REVIEW: Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free by @doctorow


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

I remember when, while still studying at university, I attended my first educational conference. It was the History Teachers Association National Conference. Being new, I had no idea how to choose what sessions to attend. That is how I ended up in a session reviewing the recent changes to the senior syllabus. To add to matters, I walked in late and the session had already started. There were comments being thrown around left, right and centre. On one hand I felt lost and out of place, but on the other hand it demonstrated to me what was required, both in regards to appreciation of the complexity of the curriculum, as well as the work I still needed to do in order to get my head around the topic. I had a similar feeling reading Cory Doctorow’s book Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free – Laws for the Internet Age.

Author, blogger and activitst, Doctorow provides a vision of now. Along with critics such as Quinn Norton and Audrey Watters, he captures a dystopian side of technology too often overlooked in the mainstream media. Although there are those such as Sherry Turkle who highlight the negative impacts of technology, Doctorow focuses on the choices that are so often dictated onto society by governments and large corporations.

Influenced by Arthur C. Clarke, Doctorow frames this discussion around three ‘laws’:

  1. Any time someone puts a lock on something that belongs to you and wont give you the keys that lock isnt there for your benefit.
  2. Fame won’t make you rich, but you can’t get paid without it.
  3. Information doesn’t want to be free, people do.

Through his investigations he touches on how coding works, including ways it can be broken, and why the use of digital locks, hidden code and DRM is a problem, not a solution. He talks about how with access to the biggest audience machine ever a little bit of fame can go a long way. However, this can also lead us into the trap of handing over rights to our work in the name of popularity and promotion. Doctorow also addresses the place of copyright in a digital age, exploring aspects, such as censorship, remixes, national firewalls and the spread of ideas.

Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age does not make the claim, like some, that ‘Google’ is making us dumb, rather that corporations are creating a world that restricts our freedoms and limits our privacy. The concern is not the strangers online supposedly waiting for prey to stalk upon, but 1’s and 0’s mined unbeknownst to us by online companies. Although there is a lot of fear associated with all of this, it does not have to be that way and Doctorow is keen to point out that there is still hope. The question though is what tomorrow are we willing to fight for? This is an important read not only to appreciate the world that we are in, but to build an awareness of the impact of the choices made either by us or for us each and every day.

Here is a collection of quotes for a different perspective on the book:


While for those interested in Doctorow’s ideas, I recommend the following videos:



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What Sort of Teacher Are You?


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

In a recent article for The Atlantic, Alexandra Samuel suggests that when it comes to parents, there are three clear types: limiters, enablers and mentors. Limiters keep their children away from the internet meaning that they are kept out of the digital world. Enablers trust their kids online, but leave them to their own accord. Mentors on the other hand, walk hand in hand guiding producing. After reading the article, I was left wondering whether the same categories could be applied to teachers?

I know that technology is required in every classroom and many schools are full of devices, but it seems that one of the greatest variables to success is the teacher willing to embrace it. Dr. Jane Hunter has published a book about ‘high possibility classrooms’. What seems to come out of this investigation is that success is often based on the strength of the teacher. If we were to consider Samuel’s three types, many of the teachers who created high possibility classrooms could be described as mentors, teachers who stood side-by-side with students. Although on the one hand they make possible certain opportunities, they also supported students with these being wary of the challenges and consequences. An example of this is Lee Hewes’ work with Mindcraft. For without his support, the opportunities for students to be in a virtual world simply would not exist.

In contrast, the limiter grudgingly allows technology into the classroom, only to be secretly plotting its downfall the whole time. For some this is a fear that technology will leave them obsolete, while for others it is a belief that learning face-to-face should always take precedences.

On the flipside of this, there are those teachers that enable their students. They allow them to use technology, but having little idea as to what they are doing and how they are doing it. This leaves the students experimenting with little support or feedback.

Maybe this is not useful, maybe it is not the same or maybe it is just wrong? How do we support teachers with different mindsets? At different points on the innovation curve? Like Knud Illeries’ perspectives of learning, can we really change people’s ingrained beliefs about anything? And what does it mean to ‘teach’ technology, especially in a BYOD environment? Maybe we need to start with how we use it ourselves and go from there? Should every teacher be a mentor? Are there times when we simply need to enable possibilities or limit others?

I feel that I have more questions than answers, but maybe that is a part of the conversation that we need to have around any aspect of change. Like Sherry Turkle’s discussion about the place of technology, the more discussions we have the better. If you have anything to add, I would love to hear it. Feel free to comment below.


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Mapping the Divide: Visitors and Residents on the Web


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In an attempt to make sense of the divide when it comes to the use of technology, Marc Prensky published two articles in 2001 in which he coined the terms digital native and digital immigrant. He used this to explain the difference between those born after 1980 who have grown up with technology being in every part of their life, compared with those ‘immigrants’ who have had to pick everything up.

The problem with the native/immigrant explanation is that it lacks nuance. Firstly, it assumes that if you were born after a certain time that you represent certain disposition. Secondly, it fails to recognise that our use of technology is forever changing over time. Thirdly, it was developed in a time before the prevalence of social media and its impact on how we use the web. In contrast, David White and Alison Le Cornu offer a more fluid typology with their notion of digital visitor and resident.

White and Le Cornu suggest that our use of different spaces on the web fluctuates between two states: that of the visitor whose use is often short term and task orientated compared with the resident who sees their participation as being an important part of their lived experience.


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

Unlike Prensky, White and Le Cornu argue that our use of the web is constantly evolving, not only different from one space to the next, but also from changing over time. For example, today I maybe only be a visitor to Twitter, but be a resident of Facebook, whereas tomorrow for whatever reasons this is might be completely flipped around.

Doug Belshaw explains this problem by pointing out that workflows should always be a case of permanent beta. Although this may not be a month to month or even a year to year thing. If we were to reflect our use of the web ten years ago, I would find it hard to believe anyone’s map would be exactly the same.

Another dimension which White and Le Cornu add to this is the question of place. They suggest that our use always moves between the personal and the organisational. For example, some students use spaces banned from them in school, such as Facebook and Youtube, to participate in what can be described as the learning black market. That is, informal collaboration and communication in aid of learning.

What is interesting about the visitor and resident typology is that is that it is not necessarily about the tools, but how we use these tools. As White shares, we can give all the guides we like, but people’s participation within different spaces only changes when they can identify a reason why that is pertinent to them. With this in mind, creating our own map of the web offers a great way to start a conversation about how and why we use technology.

One of the challenges with technology is to move beyond supposed simple solutions. Often terms like visitor and lurker are used with negative connotations. Instead the question should be why are visitors and what would change if we were to take up residency. The same thing can be said of those spaces which we have come to depend upon, what would happen if they were to shut down? What is also interesting is that many social media platforms do not allow visitors. That is, an existence without some sort of sign-up. This alone is a conversation worth having, as to why this might be the case and what the consequence of such restrictions might be.

For more information, have a go at using Google Drawings to create your own map, see White’s post or his short introduction from White:

While here are my slides from a presentation at Teachmeet NGV on 24th October 2015


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Ignite the Learning in Your Classroom by Leading the Way #Digital15


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Blurb for my session at Leading a Digital School Conference:

Often we talk about changing our classrooms, putting students at the centre, connecting with authentic audiences and flipping instruction. However, the first thing that often needs to change is the role of the educator. Instead of focusing on being a teacher, the focus needs to be on becoming a learner. From using social bookmarking to connect with a community to using a blog in order to share with the world, Aaron will explore the different possibilities and potentials for lifelong learning and why teachers need genius hour too.

Slides:

Notes:

When we talk about flipping the classroom, the focus is often in regards to instruction. However, something that also needs to be flipped is the role of the teacher. We need to move from being the sage on the stage to what Erica McWilliams calls “a meddler in the middle”. That is, “a re-positioning of teacher and student as co-directors and co-editors of their social world.” This re-positioning starts by re-focusing on learning. As David Culberhouse suggests, “The best fuel to feed the fires of our creative and innovative core is learning. New learning, learning that stretches us.” The question then is how might we create conditions which support teachers as leaders in the learning, not just of the learning.

In his recent book, From Master Teacher to Master Learner, Will Richardson provides nine different learning qualities: model, unlearner, co-learner, curator, open sharer, connector, maker, digitally literate and champion of diversity. Whatever qualities are shown, what matters most is that teachers are first and foremost learners. As he states, “The world has changed. Knowledge is everywhere. Teachers must become master learners instead of master knowers” The question though is what such learning might mean.

The role of learner can take on many guises. Sometimes it is co-creating the learning experience with students, other times it is simply learning something new and going through that process themselves. As George Couros wonders, “Can you imagine when a teacher gets really excited about their learning, the difference that makes on their students?” It always comes back to the learning.

In relation to co-creating, there are a range of models that can be used to support this process. The most obvious seems to be the many different iterations of the ‘Inquiry’ model, where students help guide their own learning. The reality is that inquiry means many different things to many different people. You just need to place some of the different models next to each other to see this. Another model of learning is Disciplined Collaboration. Developed by Alma Harris and Michelle Jones, it focuses on teachers working through a cycle of collaboration, innovation and reflection. Although not traditional co-creation, the focus on student, through data and evidence, rather than being dictated by the curriculum. Another model that empowers teachers as learners is the Modern Learning Canvas. Developed by Richard Olsen, it provides a collective space to talk learning and identify areas for change and innovation.

One of the problems with many inquiry based models is that they begin with a question and work towards a solution. However, as Peter Skillen argues, sometimes what is important is tinkering and engaging in playful learning. Chris Wejr shares how he provided time for his teachers to tinker and innovate, while John Spencer talks about having a personal genius hour to follow up passions outside of teaching.

A common model used to aid explorations beyond curriculum is Design Thinking. A process that focuses on immersion, definition, ideation, prototyping and testing. One of the things that makes it different to other inquiry models is the cyclic nature of the process. Although it focuses on an authentic end goal, as other forms of inquiry do, it incorporates an element of ongoing refinement that is sometimes lost within other processes. Tom Barrett sums this prototyping disposition as a case of perpetual beta, where, “Learning is all about continuous improvement with an emphasis on engineering as many opportunities for feedback as we can.”

In her adaptation of the Design Thinking model, Jackie Gerstein talks about the importance of not only understanding the learning process, but clearly articulating and demonstrating this. A part of this is celebrating the iterative process of learning. As she suggests, “the educator as a lead learner normalizes, embraces, models, and reinforces the iterative process of learning.” This involves a cycle of prototyping, testing, failing, tweaking.

Technology plays an important part within all of this. Whether it be developing a PLN, sharing ideas, finding inspiration, openly sharing the learning or making stuff worth stealing, much of this is enabled through the use of various tools and applications. Our task, as David Weinberger suggests, is to, “build networks that make us smarter”.

Some examples of my learning experiences include:

What is significant about each example of learning is the shared experience. Learning is never in isolation and it is so important to remember this. Also, if it is then we are at a time of interconnectedness when it is easy to gain feedback. 

So what about you? What learning have you been a part of that has stretched you? What qualities did you show? How did you go about it? What challenges did you face? How did you share it?

Link to collaborative resource


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Who’s Telling Your Story – An Introduction to Storify


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One of the biggest challenges in regards to digital literacies is who is telling your story? It can be argued that if we don’t take ownership of your own narrative, then someone will tell it for us. This is what is meant when people ask whether you have Googled yourself. Doug Belshaw talks about being mindful of the way in which tools shape the way we think and interact, I feel that we also need to be mindful of the way in which they tell also tell our stories for us.

One way in which we tell our story is by curating it. Heather Bailie suggests that in regards to digital literacies our focus has moved from the traditional idea of read, write and react, to a focus on being able to create, curate and contemplate. Often we talk about social bookmarking as a means for curating content and ideas. This could include sharing links to a digital magazine, like Flipboard, or adding to an online repository, such as Diigo. However, such collections have their limits. Although they may provide a means for communicating and commenting, they are often best considered as a resource you can mine at a later date. For a more extensive discussion of curation, see Sue Waters post.

A different means of telling your story is through blogging. As a medium, blogging offers so many different possibilities. Maybe you want to reflect upon things. Maybe you have media you want to share, more often than not you can simply embed it. Maybe you don’t like the structure and layout of the platform, then go find another one, there are enough. The reality is the possibilities with blogging are limitless and often only confined by your imagination. For example, a relatively new open sourced platform that I have started exploring is Known. I think that it offers something in-between twitter and long form blogging in my own space.

A medium which is a bit different to traditional blogging, but offering the same creative potential, is Storify. Designed to help make sense of what people post on social media. Not only does it provide the means to curate information from different platforms and places, but it also provides the means to fill in the story. Some of the different curations I have seen include:

Although you can search for content within Storify, the tendency is to use hashtags to collect ideas and information. You can then either share the Storify product or embed it within a blog.

For a short guide to curating a story with Storify, watch the following video:

So what about you, what are the ways that you are telling your story? I would love to know.

 


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What is Heutagogy?


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During a conversation at DigiCon15, I was asked to clarify, ‘What is Heutagogy?’

I first heard the word Heutagogy via Steve Wheeler’s blog. However, it was not until I stumbled upon the collection of essays in Experiences in Self-Determined Learning via Jon Andrews that my attention was truly piqued. What stuck out the most was that there was not necessarily one unifying definition. Instead, I was left with a range of quotes, each adding a particular perspective:

“Learning is intrinsic to the learner, and the educator is but an agent, as are many of the resources so freely available these days.”

Stewart Hase

“Let learners choose what they will learn and how they will learn it”

Lisa Marie Blaschke

“If heutagogy is about self-determined learning by self-authoring learners, then assessment in a heutagogical context becomes a metacognitive aspect of the learning process.”

Melanie Booth

With Education 3.0, the educator’s role truly becomes that of guide-as-the-side, coach, resource-suggester, and cheerleader as learners create their own learning journey. The educator has more life experience, knows (hopefully) about the process of learning, and has more procedural knowledge about how to find, identify, and use informational resources and social networking for learning purposes.”

Jackie Gerstein

“From a self-determined learning perspective learners need to be able to take control of their learning.”

Stewart Hase

To get a different perspective, I put the question out there on Twitter to see what I would get

 

As I scrolled through the different responses it struck me, to define heutogogy in some ways misses something. The reality is that heutagogy is many things to many people and maybe what matters most is how you define it yourself.

So don’t let me decide for you. Maybe you like one of the definitions presented or maybe a combination. Whatever it is, for it to be meaningful, make sure it is yours.


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What do you think the Education State means?

Education State

I was lucky enough to heara Gail Davidson speak today. She touched on what works in schools. Although we all have our own perspective and work in unique contexts, the ingredients it comes down to, according to Davidson, are: student learning, teaching excellence and supportive environment. For her, these elements are brought about by learning deeply, across subjects and with purpose. All of our resources support this, whether it be the technology in our hands, time allocated for meeting and planning or partnerships with parents and the community. The biggest challenge is not money and time, but fostering a culture of wholeheartedness. A part of this is the power of possible, doing what needs to be done in order to succeed.

This discussion of what works and building effective schools reminded me of a recent question posed about what it means to be the education state? Daniel Andrews made the promise leading up to the recent election to make Victoria the ‘education state’. This even included placing the slogan on number plates. I feel like I have heard this sort of rhetoric before when Ted Ballieu promised to make Victorian teachers the best paid teachers in the country. As a part of his outline, he stated that he “won’t rest until we rebuild schools, rescue TAFEs and make our state the education capital of the country once again.” The question that remains though is what would it really take to make Victoria the education state. Here are some of my thoughts:

  • Properly Fund Education: The Gonski Review outlined some drastic needs for education, particularly around equity. The former Liberal government took away Education Maintenance Allowance to fund their contribution in regards to Gonski, with the belief that Gonski would fill that gap. However, what has happened is that schools have lost out on EMA and are yet to see any support via Gonski.
  • Schools for Growth Areas: According to an analysis from the Gratten Review, Victoria will need 550 new schools by 2031. In the latest budget, the government funded 10. If we continue at that rate for the next 15 years then we will build 150 schools. That is 400 short. Even if the Catholic and Independent sectors pick up some of the slack, as it seems the government hopes they will, this is still a big gap. The reality is that there are too many schools bursting at the seems, especially in growth corridors, with fields of portables, struggling to provide the appropriate environment for learning.
  • Maintaining Schools for the Future: Beyond new schools, there are too many in need of maintenance and revitalisation. Let alone any discussion of portables, many old buildings are inadequate and need of refurbishment. In addition to upkeep, there has been a stalemate with funds in regards to such things as cleaning and power. This has forced many schools to think more creatively and cut various programs.
  • Adequately Support Education: It is often suggested that class size has little impact. However, David Zyngier did a study that found smaller class sizes in the early years “can lift children’s academic performance through to year 12 and beyond – especially for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. In addition to this, education support needs to include kindergarten. This means providing the appropriate funding of all hours to make it an imperative. Making Victoria the education state means supporting schools and students from day dot.
  • Provide Appropriate Support: I understand that every school context is unique, but school autonomy is a cop out. It creates a sense of competition, when what is really needed is culture of collaboration and connection. A part of this is the debacle that is the four regions. The Liberals handed schools responsibility for more menial tasks, but maintained the same funding structure. Yet the Labour solution is to provide more support whether regionally or in town, while cutting costs to already cash strapped schools. This is what Dale Pearce means when he talks about funding at the gate.
  • Vision for Education: One of the biggest disappointments has been the lack of vision from the government in recent years. I am happy to recognise there were many faults with the Ultranet. However, what it offered was a vision. I understand that the government released ‘Unlocking the Potential’, yet what have they really done to support it? On last count, there was only a handful of people in the Digital Learning department, this is a far cry from the halcyon days. I know those days have come and gone, however more needs to be done to empower schools with not only knowledge, but the confidence to take education forward.

So these are some of my thoughts. What about you? What do you think is needed to make Victoria the ‘education state?’ This is a conversation that needs to be had.


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REVIEW: Master Teacher to Master Learner


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

I started reading Will Richardson’s latest book, Master Teacher to Master Learner, with a mixture of apprehension and intrigue. Based on some of his recent posts, I wondered if it was going to be one of those treatises that states how everything is wrong and then outlines all of the answers righting all of life’s ills. I was pleasantly surprised. Although all is not well in the world of education, the change that Richardson offers is not necessarily something that is beyond teachers. In fact, it is quite the opposite. At the heart of the text, Richardson asks the reader, that is teachers, to reflect on our ability to be master learners outside of school and take this mindset into the classroom.

Throughout, the book provides a clear outline for the why, the what and the how to becoming a modern learning. It provides a great introduction to the notion of connected self-determined learning. There is often so much written about being connected and although he touches upon technological side of things, much of his focus is on learning and the qualities associated with this. What is of interest to Richardson is the many possibilities that technology affords for modern learners, whether teachers or students.

A part of a wider series of books exploring solutions for digital learner-centred classrooms, Master Teacher to Master Learner is accessible and really gets to the point. For those foreign to the connected evolution, it offers a guide for where to start. Something I wish I had read when I set out on my own connected journey. While for those already well versed with modern learning, it provides a concise reminder.


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Making Sense of Creative Commons – A Collection of Resources


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

In a previous post, I discussed the idea of Creative Commons and the importance of sharing. Although many give lip service to it all, one of the challenges is where to find appropriate content. The Creative Commons site provides a range of recommendations for finding appropriate content. I have unpacked these and more:

Images

Google Images: This is often the first place that anyone goes to. There are so many options available to find the right image, such as colour, size and type. Problem is, not many people realise that most of the images that come up are copyrighted and should not be used so freely, especially in public and online. In ‘Search Tools’ you can adjust the ‘Usage Rights’. However, as Alan Levine warns, Google assumes that if a page has a Creative Commons license attached to it that all the media within is included, which is not always the case.

Flickr: An alternative to Google Images, Flickr is an image repository. Designed with two aims in mind – to make images easily available and provide a means for organising them – Creative Commons is very much at the heart of Flickr. Like Google Images, you can adjust searches in ‘Advanced’ to look for different licenses. In addition to this, there are a range of site that you can use that help find the right image. Compfight and PhotoPin are popular ones, while Photos for Class not only filters out inappropriate content (a big problem at times with Flickr), but also applies a citation to the image.

Pixabay: Unlike Flickr which collects both copyrighted and Creative Commons images, all the images at Pixabay are not only free, but do not require attribution, even for commercial applications. Frustrated with finding images, the creators made a site to collect together a wide range of images published under Creative Commons Public Domain deed CC0. The aim is to provide images that are ready to use for any project, either amateur or professional.

Unsplash – A useful repository of images that are licensed under Upsplash’s own license, which is a derivative of Creative Commons Zero, meaning that they are free to use as you like. Originally it was somewhat random. However, more recently, a search option has been added to help find what you might be looking for.

Open Clip Art Library: Like Pixabay, Open Clip Art provides a wide range of images that have been published under Public Domain. The belief is that by removing as many restrictions as possible, the clip art is able to be shared as freely and openly as possible.

Pics 4 Learning: A repository of copyright-free images for school. Although you can search, images are also organised into different collections. Only issue seems to be quality and variety.

The Noun Project: A great place for icons, the Noun Project provides a mixture of options and licenses. Sites like Credly intergrate with The Noun Project to provide a library of open images to use when creating badges.

Pic4Carto: For something different, this site allows you to search based on location. It uses the geo location information provided by various sites to bring together recent photos taken in the area.

MediaChain: An open library, which connects media to its creator and subsequent information about it. Alan Levine has elaborated on it in a bit more detail here.

For some more ideas, I recommend John Spencer’s post for a collection of sites that do not need any attribution. However, the catch is that many of these collections are not curated.

Video

Vimeo: A little bit like Pixabay, Vimeo offers a range of quality videos. In addition to this, there is a wide range of content you can search and download based on licensing.

Youtube: It is often an overlooked feature, but you can find videos on Youtube which you are able to modify and remix. This material is accessed and edited via Youtube Video Editor. The only catch is that Creative Commons CC BY license is the only option, which has its limitations.

Sounds

Soundcloud: Arguably the world’s leading social sound platform where anyone can create sounds and share them everywhere. In some respect, Soundcloud is to sound what Flickr is to images. Created by the community, you can find anything and everything from podcasts to samples. Like Flickr, you can easily search through content based on licenses. There are some interesting collections here, such as a whole lot of tracks posted by Moby for the soundtracks of non-commerical films.

Jamendo: Whereas Soundcloud is simply about sharing sounds, Jamendo is about providing music for free. Organised around genres, instruments and moods, it provides an easy way to find the right sound for the situation. One of the catches to the site is that it can be difficult to sort through tracks based on licenses, therefore you are often left checking the bottom of the page.

ccMixter: This is a community music remixing site designed to foster sharing with Creative Commons. Not only does it provide a wide array of music, samples and sound effects, but many of the tracks come split up into parts, designed to be reused.

YouTube: Like video, you can find a collection of Creative Common sounds in Youtube via Youtube Audio Library. Similar to Jamendo, you can search by genre, mood, instruments and duration. In addition to pulling pieces into your own Youtube creations, there is also the option to download them and use them elsewhere.

Freesound: A collaborative database of various Creative Commons licensed sounds, Freesound allows you to browse through sounds via tags and track names. Although you can easily listen, the only catch is that you need to create an account to download tracks.

Sound Bible: SoundBible.com offers thousands of free sound effects, sound clips, and straight up sounds. There are a number of licenses used, including copyright free material.

General

Wikimedia Commons: A part of the Wikimedia family, its purpose is to make available public domain and freely-licensed media content to everyone.  All the content is either in the public domain or meets the definition of a free cultural work. Although the search options are not as easily definable as other sites, the wealth of content makes Wikimedia a gold mine. There is also an attribution tool you can use.

Europeana: A collection of cultural artefacts from all over Europe. Sourced from different galleries, libraries, archives and museums, items range from books and manuscripts, photos and paintings, television and film, sculpture and crafts, diaries and maps, sheet music and recordings. What is good is that you can easily refine searches to only include certain licenses and types of media.

Internet Archive: A non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software and music. Its purposes include offering permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public to historical collections that exist in digital format. As its purpose is not primarily for feeding the remix culture, if you find Creative Commons material declared you may use the content according to the terms and conditions of the applicable license. However, it can be a little finicky trying to find applicable content.


In addition to a range of websites, there is a growing trend of applications which help sources appropriate Creative Commons images for you. Some examples are Haiku Deck, Adobe Voice and Adobe Slate (all of which are also available on the iPad).

I think that Alan Levine summed up this challenge in a recent post:

How do we expect people new to coming to an understanding to make sense of all the flavors of licenses? We want school kids to make these choices? And there are people out there who want even more kinds of licenses. CC-BY-MC-GD-ER-TZ-XD?

I am not trying to tell anyone else what to do here.

But I am going back to the simplest, and frankly, I’d rather focus my energy on the sharing rather than the licensing of the sharing.

If there are sites or steps you use to help focus on sharing and less on licensing, I would love to know. As always, comments welcome.


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Improving Staff Morale


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Schools can be a thankless place at times. Therefore, maintaining a positive approach to things can sometimes be challenging. Jason Borton recently reflected on the steps he has put in place at his school to improve staff well-being. Some of the things included:

– Family Friendly Week once a term with no after school meetings. Staff are encouraged to leave by 4pm each day this week.
– Fruit supplied weekly by the school for the staffroom to provide a healthy snack option
– Foam rollers provided for staff to use for low-impact exercise
– Weekly after school fitness sessions provided by an external provider and funded as part of the school professional learning budget
– A commitment by all staff to providing healthy options for all staff morning teas/lunches etc
– Agreed work hours to avoid excessive workload
– Engage a massage therapist from the Canberra Institute of technology (TAFE) for staff massage
– Purchase a smoothie machine for staff use
– Broker a deal with Active Leisure Centre gym for discount staff memberships
– Subscribe to the Happy Schools weekly newsletter

Although what Jason has done is fantastic, sometimes the challenge of maintaining morale can be easier said than done.

My approach is to address the small things. I may not be able to organise gym memberships or influence work hours, but I can place a smile on people’s faces. For example, I started this term by giving each staff member in my office a Lego mini figure. I am not sure if it is the reminder of childhood or the seemingly silly nature of it all, but there is something about Lego which always makes people smile. Releasing endorphins into the brain (without the calories of chocolate!)

There are many ways to improve staff morale, however sometimes the smallest things can be the most meaningful. As Steve Brophy pointed out in a recent post,

An impromptu morning tea, an email to a staff member to thank them for their efforts, a kind word or an after work shout can all lead to improved morale.

So what about you, what are you doing? If you are struggling, Angela Stockman has compiled a fantastic list of simple acts of kindness.


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