Read Write Interview – Telling the Story of My Domain

Alan Levine recently put out a request for stories about domains as a part of the Ontario Extend project

What is your domain name and what is the story, meaning behind your choice of that as a name?

In part, my domain name comes from my interest in the notion of marginalia, the stuff that we write, but never gets written. As J. Hillis Miller explains:

As we read we compose, without thinking about it, a kind of running commentary or marginal jotting that adds more words to the words on the page. There is always already writing as the accompaniment to reading.

It was also inspired by a friend, Fiona Hardy, and her blog Read, Watch, Listen. My first incarnation was on Blogger, where I had to use Reading Writing Responding. Although I liked the active nature of this, it was just too long.

I also had a little help from some friends as a part of the Connected Courses MOOC:

What was your understanding, experience with domains before you got one? Where were you publishing online before having one of your own?

My move from Blogger was initially about finding a place of my own. I saw a domain as being an opportunity to renovate and stick up posters without the landlord coming through for inspection. The wider ramifications for having a domain had not even crossed my mind. Not only could I have a space of my own, but in fact have infinite spaces, each with their own purpose.

What was a compelling feature, reason, motivation for you to get and use a domain? When you started what did you think you would put there?

Initially my attention was my primary site. However, my interest in (sub) domains was piqued as I opened the door to the #IndieWeb and the idea of POSSE. I setup an instance of Known and started using it for posting images to Flickr. This is one of the ways I have found self-hosted different from WordPress.com or Blogger. Although you can add a domain to both platforms, when it is your own space, there is so much more you can do with it.

What kinds of sites have you set up one your domain since then? How are you using them? Please share URLs!

Beyond my main space, I have created a number of sites for various purposes. They have included:

  • Aaron Davis – Built on Alan Levine’s Big Picture theme, I designed this space as a landing page for my presence on the web. My own version of an About.me page.
  • Read Write Wikity – Built on Mike Caulfield’s Wikity theme/platform, this space was about developing knowledge over time. It is an extension on social bookmarking.
  • #WhatIf – Interested in the possibilities and potential of Known, I started a short blog to record¬†‘What Ifs’. This is partly influenced by Amy Burvall’s¬†#rawthoughts¬†and Ian O’Byrne’s own short blog IMHO.
  • Read Write Curate – A Known site developed in my exploration of POSSE.

More recently I have made some effort to condense some of these spaces into a secondary site, Read Write Collect. In part this stemmed from my interest inreclaiming the presence on the web. One of the limitations is that webmentions can only be attached to so many sites, so that is why I moved much of my content into two spaces.

What helped you or would have helped you more when you started using your domain? What do you still struggle with?

What has helped me is having continual support from Reclaim Hosting. Not only do they help in resolving most of my technical issues, but they also have a wealth of resources too. If there is something that I still need to work on it is archiving some of my older sites as static HTML, as well as sharing resources across my sites.

What kind of future plans to you have for your domain?

I am sure there will be cases for spinning up a new domain to test a new application and/or theme. For example, I am interested in PressForward as a means of organising research if I ever went further with my studies. Overall though, I am pretty happy with how things are at the moment.

What would you say to other educators about the value, reason why to have a domain of your own? What will it take them to get going with their own domain?

It is easy to create a WordPress.com or Edublogs site and add in your own URL. This will often alleviate concerns around updates and security. However, the effort required in maintaining your own space seems a small price to pay for the power and possibility it can provide.


It feels like every time I tell my story I add something different. I am sure that there are parts I have left out or failed to elaborate. If this is the case, feel free to leave a question or a webmention. The conversation only starts here.


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Learning Technologies

Focusing on a post-human approach, Ian Guest reflects on the ability for technologies to learn

Often discussions around technologies and transformation focus on tools. Another question to consider is the way technologies entangled with learning.


I met up with Alan Levine recently and we talked about everything from politics to open education to experiences. The thing that came up again and again though was the place of the technology within learning and education. I have explored this before, touching on the place of the tool in making various situations possible. What seemed different is that the stage set by the conversation seemed a lot busier, with many complex intrarelations. What then is the place of technology in relation to learning? Is it learning about technology? Is it technology that aides with the learning process? Or is it technology that through its place learns itself? This all led me to reflect on the recent addition of the Thermomix into our kitchen this year and impact this has had in regards to my own learning about food and technology.


Thermomix by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

The Thermomix is an all-in-one cooking machine combining a number of steps, such as boiling, melting, chopping, weighing, steaming, crushing and blending. (I am sure I have missed a few verbs here.) The machine itself involves focuses on three variables: time, temperature and motion. However, there are a range of add-ons which extend these capabilities, including a whisk as an alternative to the blade, a steaming basket you insert within the cooking jug and a steaming tray you can place on top. The jug that is at the heart of everything also doubles as a scale, converting all measurements into grams.

One of the things that surprised me about the Thermomix was that it did not necessarily do everything for you. When my wife and I spoke about buying one, I had the misconception that it would allow me to set a timer in the morning (like you might with a slow cooker) or quickly throw everything in after work to wiz something up automagically. Not surprisingly, it is not that simple. Although there are recipe chips which step you through recipes, there is also a built in process of what might be called ‘enforced education’. This asks the user to engage after each step. This is important from a safety point of view, but it is also interesting in regards to appreciating how the application works.

One of the biggest ways the Thermomix has redefined our kitchen is our use of individual ingredients over prepackaged jars and sachets. Recipes often involve combining a wide range of ingredients, especially herbs and spices.


Secret Herbs and Spices by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

This has led to a deeper appreciation of the food being cooked and consumed. It means if something is bland or too spicy then you can make our own tweeks next time. Going a step further, there are a range of online communities building on the standardised language provided by the Thermomix to share an array of recipes and creations. Overall, the Thermomix has helped build my knowledge and understanding of food providing me with the means to go beyond the automated processes and complete steps individually.

This whole learning curve also reminds me of the experience provided by Zapier. A ‘translator of APIs’, Zapier provides the means to automate processes by connecting together a range of web apps. It provides the structure of triggers and actions to step through the creation of workflows. Unlike IFTTT, users can then look into their ‘zaps’ and investigate the intracies, such as the data coming in and going out. Although Zapier eliminates the need to code, it also helps to build up an appreciation of what is required if you do want to start developing your own solutions.

When I think about both the applications, I am reminded about learning on multiple levels. Firstly, they put in place support for the development of understanding as to how the application works. They support learning about other things, such as food and APIs. They also learn themselves, being entangled within a feed of information from other applications and communities.

So what about you? What place does technology play within your learning? As always, comments welcome.


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Are You CC Certified?


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

Alan Levine recently put out the request for different perspectives around the idea of a Creative Commons Certification. The idea was to simply create a quick video or recording. Sadly, spontaneity is not always my strength, so here is my belated response …


What role does Creative Commons play in the things you do? Personally, Creative Commons has a lot to do with meaning making. It represents the foundation on which an open culture is built upon. As an educator this is as much about modelling the sharing mindset as anything else. Sadly, it is often seen as a point of compliance, with little value to be gained. Spaces like Google make everything so easily and accessible, the problem is algorithms will reach a point (if they already haven’t) where they will be able to pick up such indiscretions. On top of that there is something in the act of attribution. Not only does it recognise the source, but in its own way encourages the further sharing of others.

What would it mean to you to have a Creative Commons certification? I am not sure what it would mean? Maybe the feeling of community, that is what seems to be produced by many other certification processes. It may help to develop some clarity around such topics as copyright and Creative Commons, as well as build capacity around what it means for everyday practice.

What might it look like to earn a certification? As much as I read about the power of multiple choice quizzes, I prefer the act of creating and reflecting. The problem with this is that it depends on someone assessing. I really like Doug Belshaw’s Trello badges where he provides a series of steps to be followed and evidence to provide. I am not exactly sure what this would look like for Creative Commons. Maybe it could be a portfolio? Maybe something annotated. Maybe it could have multiple levels. Really not sure.

Here is my video made with Adobe Spark:


You can find more contributions here. So what about you, what would being CC Certified mean for you?


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Why Blogging (Still) Matters


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

My daughter recently started at a new school. One of the things that stood out to me was the use of Facebook for classroom communication. Every class is setup with a private page, where information is shared. To me this fits perfectly with the argument that we need to go where the people are and it seems these days a lot of people spend their time in Facebook. Already being there means that little effort needs to be applied to getting things going, whether this be signing up or instructions as to how to use it. The problem though is that just because people are already there does that mean that it is the best space for the task?

I remember when I was¬†told of¬†the changes to online permissions by the Victorian State Government. A¬†part of a push to be more¬†mindful of student data. My first thought was that the legal department were crashing the party. My mind was taken back to the supposed halycon days when a blanket permission slip would cover all sorts of online frivolity, with endless amounts of Web 2.0 programs and applications. However, times have changed.¬†Doug Belshaw describes this as the move to the Post-Snowden Era. It is a¬†scepticisim¬†epitomised by Cory Doctorow¬†in¬†Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free, when he says:

Without a thorough understanding of our computers’ workings, and without independent verification of their security, it’s impossible to trust our machines.

It is for this reason that we can no longer just use what may work best (as if we ever should have), but what is in fact the most appropriate on all levels.

Maybe the problem is where the data is housed, maybe it is about who is in control of content, maybe it is about the decisions of edtech company. There are so many things to consider. Some of these ethical questions include:

Does the service/app require an account to be created? If so, why?

Does the service let you delete content? This should apply not only to finished work, but also the elements of that work. For example, if you upload photographs to make a slideshow, does it let you delete those photographs later?

Does the service easily let you delete your account? Does it include an ‚ÄėAccount Deletion button‚Äô in a menu? (Check out JustDelete Me for a guide to deleting some services. The site also has a Fake Identity Generator to help you get started with a dummy account)

Does the service require you to login with a ‚Äėreal name‚Äô, or can you just use a private handle instead? If it does require a real name, why?

Does the service easily let you export the work you create in standard formats? (e.g. TXT, PDF, DOC, MP4, MP3, MOV, XLS, CSV, JSON,HTML etc) Can you save the work to your device and take it with you when you close an account?

Do you have full control over sharing/unsharing and publishing of work online?

Does the service only ask for necessary permissions? For example, many browser extensions ask for permission to access your data on all websites, or mobile apps ask for your location. Some of these permissions are necessary for the service to work, but if a service seems to be asking for a lot of unnecessary permissions, then it may be best to avoid it.

Does the service have a clear, easy to read and transparent privacy policy? Is there a link to the Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy on the homepage? If it’s hard to find, hard to read, or non-existent, then think long and hard about why that is.

Does the service treat user data and content in an ethical manner? Do users have control over they license they apply to their work? Is the work easily embeddable on other sites? Will the company sell the work (or even worse, details about a user’s identity) to other services and advertisers?

How does this service make money? What is the business model? Online tools are expensive to build and maintain, so if there isn’t a clear model for how that service will make money, then it may be that data is being sold to advertisers, or the service will eventually move to a paid model or be sold or closed.

With the demise of the Ultranet, such questions have become more pertinent as schools search for the next digital solution.

In her post, Beyond the LMS, Audrey Watters recounts her experiences with Blackboard Collaborate and the problems she faced. After initially developing content in¬†an open space provided by the institution, she was ‘encouraged’¬†to publish everything through the learning management system. From quizzes to resources¬†to syllabi¬†to discussion forums. ¬†The problem she faced was that her and her students continually lost¬†access to the content and communications once the subject was finished as the only way to access the content was through the site.

One example of an¬†LMS that has been embraced by many schools of late is Compass. Like Watters’ experience with Blackboard, Compass too¬†poses many similar questions. Although you maybe able to access past content, it is never made easy. One of the biggest curses is the amount of clicks to get anywhere. In addition to this, there is little avenue for students to communicate and collaborate. It is neither a¬†campfire nor watering hole. Although as a platform it provides¬†many of the same functionalities offered by the Ultranet, one absence is the possibility for meaningful student action. Whereas the Ultranet provided a¬†space for play and creation, this is the one aspect that seems missing. ¬†Maybe such spaces are walled to protect students. Maybe they are really about improving communication between home and school? Maybe they are about control and management? However, are we really supporting¬†students if we are limiting their possibility for voice and choice through such spaces.

One solution to this is to publish your work, whether staff or student, at one canonical address and link elsewhere. This elsewhere could be Compass, Edmodo, Facebook or Google Classroom. Blogs offer the most obvious solution for such as a space. Whether it be as a portfolio, a social media stream, social bookmarking, class blog, project or subject space, they offer so many different possibilities. While a site like Edublogs may involve some effort in regards to another site to login to or to manage. It offers a lot more possibility and flexibility in the long run. Blogging still matters.

Although developing a canonical address in Edublogs may not go to the point of setting students up with a domain of their own, as Audrey Watters proposes, it does at least provide the possibility to take their data and do with it what they would like. Something Alan Levine describes as co-claiming. This is something that can be overlooked in the choice of spaces.

So what about you, how do you support students, while also considering some of the ethical questions? How do you push back against what is easiest, to consider what might be best? As always, comments welcome.


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(Re)Claiming My Space on the Web


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

It is coming up to a year now since I made the move from Blogger to WordPress via Reclaim Hosting. I have been asked by many about why I changed, what was involved and what my experiences have been. I thought that now would be as good a time as ever to take stock and reflect on my experience so far.


I came upon Reclaim Hosting via the generous sharing as a part of Connected Courses.

Although I received some warnings in regards to the risks involved in setting up my own space:

 

Thankfully, I am still hear and blogging away. The question though that I keep getting asked is what have been my experiences.

Here then is a list of my thoughts and reflections:

CHANGING SPACES

The first concern that I often get asked is transferring content from one space to another. The reality is it took about five minutes. The only issue I had was with tags and categories. However, tags can be selectively converted to categories using the tag to category converter.

MORE THAN MONEY

There is really no comparison in regards to cost between paying for something like wordpress.com and Reclaim. To be honest, if you were choosing the cheaper option, you would probably go with Reclaim. Not only is it affordable, but also includes free domain registration. One thing I had to consider is that the space is limited (2gb). However, this is the same with most spaces. The answer is to learn to store content elsewhere Рsuch as Amazon, Scribd, Youtube and Flickr Рand embedding it.

CHOOSING A THEME

One of the complaints that I have heard people complain about is the lack of flexibility or the requirement to pay for something that you are not even sure about. I have found that there are so many more options out there when running WordPress.org, most of which are unavailable within wordpress.com. The hardest thing is then finding the right one. Inspired by a post from Alan Levine, I went with Moesia for Readwriterespond, while in a site a created DigiCon15 I used Asteria Lite.

IMPROVING MY WORKFLOW

It is really interesting working with both Edublogs at school and my own installation of WordPress here. Although in many respects they are both the same, I have been forced to rethink many of the solutions that I have developed for my own blog. Some of the plugins that I have come to depend upon within wordpress.org include:

  • Creative Commons Configurator: This allows you to set the Creative Commons license for each of your posts.
  • Automatic Post Thumbnail: One of the catches with many themes is that they depend on a featured image.¬†Using Flickr and Alan Levine’s Attribution Helper for my images, the plugin makes the first image used ‘featured’.
  • Jetpack: This provides a means of measuring statistics and connecting with the wider WordPress family. I must admit, I have stopped measuring the statistics , but still find it useful when¬†connecting. Plus, Alan Levine shared that removing Jetpack¬†wrecked his theme, so warned against it.
  • WordPress Backup to Dropbox: I must admit, I could do a better job at backing up, so a plugin that does it for me is priceless.

WORLD CLASS SUPPORT

The thing that I will say has been the best to moving to Reclaim is the amount of support. Whether it be touching base to check how I was settling or promptly responding to questions, I am always astounded at how quickly I get responses. Jim Groom recently reflected on the level that they set. What I love the most is the feeling that no question is too small and that, as Jim Groom explains, it all comes back to helping others make sense of the web.

LEAD LEARNER

All the talk at the moment seems to be about computational thinking. For some this is just another word for coding, but to me it is about developing an awareness about how things work. Not just knowing that the internet is built with code, but what this actually means. I find the best way to develop awareness is through the act of tinkering and creation. Whether it is exploring Known or exploring the limits of the platform, owning your own space is a great learning experience, what Jim Groom describes as a return of teaching and learning to the scale of the individual.

HURDLES REMOVED

Although other spaces can be easy to create, using templates and so forth, they soon become complex though when trying to co-claim that content. Not only does the team at Reclaim support you with whatever content you are bringing across, but they are just as supportive in regards to taking it out again.

SUB-DOMAINS

One of the other benefits I have found to owning my own domain is the opportunity to create sub-domains. This can include creating different sites or redirects. Alice Keeler provides a great explanation of this.


I am sure that there are things that I have missed, but this is at least a start. What about you? Have you made the move to own your own space on the web? What have been your challenges? Experience? Benefits? As always, comments welcome.

For more on Reclaim, I recommend checking out Tim Owens introduction.


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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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What’s So Creative About Commons Anyway – An Introduction to Creative Commons


creative commons licensed ( BY-NC ) flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs

Creative Commons is one of those topics which everyone knows about and when question say that they understand, but can’t really explain what it is and how it works with very much clarity. For some it is seen as a nuisance, while others see little point or purpose to¬†it, but in regards to working within the world wide web, it matters a lot.

Basically, Creative Commons is a set of licenses that allows you to give permissions for others to use and modify your content. As is explained on the main website:

The idea of universal access to research, education, and culture is made possible by the Internet, but our legal and social systems don’t always allow that idea to be realized. Copyright was created long before the emergence of the Internet, and can make it hard to legally perform actions we take for granted on the network: copy, paste, edit source, and post to the Web.

In total, there are six different licenses made up of three different variables: attribution, modification and commercialisation. These are best summed up by the poster designed by Piotrek Chuchla, graphic designer and poster artist which can be found here. While for a more detailed explanation, watch the following video:

The question that so often remains unanswered is how does it work in practise and why is it important?


Often when we consider Creative Commons it is automatically linked with¬†copyright and the¬†legality of using someone else’s work.¬†A prime example of this is outlined in Chris Betcher’s experience of using Creative Commons music on Youtube. In¬†a series of posts he describes his battle with an artist about using a piece of music¬†in a video he made. Even though he had seemingly sort the music out fairly through Jamendo with the best intentions, the algorithms in Youtube flagged his work and marked it as a breach of copyright. After much digging around, Betcher discovered¬†that ‘no derivatives’ does not have to include cutting up an item, it can also¬†mean combining¬†it or mashing it up with something else.

This view of Creative Commons relates to appropriate use of content. This is contrast to discussion around copyright.¬†Everything has copyright – at least in Australia – from the time that it is written down or recorded. Often conversations though end up in debates about fair use, educational purposes and substantial parts. In contrast, Creative Commons adds to this predefined right by applying to your work a license which allows you to clearly permit how you wish your work to be used. For example, if you are wanting to remix an image, then you would search for something that does not have ‘ND’ attached to it. Betcher makes the pertinent¬†point that Creative Commons¬†“removes the barrier created by traditional copyright.” However, to see Creative Commons only for its legal benefits misses¬†out on its real benefit to support a community of sharing.

In an interesting post, Alan Levine laments how so much of our conversation around copyright stems from the argument “don’t break the rules.” He suggests¬†that it is not much different to all those piracy fear campaigns. Instead of getting caught up in the ‘what’ of it all, Levine wonders where the conversations about the positive reasons as to why we do it, that is, feeding content back into the community, paying it forward and attributing where things comes from.¬†Paul Klimpel sums it up best when he¬†states that the main purpose behind Creative Commons is about making content more shareable. It is at its heart about creating culutre.

The next step¬†then is how do we actually create an open culture of sharing and collaboration which allows for a greater flow of ideas and expression. For as Doug Belshaw states, “remixing, re-appropriation and riffing off other people‚Äôs work just seems to be part of what we do as human beings.” Maybe it all starts with modelling¬†the change¬†through our own practise. This could include not retweeting images without attribution as Chris Wejr suggests¬†or developing a school wide policy as Richard Wells has done. One thing is guaranteed,¬†ignorance and naivety will no longer good enough, especially as algorithms become more and more complicated.

So what are you doing? What have I missed? I would love to know. Feel free to share.


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Should Every Teacher in the World Really be on Twitter?

creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by jez`: http://flickr.com/photos/girlgeek/3374620636

So often it is said, teachers must be on Twitter. For example, Peter DeWitt’s provides¬†3 Reasons You Need Twitter More Than It Needs You!¬†while Mark Barnes gives 5 Reasons Every Person in the World Should Be On Twitter.¬†The question though is whether¬†Twitter is the answer? Teachers are encouraged to develop their own personal/professional learning network, but does this¬†automatically equal Twitter? I am not saying that I am against Twitter (see for example my posts¬†here, here¬†and here.) I am just wondering, like Audrey Watters, whether Twitter is the best option for online professional development?¬†Here then are some alternatives¬†for cultivating connections online through¬†aggregation, bookmarking and speaking with people:

Aggregation

When I started my PLN, content and connections came via Twitter. I found resources from those I followed and various hashtags, such as #vicpln and #edchat. Connections and relationships felt like they worked as I only had a small network. However, as the numbers of people I followed grew, the medium changed. Although there were more ideas being shared from a wider array of people, it started to lose something. Although lists offers one way of managing noise, I turned to Feedly as a way of managing connections in order to build stronger relationships. Feedly is a news aggregation application, which means that instead of going to different sites to check for updates, RSS allows you to keep track of updates. This is particiularly important for blogs and news sites which are updated regularly. Although I could subscribe to posts, I have enough coming into my email as it is. What I like about Feedly is that I am able to organise posts into categories, quickly flick through them on whatever device that I am on, as well as easily post links and quotes to other applications in order to share with others.

Feedly is not the only aggregator out there. Some swear by Flipboard and Zite (which was recently bought out by Flipboard), while Pocket also offers many possibilities, especially if you have subscriptions forwarded to it. I am also really taken by the idea of syndication as a way of creating a personalised aggregation. A great example of this is the Connected Courses community. Having dabbled with Paper.li, I wonder if this would be a better way of bringing a community together. Although this could be more easily done using something like Tagboard, not everyone in the community uses the same #hashtag, making it that bit more difficult.

Bookmarking

An alternative to aggregation and syndication is social bookmarking. Personally I use Diigo.¬†I came upon it via the Ed Tech Crew group and my practise has grown from there.¬†Some of the benefits include the ability to curate a personalised library of links, annotations, notes and tags that can include not only your own items, but also links to others as well.¬†Like Feedly, Diigo provides the flexibility to work across platforms using a range of add-ons, extensions and bookmarklets, although I still find it easier to use through the browser, rather than on a mobile device. However, the most useful feature of Diigo is the ability to search for resources¬†that you can’t quite find or have forgotten about.

There are other alternatives when it comes to curation, such as¬†Delicious, Pinterest and Evernote. I could spend all day arguing why Diigo is the most useful or provides the best features. However, at the end of the day it comes down to personal choice.¬†For a more extensive list of the alternatives when it comes to bookmarking and curation, see John Pearce’s extensive¬†presentation.¬†The benefit of curation, Tom Barrett argues, is not about whether you will continually¬†use¬†all the links you save, but about building a resource you can¬†dig through and mine for ideas at a later time.

Sound and Vision

One of the complaints about¬†Twitter is that due to constraints it does not properly grasp the personal and limits depth of dialogue. An alternative that has really taken off for me lately has been¬†Voxer. A touch-to-talk¬†application, Voxer allows you to communicate with a community via voice, text and image. Joe Mazza calls it his very own personalised podcast,¬†This may not seem that revolutionary, but there is something slightly more humane about the human voice. I think that is the success of podcasts in general. In addition to voice, you can add as many contributors as you like. For more information, see Pernille RIpp’s post.

An alternative to Voxer is Google Hangouts. Hangouts allows you to connect ten people at once through video. In order to go beyond this, there is the option of broadcasting the conversation to the world and involving others through backchannels, such as Today’s Meet. This is the process used by Amanda Rablin and Roland Gesthuizen with their online¬†ACCE Learning Network show. The other way of extending the conversation¬†beyond ten people is by using MIT’s open sourced Unhangout platform.¬†Based around Hangouts, Unhangout allows you to start centrally and then split off into¬†various¬†small sessions as needed. The only other feature that is sometimes overlooked when it comes to Hangouts is the ability to communicate via text. Like Facebook Messenger, these conversations provide the means to create quick and easy¬†conversations with a wide audience without filling up the inbox.


Interestingly, last year there was a report published by Kathryn Holmes, Greg Preston, Kylie Shaw and Rachel Buchanan¬†about ‘What Twitter Offers Teachers.’ They¬†studied the tweets of 30 leading educators, as well as streams of¬†some¬†popular #hashtags, for their¬†evidence. There findings were:

  • Twitter is a filter for educational content
  • Twitter facilitates positive, supportive, contact between teachers but not sustained educational conversations
  • Educator tweeters are not prone to tweeting inane meaningless comments
  • The majority of hashtag posts contain educational links
  • Hashtags enable access to a wide variety of web-based resources and news without the need to interact with others or to sift through the personal communications between others.¬†Twitter offers connections with a network of like-minded educators
  • Twitter gives a user total control over the level of interaction and focus
  • The key characteristics of effective professional development could be accomplished through the use of Twitter.

Going beyond this list, what interests me is why just Twitter? Why not all platforms? Why not a focus on the connected educator, rather than just Tweechers? In the post script it is stated that more research is needed into the impact of Twitter on the classroom. However, I think that what is really needed is reseach into the impact of being connected as a whole on educators (and learners for that matter too). However, as Alan Levine pointed out while reflecting on Connected Courses, that the data which we collect and collate often misses serendipitous nature of learning.

Above anything, it needs to be remembered that there are many ways to foster connections and they don’t all need to be on Twitter, let alone online at all. Although digital tools make connections¬†more doable, not everyone is¬†comfortable being active in such spaces. However, this is not to say that they cannot or are not connecting. At the end of the day, what matters is why¬†people are connecting. Maybe¬†moving forward this should be our message moving forward? So, how are you connecting beyond Twitter, I would love to know. Your comments, as always, are most welcome.



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Uncanny Reflections on a Year Blogging

creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by mrkrndvs: http://flickr.com/photos/aaron_davis/16113234922

As I look back on 2014 I am faced again with the question: why do I blog or more importantly, why should anyone blog? Is there any point? Is it self indulgent? Does it actually serve any purpose? I have written a few posts about blogging. Some of the thoughts that I had about why to blog were:

  • To scratching an itch
  • Be connected
  • Critically engage with ideas
  • Form of life-long learning
  • Lead by example
  • Share with the wider community
  • Notes in the (digital) margin
  • Refine thoughts

The problem is, every time I think I know why I blog, some other reason springs to mind.

The ambiguity associated with intention is best epitomised by Margaret Atwood in her collection of essays, Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing. In her introduction she confronts the question of motive and compiles an extensive list:

To record the world as it is. To set down the past before it is all forgotten. To excavate the past because it has been forgotten. To satisfy my desire for revenge. Because I knew I had to keep writing or else I would die. Because to write is to take risks, and it is only by taking risks that we know we are alive. To produce order out of chaos. To delight and instruct (not often found after the early twentieth century, or not in that form). To please myself. T express myself. To express myself beautifully. To create a perfect work of art. To reward the virtuous and to punish the guilty; or – the Marquis de Sade defence, used by ironists – vice versa. To hold a mirror up to Nature. To hold a mirror up to the reader. To paint a portrait of society and its ills. To express the unexpressed life of the masses. To name the hitherto unnamed. To defend the human spirit, and human integrity and honor. To thumb my nose at Death. To make money so that my children could have shoes. To make money so I could sneer at those who formerly sneered at me. To show the bastards. Because to create is human. Because to create is Godlike. Because I hated the idea of having a job. To say a new word. To make a new thing. To create a national consciousness, or a national conscience. To justify my failures in school. To justify my own view of myself and my life, because I couldn’t be a ‘writer’ unless I actually did some writing. To make myself appear more interesting than I actually was. To attract the love of a beautiful woman.¬†To attract the love of any woman at all.¬†To attract the love of a beautiful man. To rectify my imperfections and my miserable¬†childhood. To thwart my parents. To spin a fascinating tale. To amuse and please the reader. To amuse and please myself. To pass the time, even though it would have passed anyway. Graphomania. Compulsive logorrhea. Because I was driven to it by some force outside my control. Because I was possessed. Because an angel dictated to me. Because I fell into the embrace of the Muse. Because I got pregnant by the Muse and needed to give birth to a book. Because I had books instead of children (several twentieth-century woman). To serve Art. To serve the Collective Unconscious. To serve History. To justify the ways of God towards man. To act out antisocial behaviour for which I would have been punished in real life. To master a craft so that I could generate texts. To subvert the Enlightenment. To demonstrate that whatever is, is right. To experiment with new forms of perception. To create a recreational boudoir so that the reader could go into it and have fun. Because the story took hold of me and wouldn’t let me go (the Ancient Mariner defense). To search for understanding of reader¬†and myself. To cope with my depression. For my children. To make a name that would survive death. To defend a minority group or oppressed class. To speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. To expose appalling wrongs or atrocities. To record the times through which I have lived. To bear witness to horrifying events that I have survived. To speak for the dead. To celebrate life in all of its complexity. To praise the universe. To allow for the possibility of hope and redemption. To give back something of what has been given to me.

At the end of the day, why we do anything is always complicated.

In this myriad of explanations and elaborations, I therefore have another reason to add to my ongoing discussion about why to blog. My latest thought is that blogging provides a means for meta-reflection, the possibility to look back through past opinions¬†and practises. An example of this in action is Alan Levine’s post ‘From Javier to Norbert‘. In it, Levine¬†is able call on his vast digital repository to reflect upon¬†past experiences of the Grand Canyon¬†to recollect his experience of being caught in the canyon in the midst of a flood.

It needs to be understood that such reflection is in addition to the actual act of reflection that is often a central part of each and every blog post. For as Clive Thompson accounts in his book, Smarter Than You Think, that in world where abundance is ever present, technology allows us to keep and curate memories that we may have otherwise have lost. I recently had a moment of meta-reflection as I went through my posts and adjusted the categories having moved from Blogger to WordPress. It was an interesting experience skimming back through what I had written. Although some posts never leave you, there are others that in rereading them create an uncanny feeling. That moment where you have to check yourself, wondering if you actually wrote it and what was going on at the time. A message from the past to remind you of those underlying values, beliefs and events that sometimes drop out of our memory overtime.

Here then are three posts which have had the greatest impact on me in reviewing them after the fact for what they remind me of and challenge me with:

creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by mrkrndvs: http://flickr.com/photos/aaron_davis/16109207045

  • Celebrating Other Voices in the Moment – I don’t think that I realised how raw¬†this post was until I looked back on it a few months later. I remember getting a few tweets at the time about how open I was, but sometimes when you are in the moment you don’t always see that. Perspective can take¬†time. I have reread it a few times since and each time it reminds me to always be mindful of those moments that are so easy to pass on by.

Via @hhoede on Twitter

  • This Is My #EduDream What Is Yours? – It is a challenging¬†exercise laying out your supposed dreams. Not only is it difficult to articulate them in a meaningful manner, but there is a certain lie and fragility in giving voice to them. For dreams and ideals are are neither¬†static nor wholly our own, therefore¬†to commit oneself to such a fixed notion can miss something. For as I have written in the past, ideals are not always ideal. Interestingly,¬†one person stated,¬†such ‘dreams’ are best formed collectively as a community. I have subsequently found that the more I engage with others in education the more I question each of the assertions I laid down. I critique them and they continue to evolve. For as I have mused elsewhere, ideas are best held loosely, for it is only then that they can actually grow.

Listening to Voices DLTV2014

  • Learning to Learn by Learning ‚Äď a Reflection on a Collaborative Project¬†– This was an attempt to collect together my thoughts and experiences in regards to a presentation Steve Brophy and I did at DLTV2014. I say ‘attempt’ because even though the conference has long¬†gone, the actual¬†experience continues on. I initially contacted¬†Brophy with two thoughts in mind: how do you collaborate on a topic with someone from a different educational background who you do not necessarily know and what would be an alternative format to the usual conference experience of chalk and talk. Without a script to go by, to ascertain ‘success’, I often think back¬†over the choices we made and wonder. Would it have been different if we weren’t in a lecture theatre? Could we have done anything to make the session more interactive and hands on? What did people actually come away with? Going out on a limb into the unknown as we did, I think that it will be one of those moments of learning¬†which I will always come back to again and again as a point of reflection.

Although these posts may not have been the most read by others, they are the posts that mean something to me and sometimes this is the forgotten element. For as Pernille Ripp recently wrote, “Start your blogging journey for yourself”. To add to that, make sure it is always about yourself first and fore-mostly.

I remember reading a post from Doug Belshaw in which he wrote a letter to his past self with some advice and general pointers. Flipping this idea, I think that we can undersell our past selves for failing to find the solutions for tomorrow. Stopping and looking back on the past can be often be the catalyst needed to drive you forward. Blogging provides an easy means for doing this.

So what are those moments of learning that have made a difference with you this year? Would love to know. See you in the new year.

For those interested in my top ten most read posts for 2014, here they are:

  1. What’s So Digital About Literacy, Anyway?
  2. Are You Really Connecting If You Are Not Giving Back?
  3. What Digital Revolution?
  4. PLN: Verb or Noun?
  5. #GTASYD 2014 – Feet on the Ground, Head in the Clouds
  6. To Quickvic with Love – My Reflections on Reporting
  7. Why I Put My Hand Up For GTASYD and Why I Am Excited
  8. Presentations Don’t Make a Conference, People Do
  9. Becoming a Connected Educator – TL21C Reboot Presentation
  10. This is My Edudream, What is Yours?

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