Sunday, January 31, 2010

What's Your Issue Videography Contest

Thanks to a Facebook post this weekend by Marco Torres, I learned about "What's Your Issue:"
A Global Initiative and Competition for the next generation of leaders and social entrepreneurs - Seeking global thinkers 14 to 24... For 2010, we are looking for 3-minute videos with Issue & Solution format. Express your issue and propose an innovative solution-project. Winners presented to Obama administration, on Best Buy screens across the planet, and at VIP reception and Awards Ceremony hosted by Sony Pictures in Los Angeles.
This sixty second YouTube spot summarizes the project and contest. If you have any of the "digital natives" Marc Prensky talks about on the "digital_nation" website in your classroom or household, you might give them a heads-up on this contest. :-)

Cross-posted to the Storychasers blog.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Live and Interactive Interview with Daniel Coyle on "The Talent Code"

UPDATED - New Date

Date: 01 February 2010
Time: 5pm Pacific / 8pm Eastern / 1am (next day) GMT
Location: In Elluminate at
Use the URL above to enter the Elluminate room, which will be open 30 minutes before the session begins. If you haven't used Elluminate before, you can go to to ensure that your system is configured correctly.  A recording of the event will be able to be found at within a day of the show.

The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How.Join me for a live and interactive interview with Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code.

Journalist and New York Times bestselling author Daniel Coyle visited nine of the world’s greatest talent hotbeds — tiny places that produce huge amounts of talent, from a small music camp in upstate New York to an elementary school in California to the baseball fields of the Caribbean.

He found that there’s a pattern common to all of them — certain methods of training, motivation, and coaching. This pattern, which has to do with the fundamental mechanisms through which the brain acquires skill, gives us a new way to think about talent — as well as new tools with which we can unlock our own talents and those of our kids.

Daniel Coyle is a contributing editor for Outside magazine and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestseller Lance Armstrong’s War. He has written for Sports Illustrated, The New York Times Magazine, and Play (including this March 2007 cover story which sparked The Talent Code), and is a two-time National Magazine Award finalist. Coyle lives with his wife, Jen, and their four children in Homer, Alaska.

[Cross-posted from]

Live Today at 2pm Pacific: Innosight on Hybrid Learning

Date: 26 January 2010
Time: 2pm Pacific / 5pm Eastern / 10pm GMT
Location: In Elluminate at
A recording of the event will be able to be found at within a day of the show.

Join me for another in the series of reports from the Innosight Institute, this time profiling a high school that serves primarily low-income students in Chicago with a hybrid model of learning—a fully online curriculum embedded in a physical school. The authors hope that this case study, "VOISE Academy: Pioneering a blended-learning model in a Chicago high school" will help to "open our eyes" to how online learning can work in a physical environment by studying hybrid models that provide clues about how to combine the best of both worlds for the betterment of students.

In our session, James Sloan, the co-author of the "VOISE" case study, will be joined by co-author Katherine Mackey and Innosight Executive Director Michael Horn to discuss this report. The Innosight Institute was founded by Clayton Christensen, professor and author of the best-selling books The Innovator's Dilemma and The Innovator's Solution.

Located in a poverty-stricken, crime-ridden neighborhood in Chicago, VOISE, which stands for Virtual Opportunities Inside a School Environment, melds a culture of high expectations and no excuses with an online, individualized learning model that allows students to learn at their own pace, progress to new material only after they have mastered a lesson, and receive rapid feedback on how they are doing so that their teachers can further individualize their lessons to meet their distinct needs. In only its second year of operations, VOISE has attracted national attention and has a freshman on-track rate that exceeds the Chicago Public Schools average.

Download the full case study here:

Use the URL near the top of this event to enter the Elluminate room, which will be open 30 minutes before the session begins. If you haven't used Elluminate before, you can go to to ensure that your system is configured correctly.

James Sloan was a Visiting Research Fellow in Innosight Institute’s Education Practice in 2009. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in chemical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he graduated with highest honors. Sloan is employed currently as a consultant with The Boston Consulting Group.

Katherine Mackey is a Research Fellow in Innosight Institute’s Education Practice. Prior to joining Innosight Institute in September 2008, she was an eleventh-grade English teacher at Highland High School, a public high school in Utah. She worked previously as a designer at Houghton Mifflin Children’s Books. She is the co-author of a strategic five-year Academic Master Plan for Salt Lake Community College and has assisted with the formation and writing of professional development packets for the Utah State Office of Education. She has also worked as an intern for Senator Orrin G. Hatch for two summers.

Mackey holds a BA in English and French from Wellesley College and an MA in Education from Harvard University.

Michael B. Horn is the co-founder and Executive Director, Education of Innosight Institute, a not-for-profit think tank devoted to applying the theories of disruptive innovation to problems in the social sector. He is the coauthor of Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns (McGraw-Hill: June 2008) with Harvard Business School Professor and bestselling author Clayton M. Christensen and Curtis W. Johnson, president of the Citistates Group. BusinessWeek named the book one of the 10 Best Innovation & Design Books of 2008, Strategy + Business awarded it the best human capital book of 2008, Newsweek named it as the 14th book on its list of “Fifty Books for Our Times,” and the National Chamber Foundation named it first among its 10 “Books that Drive the Debate 2009.”

Disrupting Class uses the theories of disruptive innovation to identify the root causes of schools’ struggles and suggests a path forward to customize an education for every child in the way she learns. Horn has been a featured keynote speaker at many conferences including the Virtual School Symposium and Microsoft’s School of the Future World Summit.

Prior to this, Horn worked at America Online during its re-launch, and before that he served as David Gergen’s research assistant, where he tracked and wrote about politics and public policy. Horn has written articles for numerous publications, including Education Week, Forbes, the Boston Globe, and U.S. News & World Report. In addition, he has contributed research for Charles Ellis’ book, Joe Wilson and the Creation of Xerox (Wiley, 2006) and Barbara Kellerman’s Bad Leadership: What It Is, How It Happens, Why It Matters (Harvard Business School Press, 2004).

Horn earned his MBA from Harvard Business School and an AB from Yale University, where he graduated with distinction in History.

[Cross-posted from]

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Engaging Today's Digital Learners - Where Do We Begin?

Ashley had just returned from a skating practice preparing for tomorrow’s skating competition, when I met her. So of course, we talked about skating, school, the latest movies, and other things ten year old girls talk about, including technology. As an educator, I was interested to hear about how she used technology at school, but she was more interested in talking about technology in her world outside of school – and I’m so glad she did.

I wasn’t surprised that Ashley likes digital photography, and that Ashley has her own blog, or that she spends time in a social network called WebKinz. But what I was surprised at was that she spends time in WebKinz with her grandpa. Ashley bought and mailed her grandpa a Webkinz and then helped him learn to navigate the world of Webkinz so they can play together. They can go over to each other's Webkinz houses and check out the new room decorations. Webkinz also has game rooms where they can meet to play online games. They can even send gifts and notes to each other through Webkinz post. Now that they have Webkinz in common, when they have a chance to visit, they talk about the latest Webkinz games or items they have purchased. They usually spend time together at the computer doing Webkinz. Her grandfather wasn't very tech savy and this gave him a way to share in Ashley's world.

We all know that technology can help grandparents and grandchildren who live hundreds of miles apart stay connected. I’m fortunate enough to have face to face playtime with my grandson in my basement filled with toys he loves. But for many, technology is the way kids and their grandparents stay connected. My grandson could answer a Skype call from great grandma when he was two. My mom learned to use Facebook so she could stay connected with her teenage grandchildren spread across the country. But it wasn’t until I met Ashley that I thought about playtime with grandpa happening on line. For those old enough to have a Facebook account, there are lots of ways to replicate the checkers game with gramps we remember from our childhood. But who would have thought about inviting gramps to your online playground?

Ashley’s brilliant solution of using technology to solve a challenge in her life, sent me off thinking about how often we look for ways to use technology in our classrooms that is limited by our awareness of the technologies available along with limited understanding of how today’s learners are truly different than those of previous years. How many of us try to find technologies that FIT into our way of teaching, instead of increasing our understanding of new ways kids who have grown up digital learn and interact with their world. What is our responsibility as educators to understand our new audience and learn new methods to reach this audience? I remember the first time a young lady with Asperger's Syndrome joined my class; her special educator provided me with materials about teaching kids with Asperger's Syndrome and I took my professional responsibility very seriously to increase my understanding of what learning was like for her. Infinite Thinking blogger, Julie Duffield, enlightened me about how technology can help us understand learners with autism. Most recently I rearranged the computer lab and installed new software to make it more accessible for a blind student in one of our fifth grade classes. His teachers and I are learning many new techniques (including new technologies) to make learning accessible for him.

But where do educators begin to increase their awareness of new learners, and of new technologies available to engage and reach those learners? Where do we begin to blend our content knowledge, our understanding of good teaching, with increased awareness of new technologies and new types of learners? Where do we find the time admist a teaching day jammed pack teaching children and fulfilling professional duties? I know very few teachers who don’t want to better understand today’s students or new ways to make learning relevant to them. Can we take this challenge to our students? Ashley found a very creative way , that very few adults would have thought of, to connect with her grandpa – I bet she was lots of ideas about how teachers can make learning relevant for her. Have we asked her for help in solving this challenge?

(P.S. I’d like to do a follow up post with ideas from readers about ways we can work on this challenge)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Mark Bauerlein Live Interview -- The Dumbest Generation

When: 21 Jan 2010
Time: 5:00pm Pacific (US) / 8:00pm Eastern (US) / 1:00am (Next Day) GMT
Duration:  1 hour
Event Page
Direct Elluminate Session URL:
The Elluminate room will be open up to 30 minutes before the event if you want to come in early. To make sure that your computer is configured for Elluminate, please visit  The session will be recorded and the recording links will be posted here within a day of the event.

Join me this Wednesday for a live and interactive Future of Education interview of Mark Bauerlein, author of The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes our Future.

Mark is Professor of English at Emory University, and has recently served as Director of Research and Analysis at the National Endowment for the Arts. He is the author of The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future, as well as several scholarly studies of American literature, history, and philosophy. His commentaries and reviews have appeared in Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times, TLS, The Weekly Standard, and Chronicle of Higher Education.

[Cross-posted from]

Dave Edyburn Live Interview Wednesday--Universal Design for Learning (CUE Series)

When: 20 Jan 2010
Time: 5:00pm Pacific (US) / 8:00pm Eastern (US) / 1:00am (Next Day) GMT
Duration:  1 hour
Event Page
Direct Elluminate Session URL:

The Elluminate room will be open up to 30 minutes before the event if you want to come in early. To make sure that your computer is configured for Elluminate, please visit  The session will be recorded and the recording links will be posted here within a day of the event.

This Wednesday, Mike Lawrence and I interview Dave L. Edyburn, Ph.D., on Universal Design for Learning. This is the first of a series of Webinars organized by Computer-Using Educators (CUE) in advance of their 2010 Conference, March 4 - 6 in Palm Springs, California. (More information at Dr. Edyburn will be a "Spotlight Speaker" at the conference.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is viewed as a promising service delivery model for helping students with disabilities achieve high academic standards in inclusive classrooms. Dr. Edyburn will introduce practical approaches to planning for diverse learners and will discuss specific strategies and resources, including:

Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning

National Center on Universal Design for Learning

Free Technology Toolkit for UDL in All Classrooms

Dave L. Edyburn, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Department of Exceptional Education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Dr. Edyburn's teaching and research interests focus on the use of technology to enhance teaching, learning, and performance. He has authored over 150 articles and book chapters on the use of technology in special education. His work spans the 36-page booklet, What Every Teacher Should Know About Assistive Technology (2003, Allyn & Bacon) to the 900-page Handbook of Special Education Technology Research and Practice (2005, Knowledge by Design). His work represents a variety of contributions to theory, research, and practice. He is the current President-elect of the Special Education Technology Special Interest Group (SETSIG) in the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) as well as a past president of the Technology and Media (TAM) Division of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). He is a frequent conference presenter and national workshop leader.

Mike Lawrence has been impacting education as a Teacher, Speaker, Technology Coordinator and Director for more than fifteen years. He is a respected presenter at national conferences and events and was honored to be named an Apple Distinguished Educator in 2003. He also assisted in the development and launch of both the Discovery Educator Network (DEN) and the Google Teacher Academy programs. Mike is an author and editor and can often be found at his local coffee house on his laptop. He currently serves as Executive Director of Computer-Using Educators, supporting its California-based membership by advancing student achievement through technology on a national level. Each year, thousands of educators attend CUE’s conference events, making it the premier Educational Technology association of the Western US.

He began his educational career teaching high school English, often writing his own English elective courses to engage students typically disinterested in the core subject (Science Fiction Literature, anyone?). As a Technology Coordinator, he led delivery of all hands-on technology professional development, including Principal Training Programs for Southern California administrators, as well as the Student Technology Showcase and Technology Proficiency programs.

Mike’s humor and background as a teacher inform all of his presentations, making them accessible to educators of all levels and curricular areas. He lives with his wife Julie, son Jay, and daughter Kellen in Southern California.

[Cross-posted from]

Yong Zhao Live Interview Tomorrow: Catching Up or Leading the Way

When: 19 Jan 2010
Time: 5:00pm Pacific (US) / 8:00pm Eastern (US) / 1:00am (Next Day) GMT
Duration:  1 hour
Event Page:
Direct Elluminate Session URL:
Yong Zhao Web Page:

Tomorrow, January 19th, I interview Yong Zhao, University Distinguished Professor at Michigan State University on his book Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization.  This is part of the Future of Education interview series, is  live and interactive session, and has an audience Q and A at the end.

Yong Zhao is University Distinguished Professor at the College of Education, Michigan State University, where he also serves as the founding director of the Center for Teaching and Technology, executive director of the Confucius Institute, as well as the US-China Center for Research on Educational Excellence. He is a fellow of the International Academy for Education.

His research interests include computer gaming and education, diffusion of innovations, teacher adoption of technology, computer-assisted language learning, and globalization and education.

Zhao has extensive international experiences. He has consulted with government and educational agencies and spoken on educational issues in many countries on six continents. His current work focuses on designing 21st Century Schools in the context of globalization and the digital revolution.

Zhao was born in China’s Sichuan Province. He received his B.A. in English Language Education from Sichuan Institute of Foreign Languages in Chongqing, China in 1986. After teaching English in China for six years, he came to Linfield College as a visiting scholar in 1992. He then began his graduate studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1993. He received his A.M. in Education in 1994 and Ph.D. in 1996. He joined the faculty at MSU in 1996 after working as the Language Center Coordinator at Willamette University and a language specialist at Hamilton College.

The Elluminate room will be open up to 30 minutes before the event if you want to come in early. To make sure that your computer is configured for Elluminate, please visit

The session will be recorded and the recording links will be posted here within a day of the event.

[Cross-posted from]

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Implications of (almost) free online storage for educators and students

Remember being amazed 1 GB flash media drives existed at all, because your mind was still used to thinking in MEGAbytes instead of GIGAbytes? Have you had the experience yet of seeing vendors at conferences give away 1+ GB flash drives with their free files and marketing content already loaded, because they are so cheap to produce? That was recent history, and it's a current event.

flash drive

Now it's time to be amazed Google is giving anyone 1 GB of free online storage. As Mashable author Christina Warren points out, services like Dropbox and have been doing this for quite awhile. continues to be one of my favorite online storage options, not only for its free/cheap cloud-based file access (depending on how much you want) but also its free phonecasting services. What does this abundance of free, online storage mean for teaching and learning today? It's time again to question some of our assumptions, and one of the big ones to question is the scarcity as well as cost of local as well as web-based storage space.

Just after the new year started, Karl Fisch tweeted me a link to Chris Anderson's June 2009 article, "Tech Is Too Cheap to Meter: It's Time to Manage for Abundance, Not Scarcity." In the article and his free eBook, "Free: The Future of a Radical Price," Anderson contends:
When scarce resources become abundant, smart people treat them differently, exploiting them rather than conserving them. It feels wrong, but done right it can change the world. The problem is that abundant resources, like computing power, are too often treated as scarce.
It may seem odd to think this way, but as the author of "The Long Tail," Chris Anderson is an important voice to consider in our quickly changing infoverse. If we want to act smart (and of course we all do most of the time) we need to change the way we look at online storage. Start thinking of storage space online as abundant rather than scarce. Here are a few implications of this thinking and the behaviors which should follow.

library with free wifi

The concept of cloud-based computing is a big shift for LOTS of people in our society today. Inside and outside our schools, ubiquitous access to our files and data "in the cloud" can be a great thing as long as we have available connectivity. This makes wifi hotspots in our schools, homes, and communities more important than ever. We don't need every city and town to be blanketed with high speed connectivity (although that would be nice, of course) but we DO need hot spots in each community which are readily accessible and FAST.

flash drives

Tomorrow I'm starting to teach a fifteen week course at the University of Central Oklahoma called, Technology 4 Teachers. In the past, and as far as I know in the other six sections of this course offered this term, students are required to purchase and use a 1 GB flash drive. In my sections, flash drives are optional. The vast majority of the work we'll do together this term will be "in the cloud." Why mess with a flash drive and a locally-saved file on a flash drive if you don't have to?

netbook versus laptop comparison

Netbooks are perfect for cloud-based computing work. My comparison last week and weekend creating videos for YouTube using both iMovie '09 and Windows Live Moviemaker (for Windows 7 and Vista) confirmed what I'd long suspected: Today's 3rd generation netbooks can be used to produce creative multimedia videos as well as "work in the cloud." I think Storychasers' Mobile Learning Collaborative is right on target recommending that schools opt for netbooks rather than full-size laptops for 1:1 learning initiatives. The speed and power of netbooks are only going to increase in the months ahead, and the creative potential of cloud-based applications for learning is going to keep going the same direction as well.

Zip Drive


As I mentioned a few days ago in the post, "Recovering lost iTunes Song Purchases (maybe) and iTunes Library Backups," online backup services are more affordable and user-friendly than ever. The English WikiPedia has a comparative table for different commercial online backup services worth checking out. If you're not backing up your vital files online yet (like me - I'm not and I need to do this) it's time to embrace online backups. Let's all learn from Kevin Honeycutt's "digital stroke" a few years ago (when his hard drive crashed WITHOUT a recent backup) and take some preventative steps TODAY that can avoid such agony.

The joys of homework (not)


Students can invent countless reasons for not turning in their homework on time. With web-based tools like wikis, Google Docs, and online learning management systems, course assignments can be not only shared/broadcast by the teacher/instructor for students and parents to access, they can also facilitate an entirely digital assignment submission process. The recent outbreak of the H1N1 virus in Hong Kong pushed some international school administrators to FINALLY require all their teachers to post assignments online. Snow days this winter in North America have raised similar questions in our own household: Why aren't all the teachers at my son's school posting assignments and accepting student work online yet? It's time for a new age of homework accountability to dawn.

Happy National De-Lurking Week


Today it is rare to find a school which regularly empowers students to publish their work online for an audience of peers, parents, and other website visitors to review and offer feedback. The shift to cloud-based knowledge work can and should empower visionary school leaders (at all levels) to change this norm. Student motivation is of paramount importance for literacy development. If we don't help students get excited and intrinsically motivated to regularly engage in the activities of literacy, including reading, writing, and speaking in front of groups, we're failing as teachers. Rachel Boyd affirmed the power of parents and others responding to student work online in last Saturday's K12Online09 Week 2 fireside chat.

Want to help your students further develop their reading and writing skills? Find ways to help them become more motivated as readers and writers. Help them define their very identities as authors and publishers, for local as well as global audiences. Help them become storychasers.

What have I missed or do you think should be added to this list?

Cross-posted to Moving at the Speed of Creativity.

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Future of Education Interview with Alan Michel from Home, Inc. Tonight

Date: 7 Jan 2010
Time: 5pm Pacific (US) / 8pm Eastern (US) / 1am (Next Day) GMT (International link)
Elluminate Session URL: or here
Event Page:  at

Tonight I interview Alan Michel, the Director, Co-Founder, and Board President of HOME, Inc., a media arts and education non–profit in Boston. Alan is currently running a media education program that reaches over 1,500 students in eleven schools in the Boston and Somerville Massachusetts school systems.

HOME, Inc. ("Here-in Our Motives Evolve") is a 30-year old, non-profit organization.  Their mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of young people. They teach video production and media analysis to educators and youth to foster confident, creative, individuals with the ability to think for themselves.  Their programs help students develop creative media projects that foster teamwork and communication skills. HOME's media projects and programs focus on teacher and student collaboration and the ability to effectively evaluate media messages, in order to enhance critical thinking skills.  For HOME, the arts are a vital means of self-expression and a fundamental tool for stimulating lifelong learning.

Alan’s work in media and education includes the Get the Facts About AIDS campaign and prevention program in the Boston public Schools and other media projects.  As the Principal Investigator for the Media and Health Project with the Boston Public Schools funded by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Endowment for the Arts, Alan develop the curriculum for media literacy professional development and project based learning at 5 Boston Public Schools, spearheaded partner relations with community groups, government, arts, education and scientific institutions and organizations and developed access to local and national media and telecommunications opportunities regionally. Alan is currently running a media education program that reaches over 1,500 students in eleven schools in the Boston and Somerville Massachusetts school systems.

The Elluminate room will be open up to 30 minutes before the event if you want to come in early. To make sure that your computer is configured for Elluminate, please visit

Recordings of the session will be posted within a day of the event.

[Cross-posted from]

Sunday, January 03, 2010

My New Year's Wish - Let's Revisit COPPA

Happy New Year! Tis the season for resolutions, reflection, and renewals. Every year about this time, I spend some time reflecting on the past year and thinking ahead to the new year. What worked well? What are my wishes for the new year? What resolutions do I have to make for those wishes to come true? It’s also a time of purging, organizing and letting go. As I clean closets and drawers and remove things that no longer fit my lifestyle, I make room for the new toys, exciting adventures, and increased possibilities in the new year.

This year I have a wish that would involve some purging and cleaning out of outdated regulations that are barriers to access to some of the wonderful learning tools available in a digital age.

Ten years ago, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act was created to protect children’s privacy. One of its goal is to prevent websites from collecting personal information from children under 13 without parental consent.

Although the need for protecting children’s privacy and safety has not changed, the way we live and learn online has changed in the past 10 years. Ten years ago, many feared that online shopping was unsafe; today more and more of us are not only shopping online, but also banking online. Not so long ago, many feared putting any private information on line; today more and more of us are using Facebook and other social networking sites to communicate with family and friends. Security and privacy are still very important issues, but new security measures and increased awareness about privacy settings have increased the functionality of the Internet as a tool throughout society. Why not encourage increased awareness of privacy and use security features available in online tools to protect children, rather than a blanket statement aimed at keeping children under 13 away from these tools.

Could it be that ten year old regulations aimed at protecting our children's privacy need to be updated? Wouldn’t the first year of a new decade be the perfect time to remove one of the barriers to using 21st century tools in today’s schools?
Photo by Giuseppe Bognanni taken from Diane Cordell's Blog Post Beyond the Wall

Website owners’s fear of noncompliance with COPPA has resulted in terms of service so complex and restrictive that they block the doorway to 21st century learning possibilities. COPPA states that websites are not allowed to collect private information from anyone under 13. It does not state the site cannot be used by members under 13 years old, but it does prevent the owners of those websites from collecting private information from those under 13 without parental permission. Since the owner of a website cannot prevent someone using their site from sharing identifying information in a post or profile, the easiest way to comply with this part of COPPA is to include an explicit statement that prohibits anyone under 13 from using their site. This creates several barriers.

  1. It discourages (and usually prevents) the use of many valuable learning
    resources from being used in today's 21st century classrooms.
  2. It discourages teachers themselves from exploring and experiencing new ways of
    learning and including many 21st century resources in the design of learning
  3. It stifles innovation in the design of learning. Few companies would invest in research and design of products that be challenged as noncompliant.

There are fabulous resources and opportunities for students to learn using online tools that are not available to children under 13 due to fear of non-compliance.

A group of middle school students and their teacher recently stumbled across the popular website Shelfari. The site allows you to “create a virtual shelf to show off your books, see what your friends are reading and discover new books”. The enthusiasm of students for reading and talking about reading is exactly what every teacher and librarian tries to foster in children. And yet, these children and their teacher’s desire to use Shelfari was met with a black and white statement on the sites’ privacy guidelines that prevented the teacher from moving forward her student’s request to create online bookshelves of the books they were reading. The statement “This Site is not intended for use by children under 13” was surely included by Shelfari’s lawyers to protect them from COPPA noncompliance. The children and their teacher looked for similar sites that would allow them access to similar 21st century learning tools for creating online bookshelves and discussions about reading. Two other similar sites, Library Thing and Good Reads included similar statements. Photo Credit: Mr. Allen's Class Blog

Surely COPPA was not aimed at sites that promote reading!

Even though, the law does allow children under 13 to participate with parental permission, many website owners do not have a vehicle for verifying parental consent, thus include the blanket (nobody under 13 statements) as the easiest way to comply with COPPA.

Considering the fact that research supports social learning, such as talking about books, and considering that we currently possess the technology to engage students using online learning tools, might it not be a good time to take a second look at COPPA and update it to allow website owners to make engaging tools available to K-8 students and still protect the privacy and safety of our children.

The Broadband Data Improvement Act S 1492 100th Congress Section 215 as already amended the legislation to require elementary and secondary schools with computer access to the Internet to educate minors about appropriate online behavior, including online interactions with other individuals in social networking websites and in chat rooms and cyberbullying awareness and response. Then why not also update legislations to make websites that promote learning a resource by which to educate our children.

Currrently a few websites have taken the lead in making their tools available to students. Sites like

  • Glogster (digital poster making)
  • Animoto (digital slideshows and videos)
  • Diigo (online bookmarking)
  • Voice Thread (digital conversations around artifacts)
  • PBworks (wiki with classroom accounts feature)
  • Google (k12 collaboration applications)

now offer features and classroom friendly acceptable use policies that support the use of their tools in education. They have turned the responsibility for verifying parental permissions and educating and supervising students to educators. They have added features that allow educators to monitor the behavior of their students and teach students how to be a safe and ethical digital citizen.

My wish for the New Year would be that we remove some of the barriers for students to learn using digital tools. Perhaps its time we take a second look at COPPA and revise it so it stops being a barrier to access to 21st century learning for our children. Surely this 10 year old regulations could use a facelift to reflect the realities of how we live and learn today. Could we not revise this regulation in such a way that would encourage website owners to create classroom friendly features of their website and encourage teachers to use exciting online tools to motivate student learning and shape the next generation of digital citizens.