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Monday, July 19, 2010

Smart Kit - Puzzles, Games, and Riddles

Smart Kit (no affiliation with SMART) offers a large collection of games, puzzles, and riddles for students of all ages. The content of the collection ranges from simple drilling-style games to challenging word puzzles. There are sixteen categories of games offered by Smart Kit. The categories of most interest to educators are probably the math puzzles and word puzzles categories.

Applications for Education
In addition to the online games, Smart Kit offers a selection of games and puzzles that can be printed for offline use. The printables collection could make Smart Kit a good resource for teachers whose students have limited access to the computers in their classrooms.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
HeyZap - Strategy Games for Your Class Website
ABCya - Fun, Educational Games for K-5
Starfall - Interactive Reading Lessons and Games

An Interesting Webinar for Math & History Teachers

Learn Central is a great place for teachers to find free and interesting professional development webinars. This week's email from Learn Central alerted me to a webinar that I think will be interesting for both mathematics and history teachers. On Wednesday, July 21 at 6:30pm PST Learn Central will be hosting a webinar titled Egyptian Math. According the published agenda Egyptian Math will explore the relationship between Egyptians and the development of modern mathematics. The webinar will also discuss the opportunities Egyptian math provides for teaching mathematics in 2010.

Applications for Education
From the description and agenda it sounds like the Egyptian Math webinar could be a great opportunity for mathematics and history teachers to think about ways in which they can create cross-curricula lesson plans.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Math Class Needs a Makeover
Interactivate - Interactive Math Assessments
200+ Free Mathematics Books

So Your Content Got Stolen, Now What?

Earlier today I published a post about the proper ways to reuse the content of another blog. Unfortunately, not everyone will read and or agree with that post and will continue to improperly reuse other people's content. If you find yourself in the position of seeing your content improperly reused, this post has some steps you can take to remedy the problem.

First, if you are at all concerned about people reusing your content you need to monitor your digital content. Google Alerts provides a very easy way to discover the unauthorized reuse of your content. Simply create a Google Alerts account and create alerts using keywords and phrases common to your blog. For example, I have alerts set up for many variations of my blog's title and for my name. My friend Sue Waters has some great advice about monitoring the use of your content and name online. In that same post Sue also explains how to use some other services to monitor your content and name online.

When you find your content reused by someone else here is a progression of steps you can take to remedy the problem.

Step 1: Try to determine if the person is doing it maliciously or innocently. This is important because it influences how I take my next steps. Determining this can be tricky, but generally if the blog reusing your content doesn't allow comments, doesn't have a contact email or form, uses a lot of inappropriate advertising, and or is reusing the content of many other blogs in the same way they're using your content they are intentionally stealing your content. In some cases though I've had teachers/ principals reuse my content innocently because they didn't understand fair use.

Step 2a: If there is a contact form or contact email available and if you think the person is improperly reusing your content because he/she doesn't understand fair use, send a strong, but polite (I left out polite once and I later wished I hadn't) email explaining the person that what he/she is doing is improper practice. Be sure to include some suggestions for properly reusing your content such as using truncated feed widgets. Feel free to share the info in this post with them.

Step 2b: If the offending blog doesn't have a contact form or email address posted, run a WHOIS search using Go Daddy, Whois.net, or Whois-Search to see who has registered the domain. When there isn't a proxy in place it's easy to locate the contact information (email, phone, fax, mail) for the person who registered the domain. Use that information to contact the offending site or blog's owner. In some cases the person who registered the domain might have used a proxy to hide their contact information. If that is the case it can be hard to find the contact information. Likewise, a Whois search will not work for subdomains. An example of a blog on a subdomain is contentthief.blogspot.com.

Before going any further I need to remind you that although I did well on the LSAT I am not a lawyer and do not pretend to be an expert on copyright and intellectual property law. Consult your lawyer if you think you need legal advice.

Step 2c: Provided you've found the contact information for the person improperly reusing your content and you think he/she is doing that maliciously go ahead and use the phrase copyright violation in the email you send. Sternly tell the person that they are violating your copyright rights, provide an example for the person, and give a clear deadline (48 hours is more than sufficient) by which they must remove your content from their site. Be sure to include wording indicating that you will pursue legal action if they don't take down your content. Usually, this takes care of the problem. Sometimes I hear back from the offending party and other times I do not hear back from the offender, but they do remove the stolen content.

Step 3: If you cannot get in touch with the offending party and or they do not remove your content, you can try to contact their hosting service. Inform the hosting service of the problem and be sure to give specific examples of plagiarism. I've done this only twice. Once I got a response and the other time I didn't get a response.

Step 4: The public option. If you cannot get anywhere using steps 1-3 above go ahead and publicly "out" the offender. Post it on your blog that someone is stealing your content, post it on Twitter, and generally try to embarrass the offending party into taking down your content.

If all of the above fails, then you have gone beyond any steps I've had to take and suggest that you consult a lawyer if you want to pursue the matter. But take solace in the fact that most splogs don't last very long.

So You Want to Reuse a Blog Post?

I often come across blogs that are reusing the content of other blogs without the author's permission. Unfortunately, I've even seen this done by school technology integrators, school administrators, and teachers. Generally, when I ask those people why they have copied and pasted someone else's content, the answer is something along the lines of "well the content is good and I want my teachers to be able to find it all in one place." I understand those peoples' desire to centralize content, but copying and pasting entire blog posts of someone else is not the correct way to do it. It's not correct for at least two reasons. First, it's plagiarism. Second, whether they run ads or not and whether they admit it or not, bloggers love page views. We love to see how many people are coming to our blogs. And by lifting entire posts, you're denying us those page views we crave.

Sue Waters has some great words of wisdom about this issue too. One of the things that Sue points out is that while the web is all about sharing, it's also important to respect the time and effort that a person puts into his or her blog posts. I encourage you to read all of Sue's comments here.

So then if you are trying to collate good information to share with your colleagues what is an appropriate way to do it? One way to do it is to use the title and perhaps a few sentences of the blog post then place a "read more" link to direct readers to the actual source and full content. Another appropriate way to collate and distribute many blog posts is to place an RSS feed widget in the sidebar of your blog. These widgets will automatically update with blog post titles and the beginning of the new articles when your favorite blogs update.

RSS feed widgets will accomplish two things for you. First, once you've set-up and installed the widget you won't have to go to each blog individually to find the latest updates. Second, RSS feed widgets will provide the links to the direct sources of each article so that your visitors can read and comment on the original author's words.

Where can you get one of these RSS feed widgets? If you're using Blogger, there is a built-in capacity for this. To add and display the RSS feeds of other blogs select "design" from your Blogger dashboard, choose "add gadget," then select "blog list." The blog list gadget will prompt you to add the urls of your favorite blogs. If you're using another platform for your blog or you don't like the one offered through Blogger, here are some 3rd party customizable RSS feed widgets; Pheed.me, and WebRSS. Of the two, I've found WebRSS easier for first time users to customize and install. If you're using WordPress.org for your blog here's another widget you can try. Finally, Robin Good has a long list of tools and widgets that you can use to syndicate RSS feeds.

New from Common Craft - Secure Passwords

Common Craft recently released a new video that everyone who banks, shops, or just uses email should watch. Secure Passwords in Plain English walks viewers through the pitfalls of weak passwords and how to create strong passwords. For example, did you know that you shouldn't use words that appear in the dictionary? The video also explains why you shouldn't use the same password for all of your online accounts. You can watch the video on the Common Craft website.

Applications for Education
Secure Passwords in Plain English should be required viewing for students before we set them loose to create accounts online. This summer a friend of mine is teaching an adult ed course on computers for beginners, he'll be receiving an email with the link to this video right away.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Computer Hardware in Plain English
The World Wide Web in Plain English
Augmented Reality in Plain English

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