Feature Image. 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.

Clip Safari: Like Pixabay, Clip Safari 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. Another option is Open Clip Art Library.

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.

Kathleen Morris has also created a series of posters to remind students of the five main ways they can find images for their digital work.

A Simple Guide To Free Images, Copyright, And Creative Commons For Students And Teachers

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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I am not sure if I was being naive or slightly arrogant, but this post began its life as an effort to provide an overview of the different modes and methods of inquiry. Whether it be challenged-based, project-based, problem-based or plain old inquiry, I was trying to bring everything together in my own head, to make more sense of it all. However, what I soon realised was that the more I explored the topic, the more variants that appeared, with so many different ideas and interpretations. It all came to a head when +Richard Olsen shared a blog with me from +Ewan McIntosh on the difference between project-based learning and design learning. As you read through both McIntosh’s post, as well as various comments that follow, you realise that there is little consistency throughout. Although many of the differences are only marginal, there is little agreement on what constitutes either problem-based learning and design learning.
At the end of the day, the reality is that every teacher is different – we just choose to deny it. Even though we may practise a certain pedagogy, it does not necessarily mean that it will be the same as the next person. Rather, everyone has their our own intricacies and twists on the way they do things. What then starts to matter more is the practitioner rather than the pedagogy. I think that this is the point that John Hattie and co are trying to make by moving the focus from the student to the teacher.
I believe that this re-visioning of education is best summed up by Kath Murdoch in her fantastic post on the attributes of an inquiry teacher. Murdoch argues that inquiry-based learning is more than planning a unit, it is about facilitating this learning in the classroom. As she states, “Inquiry is not just about knowing how to plan – it’s about how we teach.” This got me thinking that maybe a better approach to work towards isn’t about identifying the ‘best’ practise as revolving around curriculum where the end is decided before the beginning, maybe our focus should be on how we teach and adjusting this to the needs of each and every situation.

The Pedagogical Cocktail

The idea that caught me was the metaphor of a cocktail. While chatting with some new found members of my PLN (Dick Faber and Alan Thwaites) it occurred to me that our chats were something akin to being at a bar and what we were drinking were pedagogical cocktails. However, unlike a traditional bar where you go up and request your drink, all the ingredients are laid out for us to make up our own. This creates a scenario where choice is only limited to our own creativity. Then after enjoying a cocktail or two, we are able to share back and reflect with those in our networks, hearing about the ups and downs, and helping us with our next choice of cocktail.
I think that the problem is that sometimes we think that we feel that we can only partake of a particular cocktail, that someone else always knows better, therefore we should listen to them. However, this denial of choice often results in teachers who have little engagement and ownership over their curriculum and classrooms, while it also restricts many potentials and possibilities. Instead, teachers maintain a status-quo that often no longer accounts for the world that will come tomorrow, let alone we live in today.
In an interview for the +TER Podcast, John Goh captures this situation by suggesting that, “all of us have a ‘default’ value from teachers college.” This concoction of tastes reassures and comforts us. That old friend whose welcoming aromas makes us feel at ease. The challenge though, as Goh goes on to propose, is that “we need to make sure that we move on from that.” Although we may know it, like it and find comfort within the default value, we need to move on and adjust our choice of cocktail to the food on offer or to the environment being set. It just wouldn’t feel right drinking a stock beer with everyone wearing tuxedos. The reality is that it is not enough to going back to the tried and trusted again and again.

The Right Method for the Moment

I entered this year with the endeavour to provide more time for student lead learning. Other than exploring +Mark Barnes‘s The 5-Minute Teacher, I took to exploring the potentials of different modes of inquiry. Having had some history with inquiry-based learning, I returned like the prodigal son, but this time instead of sticking to one particular model, I was instead interested in identifying the right method for the moment. This is portrayed by two contrasting units of work, one for Robotics, while the other for Business Studies.

An Introduction to Robotics

Having taught the class for three years, it was due for an overhaul. Fine, I had refined things each year, but instead of rolling out the same assignment with a set of questions and tasks containing a restricted set of ideas and information, I had taken to providing more opportunities for students to follow up on their own interests. So I began with a series of lessons focused on immersing students into different aspects of robotics, such as what constitutes a robot, some of the history associated with robotics and how everything is represented through popular culture. Once students had completed these tasks, they posed questions associated with each of the three areas. They then chose one of their questions to investigate and present back. As a class, we then created a measurement for greatness to provide a point of reflection for students to work towards. I really wanted to share these collaboratively and get everyone commenting and questioning on each others presentations. However, due to some technical restrictions, we weren’t able to do this.

How Can we Measure Success?

On the flip side, for Business Studies I started the unit by posing the question ‘how can we measure success?’ From there the class investigated who they consider as being successful and what makes them so. After that, I gave the challenge of coming up with a way of measuring the success of a student, the principal and Lionel Messi. They then shared their different conceptions with each other, giving feedback about what they thought was good and what they would improve. Once they had fixed up their various forms of measurement, the class then used Socrative to vote on which one was the most effective and why. With this decision, they then decided to work in pairs to make a series of profiles of successful people and combine them into a book.

Although I am sure there are some who would argue that I have not really done inquiry, that I have probably cut corners and that I haven’t really taken authentic action. I would agree and I admit that this is something that I still need to work on. However, sometimes ideals aren’t always ideal. At the very least, a move from the teacher at the centre to the student was a positive change.

Know What Your Drinking When Ordering from the Bar

It can be so easy to jump on a band wagon, to wear a certain ‘ism’ on your sleeve as if it were some sort of given. The reality though is that there are no ‘givens’, instead their are choices and consequences, as I have stated elsewhere. The most difficult thing to do is actually making the best choice for the current context and situation. In a recent interview on +TER Podcast, +David Price suggested, “I’d rather you do didactic learning well, than project learning badly.” His point is that we sometimes choose a particular method because we feel we have to and baulk at others, because they are seen as flawed or contradictory. However saying a blanket ‘no’ to didactic learning is just as bad as saying a blanket ‘no’ to inquiry-based learning. No is not really a useful word when discussion choice.

+John Spencer makes a similar point in his insightful post ‘Seven Horrible Things That Really Aren’t All That Horrible‘. In this post, Spencer discusses such taboos as worksheets, multiple choice tests and textbooks, arguing that sometimes it is how these things are used which is the issue and that sometimes they do have a place.

In the end, the most important thing that we can do is be conscious of the decisions we make. I am aware that this is no simple matter, as was pointed out to me by +Darryn Swaby on Twitter:

@mrkrndvs #pedagogicalcocktail Here’s the thing…I’m not sure I know [what pedagogical cocktail I’ve been drinking]. I think that is why your analogy resonated with me.— Darryn Swaby (@DarrynSwaby) March 28, 2014

To me this all starts by asking yourself, what does my classroom look, feel and sound like and how is it different from other classrooms. I think that this may be what +Richard Olsen is aiming at with his new venture ‘The Modern Learning Canvas‘. Where teachers are not only encouraged to identify the how and what associated with learning and teaching, but most importantly, the why. At the very least, we owe it to ourselves to at least be informed, through data and feedback, so that we can make the best choice possible, rather than keep on drinking the same old cocktail again and again.

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There has been a lot of debate in Week Two of Rhizomatic Learning revolving around ‘enforcing independence’. Although some of the debate has been about the choice of words and other such technicalities, a lot of the discussion has emanated from the contradictory nature of forcing something that focuses on freedom and choice. I myself have already posted about the matter, in which I suggested that the only way that this could be possible is within a situation where the learning is their own servant and master. After some great feedback from those in the course, it was pointed out to me that education is full of impossible ideals that we never quite meet. Something I myself have posted about elsewhere. What our focus should really be is about using such prompts as the mantra that guides us, rather than the hard and fast rule that drives us. So instead I have changed tack. Here then are a list of thoughts and ideas that may not achieve ‘enforced independence’, but definitely work towards that goal:
 
  • Students must make a choice and live with the consequences, with ambivalence not an option. I have written a bit about choice. I think that instead of being forced towards a particular style or method, it is better to look at each option and make the best choice that we can, aware of the consequences of such decisions.
  • Everyone is learning something. Joe Mazza uses the term ‘Lead Learner’ to replace teacher and although there is a bit of conjecture about whether that means principal or all staff, I think that it is important to get rid of the term ‘teacher’, as in my eyes, it rarely achieves much good.
  • Students and learning are at the centre, not the teacher and instruction. In a fantastic little book by +Mark Barnes called ‘5-minute Teacher‘. He suggests in his closing remarks that if you simply start seeing students at the centre then you are already on the right track.
  • Creativity must not be assessed, rather it is should be reflected upon. In a fantastic post by +Amy Burvall, she outlines how we should approach creativitiy. Rather than assessing it with a rubric and putting constraints on the task, Burvall asks for five ‘tions’ from her students: attribtion, explanation, reflection, no hesitation and no self-deprecation.
  • Rubrics are best co-created. This is a fantastic task for getting student emmersed in a task and taking more ownership over their learning. A fantastic resource that I have found to support this is BIE’s ‘Rubric for Rubrics‘.
  • Feedback should be a two way process. Too often when we talk about feedback, it is about what feedback is being provided a the students. However, if everyone is seen as a learner, than feedback from the students is just as, if not more, important. Feedback, then, should always be an open dialogue.
  • Subjects should be the mediator, not the motivator, of learning. Although many schools are structured around ‘subjects’ and pushing thought a certain content, we should always have an eye on how each skill or tool may be utilised across the board and even more importantly, the world outside of the school.
  • Be open to change. The worst classes I have administered have been when I have decided prior to learning what we will do and being unwilling to adjust to each and every situation. It is so important to adjust to the needs of each and every learner, whether this be in the form of instruction, support or simply what is offered. Although you may have a plan attached to an intention, it is also just as important to go with the flow and respond to the moment, for that is what you are in.
  • Start with a space. In a great post from +Luis López-Cano, he outlines the importance of space on controlling the learning that is even possible. Just as it is important to recognise the choices that we make, it is also just as important to recognise the constraints that may restrict us. In recognising such things, we are better able to stretch them to get the most out of them or even break them.
 
It is important to remember that these are guides not rules – suggestions, thoughts, beginnings, a starting point to a more independent form of learning. To treat such ideas as rules can miss the point and as John Spencer and Tom Panarese pointed out in their post ’12 Half-Truths Pundits Say to Teachers’, it is easy to get caught up in the fervour of change and the realities and restraints of the everyday classroom. 
 
In the end, this list is best understood as a list of ideals to spur me forward, each and every day, to be the best that I can be and support those under my care. Do I embody them each of them everyday, no. Not because I don’t want to, but rather because life has its own way of things at times. However, such ideals are what help me continually break free from what John Goh describes, as our ‘default value’. That idea laid as a foundation during our formative years.
 
Are there any suggestions that you would add to my list? Any tools and strategies to add to a learner’s toolbox? Would love your thoughts and ideas.

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