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.