Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why I'll Keep Blogging

I used to be a lot of "pull" not a lot of "push" on the web. I was a little more "R" not a lot of "R/W." The Internet was a vehicle for finding info., and while I enjoyed the birth of web 2.0 sites, I didn't do a lot of sharing or publishing myself.

I could come up with a lot of reasons I didn't share; not enough time, not enough energy, and concern about privacy/sharing too much. But I'll admit mostly is was because I've never liked committing to the process of writing. I like brainstorming and writing, but don't like editing and revising much. Coming up with blog ideas is fun - writing it out in a way that makes sense - not so much. My wife, who is an editor by trade, can attest to all that I am saying.

Finally, there also was something a little unsettling about putting my ideas "out there." The ideas are now available for the learning, but also the critiquing and evaluating . . . globally. Sometimes it sounds a little far-fetched to say so, but I knew it was what the technology allowed- your ideas to be on display for anyone online. So really, for all those reasons, it was easier not to blog.

But all that changed when I went to work for Marlo Gaddis, head of instructional technology in Winston-Salem. Her department had a blog which all members of the team were invited to (expected to) contribute. So in May 2008 I became a blogger.

My first several posts were admittedly unspectacular. I posted early on because it was a requirement, but over time I found I enjoyed the process of publishing and sharing ideas. It became an important step for reflecting on my learning.

In August of 2008 I was pleased with my post on "The Hole in the Wall Project" and the one about my favorite tool at the time Zoomit. Then in March 2009 I got a comment on my blog from a teacher in Norway. And pretty soon I was jotting down ideas during the week of what might be my next blog post.

I remember the conversations about the posts with one of my colleagues, April, who was a gifted writer herself, and found I enjoyed our discussions about blogging. She mentioned the idea of creating a blog to cross post to that could serve as a collection of all my posts; a great idea for an online portfolio. After some consideration I took the additional step and created this blog for cross posting.

I can't say I've gotten a lot of comments on this blog, as most of the attention went to posts on the bigger district blog, but still it's been a worthwhile project. Still the highlights have been some of the comments and conversations from educators I respect who have taken a moment to comment on the posts. The process of blogging, publishing and connecting has benefited me a great deal.

In fact a few months ago, after proofing my latest post my wife casually remarked that my writing had improved (a little) since starting to blog. It was high praise coming from the editor who will often shake her head at my cavalier attitude towards conventions and grammar rules.

So now that I've moved into another job, there's no clear expectation in place for continuing to blog. But I think I still will. I've benefited from the reflection and writing process that goes into blogging, and I don't want that to end. I think I'll keep it up with a tip of the hat to my former boss who applied the gentle nudge that started the ball rolling. I think the blogging is less about the publishing and more about the learning and connections that are made.

So I'm going to try to keep it going.

Friday, September 10, 2010

What You Can Do with Creative Commons

In the past it seems the only time I've been asked to talk about copyright is when there was a danger someone might not be observing it. I've held many workshops where there is just a short time to remind participants not to post copyrighted material to their website, blog, wiki etc. . . And because the workshop wasn't solely about copyright and because copyright can be confusing, I've seldom had the time to fully answer questions or give what I feel are good alternatives. Therefore the quick message was a lot of "don't" and "can't" and not much of "can" or "do." And this is often the same message passed on to students.

But I think we can empower ourselves and our classrooms with some "can's" and "do's." A good alternative is Creative Commons (CC), which is a movement I've been a fan of for some time. To be clear, I am not a copyright expert or a lawyer, but from my perspective, the appeal of this option is that it seems relatively straight-forward. There there are some great posts and sites on how CC can be used by educators. Perhaps one of the best examples are the posts by the Clever Sheep who has created several resources for Creative Commons and education.

So here is my best take on using Creative Commons materials in your classrooms:
With CC, the creator can license work for reuse or noncommercial use. There are some guidelines, but much of the material is licensed for noncommercial use, so educators and students have the ability to use and reuse great media without the fear of copyright violation. There are a lot of sites with high quality media that are licensed with Creative Commons. I have listed a few of my favorites below.

CC Licensed Images:
CC Audio:
All CC Media:
One of the best options for students and teachers may still be creating your own media. Basically if you take the picture or create the music, you own the copyright. And this could be a great moment to discuss the licensing options and how it impacts a creative work. Maybe you and your students will license your work with Creative Commons license and add to the content being used and shared by educators.

You might find that Creative Commons is a way to have copyright discussions that don't just revolve around what you can't do.

Additional resources for CC in education:
Images used: