it does more than that.

Sure, those who have witnessed Web history from its birth will enjoy seeing it replayed, but for the typical person, the video highlights the cultural shifts that the Web and Web 2.0 usher in. For those of us raised on reruns of I Love Lucy and Top 40 AM radio, the "everything" that is now available - on call - is radically opposite to what we have been brought up expecting. Yet it's the air waves our teenagers breathe.

As a classroom activity, why not watch the video together and discuss:
  1. How we use the Web?
  2. What the Web means to us?
The video concludes by suggesting, "We need to rethink a few things..." Wesch offers some examples, but how about something like, "how these Web 2.0 applications shift learning from the factory model to that of an open source mashup?"

If you want to spend more time with the text of the video, you can read it. You can also download YouTube videos and save them as .flv (flash video) files that can be viewed offline.

If the video gets you or students intrigued, take a look at Wesch's second draft of the video and the "Spot Sets" others have added to it.

Monday, February 19, 2007

You, too -- girls!

For nearly 10 years, the computer programming class met in the lab next door. Only once during those ten years, did I see a girl walk into that classroom. A little bit of research revealed that young women were notably absent from computer programming classrooms across the country. According to the New York Times article “Where The Girls Aren’t” “more than 19,000 boys took the Advanced Placement computer science examination in 2001, compared with just over 2,400 girls”. Thirty years ago, it was not unusual to see 2 or 3 girls in a Calculus class; today nearly 50% of the students taking the AP Calculus are female. Reversing this trend took a sustained investment in strategies focused on increasing the success of women in mathematics.

With the increase use of computers in today’s classrooms, work places, and living rooms, it is easy to assume that we no longer have a gender gap in high-tech courses and careers.

But the reality is that the participation of women in these areas have actually decreased over the past two decades. Whenever I lead activities that raise awareness about male/female ratios in tech related careers and courses, participants are always surprised at the gender gap. As a teacher there are many ways you can implement gender equity strategies in your classroom. Tech Integration across the curriculum is one of the top strategies. If girls are not flocking to computer classes, let’s make sure the computers come to “them”. Along with making technology part of everyday learning, creating opportunities where girls can gain skills and confidence with technology can help address the “experience gap”. One of the biggest challenges young women face when considering a high-tech class or career is not “aptitude”, but experience.

Maya, the only girl in her Java programming class, quickly noticed that
most of the boys in the class seemed to already know a lot about programming
from their experience with robotic toys, or from having built pieces of their
own computers. They seemed to already have a rapport with the
programming teacher comparing notes about their favorite video games strategies during class. Her programming class quickly turned to a very frustrating and lonely experience. When asked by she enrolled in this class, she
answered, “one of my teachers noticed that I was smart with computers and
learned HTML code quickly and invited me to participate in a
Tech Savvy Girls
summer camp.” There I spent a whole week learning cool new technologies
with all girls. I even took a mini-workshop in programming. It was
fun. I felt smart. I didn’t have “less experience”. My junior year I found I had an open timeslot in my schedule. I looked at the available classes that block. If it had not been for
Tech Savvy Girls, I wouldn’t have noticed programming, but some of the women role models I met in Tech Savvy Girls activities often mentioned programming as a class they took when they were in school.
Year after year, I listen to girls tell their stories during our Tech Savvy Girls activities and over and over again, I hear tales of teachers who provided awareness, inspiration, and experience opportunities to young women. My teacher often gave me extra computer tasks to do; my teacher recommended me for a computer camp; my teacher asked for my help with the computer; my teacher believed in me; my teacher recommended this course for when I get older;”

Look for information and opportunities to create activities such as “The Creative Side of Engineering” that send a strong message to girls that the world needs more than girls who “use” technology, the world needs their input into design and innovation.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

ITM Extra: Make a Wish 2007

We're back! Ready to make a wish?

> Quicktime MP4 (12 MB)

Windows Users:
right-click the link above and select "save link as..."

Mac Users:
"control" + click the link above and select "save link as..."

Show Notes:

We've awoken from our winter hibernation to bring you the first of two special episodes from the MacWorld Education Symposium - a fantastic day of sessions organized by our good friends at CUE! Here we talked to some great educators from around the country asking them a simple question: "If you had one wish for students and teachers in 2007, what would it be?"

So what's your wish? Leave it in the comments below!

Thanks again for all your support and feedback. New episodes coming VERY soon!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Creative Commons in Education

Note: This post deals explicitly with US Law, but many of the same principles apply in other countries and international jurisdictions. The Creative Commons website allows users to select their jurisdiction from a drop-down menu in the upper right hand corner.

Copyright and Fair Use

Copyright has always been a sticky subject for educators. The demands of the classroom and the scarcity of resources available in schools have often been barriers to legally obtaining the right to use copyrighted media for teaching and learning. Today, the relative ease of access to greater and greater volumes of media available online makes it even more tempting for teachers to ignore copyright law and fair use guidelines. However, it is important for educators (and their students) to understand and respect the fair use guidelines. Luckily, there are new alternatives to traditional copyright that can help simplify the situation.

First, though, it is important to understand copyright law and the traditional fair use guidelines. Copyright is a deliberately grey area of the law, enforced through the subjective judgments of juries and judges in the court system. There are, however, four guidelines that the courts will consider when judging wether a particular case represents fair use or an infringement on the owner's copyright. Stanford University Libraries provide a detailed overview of fair use and of additional guidelines for educational fair use. A very clear discussion can also be found in the Wikipedia article on Fair Use.

Beyond the scope of these guidelines it is best for educators to contact the copyright holder and ask permission to use the desired material in the classroom. Conversely, if a teacher is posting original material (either self-produced or created by students) online, the teacher may want to give permission for others to use the material for educational purposes. (Otherwise, by default, any new creative work is automatically copyrighted.) Thankfully, it's no longer necessary to either ask for or give permission on a case-by-case basis... if you are using the Creative Commons license.

Creative Commons

Using the Creative Commons (CC) license, educators and students can "Share, reuse, and remix — legally." In essence:
Creative Commons provides free tools that let authors, scientists, artists, and educators easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry. You can use CC to change your copyright terms from "All Rights Reserved" to "Some Rights Reserved."

Creative Commons allows authors and artists to allow certain uses of their work. It also allows others to easily identify work that they have permission to use. The Creative Commons website provides tools to accomplish both of these functions...

First, if you are creating instructional materials for your students, or you want them to access media to include in their own assignments and projects, click on "Find CC Licensed Work" in the upper right hand corner of the Creative Commons home page. This CC Search allows you to search Google, Yahoo, flickr (a photo sharing service), (a video sharing service), and OWL Music for media that has been released under a Creative Commons license by its owner. You can even limit your search to works you are free to modify, adapt, or build upon so that you and your students can create new works (such as a class podcast) and release them online - legally. Note, though, that these search results will be no more or less filtered for appropriateness than they are at those services' home pages. You may want to supervise student use of this search tool.

Second, if you and your students are creating media (such as podcasts) that you are posting online, you might consider releasing it under a CC license yourself. (You may actually have to if you use CC licensed material that requires you to share-alike.) To get started, click on "License Your Work" in the upper right hand corner of the Creative Commons home page. Answer the few questions about how you want to share your work, what jurisdiction you're in, and the format of your work. The system will automatically choose the appropriate license (using combinations of four different conditions: Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works, and Share Alike).


All CC licenses require that users give attribution in the manner specified by the author or licensor. In the absence of specific directions, Alan Levine's concept of linktribution is a good rule of thumb to follow. When you give credit to an original author or artist, link back to the original work (if it is online) or to the original author's homepage (or blog) and be sure to include their name in the link. This not only provides attribution (and an easy way for others to find the original source), it is also motivating to the original author or artist because it increases their web traffic and improves their ranking in search engines.

Open Content

The CC license is not the only license that provides and protects "open" content. The General Public License has protected open source software and documents since 1989.

An increasing amount of software, media, and information are available online under these two licenses. For instance, the MIT Open CourseWare project is released under the CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license, as is the ITM (see the bottom ofLink this page). I now share all my workshop materials using an Attribution-ShareAlike license. And now you and your students can begin contributing your work to the greater good as well.

Note: Lucie deLaBruere wrote about the Creative Commons license in her post, Why Do People Share? on November 13, 2006. Also, I'm indebted to Hall Davidson of Discovery Education and Janet English of KOCE for my understanding of copyright law and fair use. Their presentations on the subject have been excellent - and entertaining.
Finally, I'd like to think Alan Levine and a reader called Rom for leaving comments on my previous post and thus inspiring this one.

Image credit: Creative Commons Spectrum of Rights.