Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Visualizing Early Washington, DC

The Imaging Research Center at the University of Maryland Baltimore County has undertaken a project to visually and virtually recreate the way that Washington, DC looked like in 1814. One of the problems facing Visualizing Early Washington DC is a lack of reliable visual history resources. Slowly the project is taking shape. You can see one aspect of the project in the interactive panoramic image below. The image is a mash-up of a sketch of Notley Young's Plantation and current 2011 imagery.

Notley Young's Plantation Location 2, Test 1 in Washington DC in Washington, DC

I learned about this neat project from the following video that I saw posted on Open Culture. Watch the video below to learn more about how this project is being put together.

Visualizing Early Washington DC from ircumbc on Vimeo.

Applications for Education
This project is a great example of what can be done through combining historical documents, images, and maps with modern mapping and modeling technology. Your students could do something similar and virtually reconstruct a historical view of their communities. To do this students could do the research online or at a local historical society then construct a virtual recreation using Google SketchUp and Google Earth.

View Mark Twain's Sketches and More at The Morgan Library & Museum

This afternoon I went on a long session of link chasing that started at this article on Read Write Web and ended at The Morgan Library & Museum's online exhibitions. The Morgan Library & Museum's online exhibitions is comprised of twenty-six online museum displays. One of those displays is Mark Twain: A Skeptic's Progress.

Mark Twain: A Skeptic's Progress is a collection of Twain's handwritten letters, sketches, and story drafts. All twenty-two of those items are displayed in a viewer that will allow you to zoom in and see the detail on each piece of paper. The online exhibit also includes a collection of photographs of Twain at home.

Applications for Education
Want to provide students with a little more detail about Twain's ways of thinking and writing? If so, have them examine the documents in Mark Twain: A Skeptic's Progress. This could be done before, after, or while they are working their way through Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer.

Free eBook for Learning the Basics of xHTML

Make Use Of recently released another good free ebook for folks interested in learning all things techy. How to Speak "Internet" Your Guide to xHTML is a thirty-nine page introduction to creating and working with xHTML code.  The guide is designed for folks who have few or no coding skills to speak of. In other words, it's designed for folks like me who know just enough about xHTML to really screw things up. This book walks you through the basics from creating links to coding images to positioning elements in your webpages. The guide concludes with directions for using your new xHTML coding skills in WordPress and Joomla.
MakeUseOf.com - Learn To Speak "Internet": Your Guide to xHTML

If you find this guide useful, you'll want to check out some of Make Use Of's other free ebooks.

Applications for Education
Whether you're looking to learn a little more about webpage design to spruce up your class website or you have students that want to learn a bit about coding on their own, this guide from Make Use Of could be helpful.

Register Your Class for Scholastic's Summer Reading Challenge

For the fifth year in a row Scholastic is holding a summer reading challenge for students. By joining the summer reading challenge students are entered into sweepstakes for book prizes. Students can also participate in weekly reading challenges.

To encourage participation in the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge teachers can register their students in bulk. Scholastic provides teachers with tools to track students' progress over the summer and communicate the goals of the summer reading challenge to parents. Scholastic also provides teachers with summer reading lists to send out to parents. Teachers registering their classes will be entered into a drawing for a classroom library and a $250 gift certificate to the Scholastic Teacher Store.

Month in Review - May's Most Popular Posts

Greetings from Maine where the weather has finally turned for the better.  The picture to the left will attest to that. That's the head of the Free Technology for Teachers health and wellness program that you see in the picture. I hope the weather is just as nice wherever you're reading this from.

Here are the most popular posts from the month of May, 2011:
1. Interesting Ways to Use an iPad in the Classroom
2. Edmodo - The Total Classroom Solution
3. Google Search Tips Posters
4. Five Free Scientific Calculators
5. How to Create a Movie Using JayCut
6. EasyBib Comes to the iPad and iPhone
7. Put the Directions to the Side, Make the Learning Central
8. Navigate the Moon on Your iPad or iPhone
9. Compare & Contrast Map - A Writing Template
10. Spider Scribe - Mind Mapping with Images, Maps, and More

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SimpleK12 is my blog marketing partner.

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Monday, May 30, 2011

The Science of Hitting a Baseball or a Softball

Sport Science on ESPN.com has couple of videos that are relevant as school winds-down and kids turn their attention to Little League baseball and softball. In MLB Vision Sport Science evaluates how quickly a player has to respond to a baseball thrown ninety miles per hour. Then to answer the question, can you really keep your eyes on the ball? Sport Science attaches an eye tracking device to Nomar Garciapara.

Watch Sport Science MLB Vision below.

In Hitting a Softball Sport Science explains the scientific and mathematical differences between hitting a baseball and hitting a softball.

Applications for Education
Throughout these videos we're dealing in hundredths of a second. These videos could be used to provide some "real world" context for a lesson on decimals and or fractions.

Snag Learning Film of the Week - The Kartal

This week's Snag Learning Film of the Week is The Kartal. The Kartal, produced by Explore.org, is a short video featuring the traditional Indian instrument of the same name. The kartal (or khartal) is a small instrument created from two blocks of wood with small metal jingles attached and played with a clapping motion. Watch the video below and learn more about it here.

Watch more free documentaries

To learn more about traditional Indian music watch Explore.org's video India's Song.

What Else Should I Read This Summer?

Yesterday, I met my mother and step-father in Portland for lunch (I had meatloaf, it was delicious). Since I was in the big city, I took some time after lunch to go to Border's and browse for a new book. Like a lot of teachers, I don't have a whole lot of time to read during the school year so the summer is when I do the bulk of my book reading. Anyway this morning I spent some time thinking about what I want to read this summer and what follows is what I've come up with. I'd love to have some suggestions to add to the list. If you have any must-reads for my list, please leave a comment.

Education Books
And What Do You Mean by Learning?
Mindstorms: Children, Computers, And Powerful Ideas
(Yes, I realize that Mindstorms is "old" but I've never read it and I find Papert's work intriguing to say the least).
Teach Like a Champion
(This is a book that we've been fed excerpts of at my school this year. I want to have the whole context of the work).

History Books
Colonel Roosevelt
American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House
The Tycoons: How Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould, and J. P. Morgan Invented the American Supereconomy

Just for Fun Books
Crossing The Gates Of Alaska
A Walk Across America
No Shortage of Good Days

Considering that the books on Roosevelt and Jackson each approach 800 pages, if get through all nine of these books I'll be pretty happy with myself.

What are you reading this summer? Leave a comment and let us all know.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Guest Post - Sources of Funding and Free Stuff for Teachers

by David Andrade, http://tinyurl.com/edtechguy

Teachers have always had to scrounge for funding and the current economic situation only makes this more of an issue. Even with government stimulus packages and big grants, teachers don't see much money for our individual use. We've all wished we had more money to purchase books, supplies, equipment, and other items for our students and our classrooms. But what do we do when the money just isn't there?
The first place to look is grants. There are a lot of grant sources out there. Not all of them are easy to get though. I always suggest that people ask for help from grant writers or other teachers who have been successful in getting grants. Most grants have tips and advice on their own web site also.

Some schools may qualify for Priority School District grants and other State and Federal grants. These are for low income districts and can be used for supplies and equipment to help with extra programs related to drop out prevention and improving student performance.

A great resource for funding classroom projects is Donors Choose. Donors Choose was actually started by teachers. You sign up for an account, fill out a project proposal, selecting the items you need from a variety of vendors, and then people with money to donate go to Donors Choose and select projects to fund. I have had multiple projects funded through Donors Choose. It is a very simple process and the staff can help you with any problems.

Corporate grants are another source of funding. ToyotaToshibaVerizon,MicrosoftBest Buy, and Target all have grant programs you can apply for.

Some vendors have their own grant programs, special pricing or can help you find grants to buy their products. Smart Technologies, Epson, Mimio andVernier are some of the companies that will work with you to hep you find funding.

Donations are another source. Local Businesses may be looking to donate money, supplies or equipment. Many companies would rather donate old equipment and supplies to a school rather than just throw it out. Your school gets supplies and the company gets a tax write off. I have gotten lab supplies from a DNA company that updated their labs, a computer from a small company that upgraded theirs, and our school has gotten office supplies and furniture from a nearby business that was moving their headquarters. Many teachers have contacts at area businesses through friends or family. Use these contacts to your advantage.

Do more with less. Look for cheaper or free alternatives to the major brands. There are a lot of manufacturers of interactive white boards out there. Shop around and find the best deal. Make your own white boards using melamine coated hardboard from a hardware store at a fraction of the cost of a commercial white board. 

Use free software and web services instead of paying for licensed software. There is a free resource for pretty much any paid software (check this blog you are reading along with Educational Technology Guy for some great free resources). Google is a great place to start for some great free services (email, calendar, office suite, and more).

Partner with local colleges. Sometimes they have older equipment that they can donate to you. They may also have grants that they can get that can also benefit the K-12 system.

Look for grants and funding opportunities on the web. TechLearning has a great section on funding tips. There is a Grant Guru column, as well as a data base of grant sources. The TL Advisor Blogs also have some great ideas and free resources.

Edutopia and Nortel Learn It also have grant and funding resources. And of course, you can always "Google" for more information. Educational conferences are another great way to find funding resources and talk with vendors on different ways of funding purchases.

You can also look at professional societies for the subject you teach. For example, I use aviation and aerospace examples to teach physics. I have gotten grants and resource from the Air Force Association and American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). Many of these types of groups have classroom grants. 

Zondle - Games to Support Learning

Zondle is a provider of free games designed to help students practice recalling information. Zondle offers hundreds of combinations of topics and games. When you sign into Zondle select a subject area and topic. After selecting a topic Zondle will generate a list of games based on that topic that you can play. Registered users of Zondle can embed the games into their own websites and blogs. Learn more about Zondle here and in the video below.

Try a sample Zondle game below.

Applications for Education
The Zondle site talks a lot about a feature for teachers to create student accounts and monitor the progress of their students. I searched and searched but couldn't figure out how to enable that option (it could very well be something obvious I'm overlooking). That said, if you're looking for some good review games for elementary school and middle school students to play, Zondle could be a good resource for you. If you have a classroom website go ahead and put a few Zondle games on it for your students to play.

America The Story of Us - Lesson Resources & More

This morning I turned on the television and saw that the History Channel was running a marathon presentation of their documentary series America The Story of Us. The entire series is twelve hours long. In those twelve hours the series covers everything from the settlements of Jamestown and Plymouth to the election of President Obama. The whole series cannot be viewed online, but History does have a lot of video excerpts from the series available online. If do have access to the whole series (you can buy at 60% from Amazon) History.com has good teacher guides available for free. For teachers there is a pdf guide to the whole series and pdf guides to each episode.

If you are interested in quizzing your students before or after watching an episode, the Ultimate History Quiz is based on the information in the series.

Here's a video introduction to the series.

If you're interested in buying the series on DVD, here's my affiliate link to Amazon's page.

Week in Review - A Big Thank You

I have to start this week in review by saying thank you to everyone that emailed, Tweeted, Facebooked, and commented in support of my efforts to stop someone from wholesale plagiarism of my posts. That issue combined with the normal end-of-the-year stress that all educators deal with made for a long week. It was good to hear so much positive feedback. Thank you all. Speaking of end-of-the-year stuff, congratulations to all of you who wrapped up your school year this week.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Put the Directions to the Side, Make the Learning Central
2. Two from the Archive - So Your Content Got Stolen, Now What?
3. Go Pileus - Drag and Drop File Sharing
4. What's Up With That? - Guest Post
5. Compare & Contrast Map - A Writing Template
6. webNotes - Takes Notes On Your Android Device and Computer
7. How to Create a Movie Using JayCut

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Friday, May 27, 2011

A Technology Integration Matrix with Video Examples

The Florida Center for Instructional Technology has a fantastic technology integration matrix for teachers. The matrix, which I learned about from one of Steven Anderson's Tweets, is a five by five grid of suggestions and examples for using technology in education. The vertical axis of the matrix refers to learning environments and goals. Those environments are active, collaborative, constructive, authentic, and goal directed. The horizontal axis of the grid refers to the level of use of technology. The levels of use are entry, adoption, adaptation, infusion, and transformation. You can click on any of those terms in the matrix for further explanations.

To use the Technology Integration Matrix pick one element from each axis to watch video examples of using technology in education. There are video examples for each part of matrix. The videos address mathematics, science, social studies, and language arts topics.

Applications for Education
This Technology Integration Matrix could be a great resource for teachers who want to use technology in their classrooms, but just aren't sure how to get started. This matrix could also be a good guide for anyone who is trying to develop professional development activities in the area of technology integration.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

EasyBib Comes to the iPhone and iPad

The popular citation generation tool EasyBib recently released a free iPhone and iPad application. Probably the neatest aspect of the EasyBib app is that users can scan a book's or magazine's ISBN barcode to record the information necessary to create a proper citation.  Users can add citations on the app and email those citations to themselves from the app. Just as if you were using the EasyBib website to create properly formatted citations, the app will generate MLA format citations for free. If you want to generate citations in APA or Chicago style you will have to pay for a subscription to the service.

Learn more about the new EasyBib iOS app in the video below.

Applications for Education
I like the promise of the barcode scanning aspect of the app. If it works as promised, it could be a great tool for students to use to make sure they've gotten all the information they need about a they've borrowed from a library before returning it.

If you have never tried EasyBib, it's very popular with the students at my school, here is a brief video introduction to it.

Stop Blaming the Technology

Warning, this is an editorial rant about plagiarism in response to the dealings I've had this week with a person who has been stealing blog posts from Free Technology for Teachers and passing them off as his own. If you're not interested in my personal fight against cyber plagiarism, feel free to skip this post. I promise the next post will feature a cool tech tool for you.

On Tuesday morning I discovered that a splogger based in Canada, who also claims to be a teacher, had built nearly his entire site on posts that were stolen from Free Technology for Teachers. So as not to drive any traffic to the offender, I won't link to him here. We're talking about somewhere in the neighborhood of 100+ posts. Incredibly, some of the posts included my references to things that had happened at my school or at my home. This is not the first time that I've had something like this happen so I took my own advice about how to deal with plagiarism and thought that it would be resolved quickly as it usually is when a splogger is exposed. So I sent off an email and demanded that the splogger stop plagiarizing my materials immediately. Instead of apologizing for his mistake, the person apologizes by blaming the technology he was using for his plagiarism. The pattern is present through a series of emails. What you'll see below are the emails, with addresses and names removed, that have been sent since.

From me:
It has come to my attention that you are blatantly plagiarizing my work. Going through your archives it appears that you are plagiarizing multiple posts per day from my blog Free Technology for Teachers (http://freetech4teachers.com). I am asking that you immediately stop doing that and remove all posts plagiarized from Free Technology for Teachers within the next 48 hours. As you are claiming to be an "educational" organization I am sure you would not accept plagiarized work from students and what you are doing is not only modeling a poor practice it is also a violation of copyright law.

No worries, will delete the autoblogger. It was not my intention to use content maliciously and rss feeds are used to desimate the content in more than simply reader format, but be aware that depending on the rss provider you use, you can track how and who is reading your material even if other bloggers use your content on their site.  You can even make your adds follow the content and get $$ for it.   (maybe have a look at feedburner for your site- because I am sure your content will be used by others continuously)   I am not actually sure which articles are yours since I have several autobloggers running and it ran on autopilot for the last little while.  My settings are supposed to give the author credit, but the rss feed you are using must not have the right protocols set up.   My goal is only to share content with no intention of not giving credit.  .  In fact, many of the links in your articles actually lead back to your site.   My site has most likely generated many hits for yours, but I want to respect your wishes and will no longer use your content.   I will use some of the concepts you share as I read them in my rss reader, but I will generate my own articles based on these concepts.  If you can identify any articles that are yours specifically i will make sure your name is in the article and I  will not use your articles.  Sorry for any frustration I have caused, it was a complement on the quality of your work and I shared it to many.  Keep doing what your are doing and I am sure we are both interested in moving the cause of education forward, something I look forward to continue doing.

From me:
Thank you for your attention to this matter. I understand that you are using an auto poster. You're not the first person to use one to lift content from my blog and I'm sure you won't be the last. That does not forgive the practice that you are using. Blaming a technology for plagiarism is akin to blaming the weapon for a crime. Regarding your claim that you have linked to me and provided me with traffic, I saw no evidence at all that you had ever intentionally linked to me. Likewise, your site's Alexa ranking is in the 2.6 million neighborhood while my site is 113,000. It's not likely that you're sending me any traffic of significance.

I will be continuing to check that you have removed all content that you took from my site. Please remove it all within the next 48 hours.

Will begin removing content as we speak.  Please be aware that I will remove what I believe to be yours, if you see someting you want removed that I missed please let me know(as I said, i am usure of what is yours). Starting the process now.  

From me:
Please be aware that it is your responsibility to know the source of all of your posts if you did not write them yourself. My best estimate is that you have close to 100 of my posts in various places on your website. It is not my responsibility to manually point out to you which ones are mine, you should know. I will point out a few more to you after that if my content is still appearing on your site I will file a formal DMCA takedown request with your web host.
First off, you may want to tone it down a bit, I never intended to use your content inappropriately- yes according to you I did, but be aware what I read on autoblogging led me to believe it was accepted practice--my mistake- This is a gray area.    I spent  several hours going over and deleting post that I believed were yours, I will go over all of the posts again tonight,   My site was simply used by local teachers, I dont even have adsense set up, unlike you I am not profiting from my site yet, it is meant to aggregate content from various sources on content teachers may want to read-     Most other blogs I have used use a very different angle than your and content is clearly labled towards the author and their site, but what I noticed (as I stated deleting your content)is that only some of your posts have authors (which is why I began using them in the first place, since I thought they feel into the criteria of acceptable use for Autoblogging--) and most link back to your site(I should have been more diligent with the one who did not meet these criteria).   Rest assured, 1. I plan on never using your content.  2.   I am doing everything I can to make sure I erase all your content.  3.  I will even right a letter on my blog directing traffic to your site and apologizing for using your content without proper authorization.    Please let me know if you are satisfied with the changes and we can move on with our projects and lives. 

From me:
Thank you. Although I have gone through and commented on the posts that you still have up that were taken from me.
I cannot believe that you are continuing to blame the technology you use for your mistakes. It very clearly says at the top of my blog WRITTEN BY RICHARD BYRNE! 

More of my editorializing:
Copying entire posts without permission, not critiquing or adding value, then simply sticking a link to the source is plagiarism. You cannot copy an article from The New York Times and republish it in another place without permission, why would you think you can do that with blog posts. Copying entire posts from another person and not making any attempt to cite the source is the most egregious type of plagiarism. Blaming the technology you choose to use or blaming the technology I use to create my content is insulting and lame.

Questions for you, my fantastic readers:
Am I overreacting to this person? 
Would you handle this differently? If so, how? 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How to Create a Movie Using JayCut

Yesterday I announced that Free Technology for Teachers and Next Vista for Learning had partnered to create the first Made in the Cloud Video Contest. At the end of that announcement I mentioned that my free ebook Making Videos on the Web offers instructions on how to use some web-based tools to create videos. Included in that ebook are directions for using JayCut to create a video. To further enhance those directions, I've created a series of JayCut tutorial videos. The videos are embedded below.

JayCut how to, part 1.

JayCut how to, part 2.

We Choose the Moon - 50 Years Later

Fifty years ago today President Kennedy announced to Congress that the United States would put a man on the moon before the end of the 1960's. Today, NASA featured a short video that included the audio from that speech to Congress. The video explains the significance of Kennedy's proclamation in 1961 and today. Watch the video below.

On a related note, here is a video I found on YouTube that features President Kennedy's speech to Congress and the moon landing itself.

Another related resource that you should check out is We Choose the Moon. We Choose the Moon is an interactive recreation of the Apollo 11 mission from start to finish.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Compare & Contrast Map - A Writing Template

Read Write Think is a good source of interactive writing templates. I've previously featured a handful of their templates including this one and this one. Today, I would like to draw your attention to Read Write Think's Compare & Contrast Map.

The Compare & Contrast Map is a template for creating a comparative essay. Using the template students are guided through writing three styles of comparison essays. To get started students identify two things that they wish to compare and or contrast. Then they choose if they want to write a "whole to whole" essay, a "similarities to differences" essay, or a "point to point" essay. Whichever essay type they choose, students are guided through the types of information they should put in each part of their essays. When their essays are complete students can share them via email or print them.

Applications for Education
For younger students who need help formatting an essay, the Read Write Think templates can be very helpful.   If you haven't spent much time exploring the resources on Read Write Think's classroom resources page, I encourage you to do so.

Videographics - Short Modern History Videos

The Economist is a magazine that I enjoy reading when I have the time to sit down and fully digest an issue. Recently, I was exploring their site and learned that they have a series of videos called videographics. These videographics, available on YouTube, use narrated graphics to explain timely topics like Unrest in the Arab World, A History of Modern Sudan, and the FIFA World Cup.

The Economist Videographics playlist is embedded below.

Applications for Education
These videographics are appropriate for use in high school courses that discuss current events. Some of the videos, such as this one about Kashmir, provide a longer range overview of a topic making them appropriate for use in courses dealing with historical topics.

ESOL Courses - Free Online English Lesson Activities

ESOL Courses is a good source of free online activities for English language learners. ESOL Courses provides activities for everyone from beginners just learning the alphabet to advanced students preparing to speak in English at a job interview. In all there are fifteen categories of learning activities and each category has half a dozen or more activities. The activities range from simple matching exercises to listening comprehension activities. In fact, there is an entire category devoted just to listening comprehension.
Applications for Education
I don't think that the activities on ESOL Courses should replace direct instruction from a teacher. That said, these activities could be good to use as supplemental practice activities. Most activities provide some type of instant feedback to students.

I learned about ESOL Courses on Twitter from its creator Sue Lyon-Jones.

Made in the Cloud - A Video Contest for Teachers and Students

Image Credit: Capt. Kodak
Lights, Camera, Action! It's time to start creating videos for the Made in the Cloud Video Contest!

In collaboration with Rushton Hurley of Next Vista for Learning I am happy to announce the first Made in the Cloud Video Contest. What is it you ask? It's a video contest for teachers and students to help others learn through videos. It's also an opportunity to learn about all of the wonderful web-based video and audio production tools available for free.

Prizes! We've Got Prizes!
There are two strands in this contest; one strand for teachers and another for students. The winners of the teacher strand will receive one year passes to Simple K12's Teacher Learning Community. The passes include access to all of the recorded and live training webinars in the community as well as all of the text-based learning resources. These passes are valued at $297. The winners of the student strand will receive iTunes gift cards. 

Finalists will be selected according to these scoring guidelines and the winners will be selected by audience voting at the 21st Century Learning Symposium in August 2011. 

Rules and Contest Details.

The purpose of the contest is to have teachers and students create short (under 90 seconds) videos in which they share something that will help another person learn something new. In the past entrants have done things like sharing their best "tricks" for remembering mathematics equations.

The other purpose of the contest is to get teachers and students to try out web-based video production tools. We've chosen to highlight JayCut, but you are free to use any other web-based tools you like, just let us know what you use. To learn how to use JayCut and a bunch of other free web-based audio and video, please check out my free ebook Making Videos on the Web - A Guide for Teachers.

The complete list of contest rules, entry requirements, and entry forms can be found here on Next Vista for Learning.

Two from the Archive - So Your Content Got Stolen, Now What?

I see some of my individual blog posts re-used improperly at least once a week. At this point I've kind of come to expect that and don't get too worked up about it. However, this morning I found one of the most egregious examples of cyber plagiarism that I've ever seen. Someone, who I won't link to here because I don't want them to get any more traffic from my work,  has created an entire website constructed of posts written by myself and another well-known edublogger. A handful of people on Twitter asked me how I handle a case of plagiarism like that. Rather than reinventing the wheel, here are two posts I wrote last summer about the topic.

What to do when you see your blog posts being stolen. 
If you find yourself in the position of seeing your content improperly reused, here are 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.

What to do if you want to reuse someone's blog post(s).
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.

Update: The infringing party has responded by blaming his plagiarism on using an "auto posting" service that grabs RSS feeds. If you use an "auto posting" service to steal other people's work it's not the technology's fault! It's you're fault for not using the technology properly. When a car is stolen we don't blame the Slim Jim that was used in breaking into the car, we blame the person using the Slim Jim. Anyway, keeping my fingers crossed that the person follows through on his promise to remove the plagiarized works.

Monday, May 23, 2011

ISS Astro Viewer - Track the International Space Station

ISS Astro Viewer is a neat little use of Google Maps to track the position of the International Space Station. The ISS Astro Viewer shows visitors the location of the International Space Station relative to the Earth. There are two maps featured on the ISS Astro Viewer. One map displays the current view of the Earth as you would see it from the ISS. The other map displays the current position of the ISS and its position track relative to the Earth.
It appears that the astronauts see the oceans more often than not. :)

ISS Astro Viewer offers a Google Gadget that you can add to your iGoogle page or embed into your blog or website as I have done below.

Applications for Education
ISS Astro Viewer could be a nice little tool to add to your lessons on space science. The Observation page on ISS Astro Viewer provides a list of times that the ISS can be visible from your position on Earth.

H/T to Google Maps Mania.

Dozens of SMART Board Tutorial Videos

Fusion Universal produces short instructional videos about a wide range of technology topics. A subscription is required for viewing most of their videos, but their videos about SMART Boards appear to be entirely free for the viewing. Fusion Universal offers more than three dozen SMART Board tutorial videos. The videos cover everything from turning on a SMART Board to creating lesson activities. The videos do have to be viewed on the Fusion Universal site as they do not offer an option for sharing the videos any other way.

H/T to Dianne Krause.

Applications for Education
If you're the person responsible for training people in your school how to use SMART Boards, directing people to these videos could save you some time by not having to repeatedly answer common questions like, "how do I turn this thing on?"

Great Wall Across the Yangtze - Snag Learning Film of the Week

China's Three Gorges Dam is the largest hydroelectric dam in the world. The completion of the dam is regarded by Chinese officials as a marvelous engineering and economic success. But the completion of the dam had a tremendous economic and cultural impact on the people who live upriver from the dam.

In Great Wall Across the Yangtze PBS filmmaker Ellen Perry examines the effect of the Three Gorges Dam's construction on the people living upriver from the dam. Using a mix of new and archival footage the film also explains why the dam was built. Through the film students will learn not only why the dam was constructed but why some people were opposed to its construction.
Watch more free documentaries
You can watch the film in its entirety and find discussion questions for it here.

Minutes.io - Quickly Take & Share Meeting Notes

Minutes.io is a free and simple service for recording minutes during a meeting and sharing them with all meeting participants. When you create a new meeting document on Minutes.io each meeting attendant can be assigned to each note regarding the meeting. Each note in your meeting document can be assigned a "note type." For example in the meeting I created each participant's name was entered alongside a "to do" note with a due date.

When you've finished recording notes from your meeting you can share them via email or share the link to the meeting notes by posting the url on your preferred social media service. Minutes.io also gives you a printer-friendly option to print your notes.

Applications for Education
Minutes.io could be used by students working in collaborative groups to assign tasks to group members and track the completion of those tasks.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Go Pileus - Drag and Drop File Sharing

Go Pileus is a simple free service for quickly sharing files. To use Go Pileus just drag a file from your desktop to the Go Pileus page in your browser. Alternatively, you can select upload on Go Pileus to browse for files on your computer. Once your chosen file is uploaded Go Pileus will create a short url for your file. Share that url with the people you want to be able to view and save your file. You can use Go Pileus without creating an account, but your files expire after thirty minutes. Creating an account on Go Pileus will allow your files to be accessible longer.

Applications for Education
Go Pileus could be useful for students working on collaborative projects to quickly swap files that they need to share with each other. Go Pileus also makes it easy for teachers to post documents online that they would like their students to read and discuss.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Put the Directions to the Side, Make the Learning Central

We’ve all heard about and experienced the Digital Natives’ ability to navigate the world of technology, and I am not going to contradict Marc Prensky’s enormously influential thesis in any way, but I do have an observation to make, as well as a suggestion (skip to the end if you just want the tip)! This generation’s skills in navigating hypertext, inhabiting virtual and all other kinds of technological realms, all while multitasking- these do not necessarily translate to easily picking up tech skills that relate to, well, “work.” So, we sometimes see students of all learning styles struggling to make sense of sequential steps needed to complete a project using technology. Such skills continue to be emphasized in district and state technology standards. Let’s take these expectations from my good old state of Massachusetts (well, Commonwealth) for what students in Grade 6-8 will be able to do:

G6-8: 1.15 Produce simple charts and graphs from a spreadsheet.
G6-8: 1.16 Distinguish among different types of charts and graphs, and choose the most appropriate type to represent given data.
G6-8: 1.17 Apply advanced formatting features to customize tables, charts, and graphs.

Quite ambitious, in my opinion, to expect EVERY student to be able to demonstrate these skills at these grade levels, but I am also not here to rail against the standards-based movement.

For the past couple of years, I’ve been pleased to be in a district where these skills are not taught in isolation but in the context of meaningful curriculum-based projects. What’s tough is that the technology, and all the steps involved in “learning it,” can sometimes get in the way of the curriculum, which is pretty much the opposite of what teachers and technology specialists would like to happen.

Let’s take an example, purely hypothetical. A teacher and technology specialist are implementing a project where 8th grade students are creating a nonlinear PowerPoint presentation (trust me, I know there are other options). The project involves a “home slide” and hyperlinks to various slides illustrating topics and subtopics, about which the project is meant to demonstrate a higher level of critical thinking. The steps to organizing the home slide are demoed to the class, along with the specific settings of transitions and such that will make the presentations work well. However, these steps are complicated enough (even though they also align with those technology expectations) that both the teacher and technology specialist can end up spending the bulk of the time repeating steps to students individually. As a result, the teacher’s scaffolding of students’ understanding and demonstration of content knowledge can suffer. As the Digital Natives would say: Fail.

One obvious accommodation that can be made is to provide written directions in the form of steps on the whiteboard, a projection of the steps on the LCD, or a handout (which we actually did in the above case, so it wasn’t really a Fail). These are a step in the right direction, but in my observation it’s difficult for students to alternate their attention between the screen they are working on and whatever other medium you have used to restate the steps. Thus, the directions are still somewhat “in the way.”

Now, I’ll come to the suggestion I teased at the beginning of this post. We just rolled out Google Apps for Education at my middle school, in the process incorporating a meaningful curriculum-based assignment (where possible) when each cluster came into the lab for an orientation. While planning these activities and showing teachers how the comment feature in Google Docs could be used to provide students with feedback (once their doc is shared with the teacher), we thought of another use for comments! When creating an assignment template for students, comments that highlight directions and tech skills can be inserted right next to specific parts of the assignment (for example, how to insert and site an image). Doing so is really simple:

1. Create a new document to be used as a template for students’ work.
2. Highlight specific points of the assignment where you feel the language load of the directions will be challenging for any/all of your students. From the Google Docs menu, select Insert>Comment.
3. Write step-by-step those areas of the assignment for which you anticipate students may need clarification (remember later the docs you have done this with, so that you can copy and paste procedures that are repeated across assignments)
4. Share the document with your students as “View Only” with the anticipation that they will need to make their own editable copy. Like this!

This strategy was also helpful for a science spreadsheet project, not only to help students process the steps for inserting a graph, but also to ensure that they included the teacher’s target concepts when making a prediction:

Though using Google Docs comments in this way was a simple modification to the assignment, it had a number of results. First of all, the comments served as assistive technology that brought the assignment in compliance for the number of students with IEP accommodations in the classroom (i.e. “Provide directions visually as well as verbally”). By applying the accomomdation universally, it also helped all those other Digital Natives that benefit from having directions available for reference, right in the same screen in which they were working. Finally, because there was less necessity for repeating directions constantly, the teacher was able to focus on getting the best content understanding, output and critical thinking out of his students. I thought he put it really well when he said it “elevated the assignment.” That’s something that is always nice to hear about technology!

Sean J. Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and instructional technology specialist working in the public school setting. He is the author of the blog SpeechTechie: Looking at Technology Through a Language Lens and one of the editors of TherapyApp411.