Monday, April 1, 2013

Watch Pandas and More on the National Zoo App

For the last two weeks I've been trying to use Windows 8 as much as possible. I'm using a Lenovo Yoga 13 to try a bunch of Windows 8 apps. One app that I tried last week that I think elementary school teachers and students will like is the National Zoo app for Windows 8. The National Zoo app features live webcam feeds of panda bears, lions and their cubs, tigers, cheetahs, and fish. Because these are live webcams sometimes you'll see the animals and sometimes you won't. If the webcam feed isn't showing the animals when you're viewing it you can switch to the gallery of still imagery.

Applications for Education
I wish that the National Zoo app had more information to accompany the imagery of the animals, but it's still a nice app that elementary school students can use to see some unique animals.

The 10 Most Popular Posts on Free Technology for Teachers in March

March is supposed to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb, but I woke up to find two inches of fresh snow on the ground. I hope that Mother Nature hasn't played the same April Fool's joke on you. As I do at the end of every month I've put together a list of the ten most popular posts on Free Technology for Teachers.

Here are the most popular posts from March, 2013:
1. Six Free Alternatives to PowerPoint and Keynote
2. Studies of iPad Use in Education
3. 13 Good Chrome Extensions and Apps for Teachers and Students
4. Soo Meta - A Nice, New Way to Create Multimedia Presentations
5. Picking the Best Platform for Your Classroom Blog
6. A Short Guide to Terms Commonly Used in Blogging
7. Street View of Everest Base Camp - And Other Resources for Learning About Mount Everest
8. Ideas for Managing Academic Blogs
9. Awesome Android Apps for Students and Teachers
10. A Simple Yet Powerful Student Blogging Activity

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Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Short Guide to Finding and Using Media on Your Blog - Part 3

In part one of this series I shared some resources for creating a gallery of media to use in your classroom blog. In part two I shared some places where you can find public domain media to use in your blog posts. In this third and final post in the series we'll take a look at Creative Commons and Fair Use of media in blog posts.

Creative Commons Works
Creative Commons is a voluntary licensing system that photographers, videographers, writers, and musicians can use to give permission to re-use their works under certain conditions. There are six different Creative Commons licenses. The least restrictive of which allows you to distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon another person’s work, even commercially, as long as you credit that person for their original creation. The most restrictive Creative Commons license allows you only to download a person’s work and share it with others as long as you credit the original creator, but you cannot change them in any way or use them commercially. You can find the list of Creative Commons licenses at

Places to Find Creative Commons media: offers a search page that links to thirteen sources of Creative Commons licensed media. Those sources are Flickr, YouTube, Google Images, Google, Jamendo, Open Clip Art Library, Fotopedia, SpinXpress, Pixabay, SoundCloud, Europeana, ccMixter, and Wikimedia Commons.

The Free Music Archive provides free, high-quality, music in a wide range of genres. The content on Free Music Archive is used under various creative commons licenses. The New York State Music Fund provided initial funding for FMA. FMA seeks to maintain a high-quality resource through the use of selected curators who approve or deny all submissions to the collection. Anyone can download music from FMA for use in podcasts, videos, and other digital presentation formats. The music collections can be searched by genre or by curator.

Morgue File provides free photos with license to remix. The Morgue File photo collection contains thousands of images that anyone can use for free in academic or commercial presentations. The image collection can be searched by subject category, image size, color, or rating. Morgue File is more than just a source for free images. The Morgue File also features a "classroom" where visitors can learn photography techniques and get tips about image editing.

Wylio is an image search engine designed to help bloggers and others quickly find, cite, and use Creative Commons licensed images. Wylio results only return images that are listed with a Creative Commons license. Wylio makes it easy to give proper attribution to the creator of the image by providing you with html code that includes attribution. All you have to do is copy the code and paste it into your blog post or webpage.

The Vimeo Music Store offers more than 45,000 music tracks. Not all of the tracks are free or Creative Commons licensed, but roughly one-third or more of them are. In the Vimeo Music Store you can search for music by genre, license type, price, and length.

Fair Use
The U.S. Copyright Office sets out four factors for determining fair use of copyrighted works. Those four factors are:
  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes.
  • The nature of the copyrighted work.
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.
In my experience in working with teachers and students all over the U.S. the most misunderstood of these four points is the last. Everyone understands that you cannot sell someone else’s works, but they don’t understand that making copies of a work whether physical or digital can devalue the original work.

There are many myths about Fair Use that state there is a percentage of a work that can be copied without permission under the rules of Fair Use. Unfortunately, all of those myths are just that, myths. The U.S. Copyright office states, The distinction between what is fair use and what is infringement in a particular case will not always be clear or easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission (

A Short Guide to Finding and Using Media on Your Blog - Part 2

In part one of this series I shared some ideas for creating a gallery of media to use in your classroom blog posts. If you don't have the time or opportunity to create your own media for blog posts then you should look for media that is in the public domain.

Public Domain works are images, writings, videos, and sounds whose copyright has expired or never had a copyright attached to them. Public Domain Sherpa offers a handy little calculator that helps you determine if a work is in the public domain.

Places to find public domain media:
Pixabay is a good place to find and download quality public domain images. You can search on Pixabay by using keywords or you can simply browse through the library of images. When you find an image you can download it in the size that suits your needs. Registered users do not have to enter a captcha code to download images. Users who do not register can download images, but they do have to enter a captcha code before downloading each picture.

The Internet Archive is a great place to find images, videos, audio recordings, and texts that are in the Public Domain. While most of the works are in the Public Domain not all of them are so make sure you check the license attached to each artifact.

The Commons on Flickr is a good resource for students in need of images for multimedia projects for history, literature, and other content areas. A requirement of contributors to The Commons is that all images are made available without copyright restrictions.

The Digital Comic Museum is a crowd-sourced collection of hundreds of classic comic books that are now in the public domain. Register users can download these comics from the site. You can browse the galleries to find comics to download. If know the name of a comic or comic publisher you can search for it by name.

The National Jukebox is an archive of more than 10,000 recordings made by the Victor Talking Machine Company between 1901 and 1925. These are recordings that were made using an acoustical recording process that captured sounds on wax cylinders. The recordings in the archive can be searched and listened to on your computer. You can search the archives by recording date, recording type, language, and target audience. The National Jukebox has also arranged playlists that you can listen to in a continuous stream. You can also embed the recordings player into your blog or website.

Sound Bible is a resource for finding and downloading free sound clips, sound effects, and sound bites. Nearly all of the sounds on Sound Bible are either public domain or labeled with a Creative Commons license. On Sound Bible you will find sounds for use in blog posts, podcasts, videos, slideshows, or other multimedia creations.

Click here for part three

A Short Guide to Finding and Using Media on Your Blog - Part 1

A blog can get boring after a while if paragraphs of text is all that ever gets posted to it. More importantly, your students will get bored posting to a blog if all they’re ever asked to do is write on it. To draw more attention to blog posts, to make them more interesting, to get students excited about posting to a blog, and to spark students into discussion use interesting pictures, videos, and audio files.

Before looking at sources of media to use in your blog posts it’s important to have some understanding of copyright, Creative Commons, and Fair Use. (Disclaimer: this is not to be construed as legal advice and is based on my understanding from a U.S.-based perspective). The best way to avoid any copyright infringement is to use your own media. If you don’t have media of your own to use in your blog posts then search for works that are in the Public Domain and works that have been labeled with Creative Commons licenses. After exhausting your search for Public Domain and Creative Commons works then you might make an argument for Fair Use of copyrighted works.

Using Your Own Media - Building a gallery of media
The best way to ensure that you don’t infringe on someone’s copyright rights is to use your own media in your blog posts. Commit to a 365 project to build up a gallery of media that you can access when you need it. A 365 project is just a way of committing to taking one picture per day. The concept can be applied to recording video and audio clips too.

Aviary's mobile image editor is a free app for iOS and Android devices. The Aviary mobile app allows you to quickly crop images and add effects to your images. What I like about Aviary's mobile app is that unlike Instagram you don't have to register or join any social networks.

To capture quick audio recordings try AudioBoo for Android and iOS devices. SoundCloud is another excellent tool for quickly creating short audio recordings. SoundCloud can be used online, on Android devices, and on iOS devices.

To organize your gallery of B-roll media try using DropItToMe to have students contribute to a DropBox folder. If you're working in a Google Apps for Education environment use shared folders in Google Drive.

Click here for part two. Click here for part three.