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Spring Roundup: When to credit an image source

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011
  • Friday: Updates to Adobe Reader and introducing Evernote [Productivity tools]
  • Monday: A different perspective on validating resources [Information Literacy]
  • Tuesday: Primary source political cartoons and resources for understanding bias and perspective [Information Literacy]
  • Today: When to credit an image source [Intellectual Property and Ethics]


Need to better explain to your students how and when to  credit the source of an image, particularly on the web? Try this:

Should I post this image?

Source:  pia jane bijkerk

[via [Flowchart] Can I Use This Image On My Website? on Digital Inspiration]

Spring Roundup: Primary source political cartoons and resources for understanding bias and perspective

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011
  • Friday: Updates to Adobe Reader and introducing Evernote [Productivity tools]
  • Monday: A different perspective on validating resources [Information Literacy]
  • Today: Primary source political cartoons and resources for understanding bias and perspective [Information Literacy]
  • Wednesday:  When to credit an image source [Intellectual Property and Ethics]
The downfall of Mother Bank

via Library of Congress

The Library of Congress has continued to develop material sets to assist teachers in utilizing the library’s resources. One such collection is their Primary Sources section.

Newly added sets in this collection include political cartoons and sources on children’s lives at the turn of the 20th century.

Elementary school children standing and watching teacher write at blackboard, Washington, D.C.

via Library of Congress

Guides for teachers and students offer some excellent questions to encourage the reader to think critically about the resource. You may note that these are very similar to the critical questions in yesterday’s post on validating resources.

From the LOC Teachers’ Resources on Primary Documents:

Encourage students to speculate about each source, its creator, and its context.

  • What was happening during this time period?
  • What was the creator’s purpose in making this primary source?
  • What does the creator do to get his or her point across?
  • What was this primary source’s audience?
  • What biases or stereotypes do you see?

Ask if this source agrees with other primary sources, or with what the students already know.

  • Ask students to test their assumptions about the past.
  • Ask students to find other primary or secondary sources that offer support or contradiction.

[via Library of Congress]

Spring Roundup: A different perspective on validating resources

Monday, March 28th, 2011
Spring Roundup continues…
  • Friday: Updates to Adobe Reader and introducing Evernote [Productivity tools]
  • Today: A different perspective on validating resources [Information Literacy]
  • Tuesday: Primary source political cartoons and resources for understanding bias  and perspective [Information Literacy]
  • Wednesday:  When to credit an image source [Intellectual Property and Ethics]


Whenever I’ve discussed criteria for evaluating resources I’ve always approached that with 5 basic areas, each being a potential red flag source:

  1. Accuracy – Is the material free of both grammatical or content errors?
  2. Authority – What do we know about this author’s level of expertise on the topic?
  3. Objectivity/Bias – What potential biases may the author(s) hold? Is this particular topic prone to bias?
  4. Currency – Is the information current enough for the topic/purpose studied? A 30 year-old resource covering our 1st president might be sufficient while a 3 year-old resource would be insufficient for a study of our current president.
  5. Coverage – Is the depth of coverage appropriate for the research to be conducted?

Teacher Chris Betcher has a similar list of criteria. On two of the points he describes, our criteria are similar. After that, however, the two groups begin to diverge. Betcher’s list shifts toward a focus on the website itself and its interaction with the user, and in doing so raises some additional good points for both the author and the consumer.

What I most enjoyed about Betcher’s list are the guiding questions that accompany each point. These are great questions for you or your students to ask yourselves when evaluating content.

Jump directly to Betcher’s notes on

[via What Do You Believe? on The Thinking Stick]

Spring Resource Roundup

Friday, March 25th, 2011

There are a handful of resources I’ve been sitting on, waiting for a moment to share here. So today begins the first of four posts sharing some useful tools and updates.

  • Today: Updates to Adobe Reader and introducing Evernote [Productivity tools]
  • Monday: A different perspective on validating resources [Information Literacy]
  • Tuesday: Primary source political cartoons and resources for understanding bias  and perspective [Information Literacy]
  • Wednesday: When to credit an image source [Intellectual Property and Ethics]

First up: Adobe Reader X

I’m not particularly smitten with Adobe Reader, particularly with its perpetual security issues and incessant need to put a new shortcut on my desktop with every update, but it’s too common a program not to make note when something good comes along. New in Version X is the ability to add comments and sticky notes to PDF documents as you’re reading. For me, this has long been one of the biggest limitations of on-screen reading with PDF files – how do you make notes as you go. Now this is resolved.

adobe clipping

Sticky Notes and Highlighting make PDF's more useful

[Tech connection: Productivity tools]

How did I survive without: Evernote

Evernote is a tool to “save your ideas, things you like, things you hear, and things you see.” I use it for simple note taking, as well as capturing photos and scans of my handwritten notes from paper and the chalk/whiteboard. My students have begun using it to do a more complete job of recording sources, particularly web sources, as they research.

Evernote is great for indexing and retrieving nots and ideas.

big features you shouldn’t miss:

  • Synchronize between devices, including many camera-equipped cell phones and the iPod touch.
  • Optical Character Recognition (OCR) does an amazing job of identifying text in photos of handwritten notes or other text, making it searchable. This is huge!
  • Use your phone to snap a photo of your whiteboard brainstorming, the business card you would have lost 10 minutes later, or the cover of a book you want to read sometime and send it straight to Evernote so you can find it later.
  • Ability to integrate multiple forms of “notes” such as typed, written, photos, scans, etc., makes organizing notes much easier.
  • Web clipping shortcut makes for quick capture of important details of a web resource you want to remember for later – great for making notes while researching without slowing the process.

Admittedly, this app will work more effectively in some settings than other, largely based on the student or teacher’s ability to customize their individual computer settings and is most well-suited for secondary students and up. Nevertheless, it’s important to teach our students the organizational skills they will need for success in college and the workplace.

Check-out Evernote’s “Education Series Roundup” for a list of articles, examples, suggestions and resource guides.

[Tech connection: Productivity tools]

Connected Principals: Reverse Instruction

Monday, February 14th, 2011

headphonesThe hardest part of what follows is what to do with the classroom time that is now wide open. Read on, then talk back in the comments.

Transpose the prevailing approach and make your homework classwork and your whole-class instruction homework.

Classroom time is prime real estate in the student day. It was once necessary to use that prime time to communicate the greatest amount of information as efficiently as possible while students were physical (and mentally) present. The resources to flip this model are within realistic reach.

What if the part of learning that needs the most support and generates the most questions was completed with the support of a knowledgeable teacher at hand?

What if lectures, reading, and other one-way transfers of knowledge were completed independently? On a bus? Waiting for practice to start? While running? With the capacity to back up and listen again?

The idea is simple, but a radical change in the classroom. If you can send the lecture, demonstration or reading home, classroom time can be reallocated for use in practice, exploration, questioning, discussion, one-on-one instruction, and other forms of higher-level interaction.

I would suspect that the number of middle and high school students with the capacity to listen and/or view instruction from some device outside school is just shy of 100%. How many students in that age bracket don’t have some kind of phone or media player?  Providing options for those without the resources would be a relatively inexpensive proposition.

But don’t take my word for it. Connected Principals covers this idea and details the process with several examples  in their post, Reverse Instruction: Dan Pink and Karl’s “Fisch Flip”” .

Why this is a tech issue

This is a strong example of how technology can be a game changer. This implementation of relatively basic tech tools  shifts the foundational processes we’ve used for decades. It’s something we simply couldn’t have done without these tools. SmartBoards, Clickers, and PowerPoint are digitalizations of existing processes, but this is much more transformative.

The alternative

If the instructional benefits aren’t a strong enough argument on their own, consider this: if our face-to-face classrooms offer mass instruction which can arguably be replicated at home, followed by independent practice – also completed at home, what makes your classroom instruction tangibly more valuable than what online learning can offer? What are  you doing to stay competitive in an increasingly competitive educational field?

Image citation: *MarS, “music is in the air” *MarS’ Photostream. 6 Jan 2006. 14 Feb 2011. <

Teaching Ethical and Safe Technology Use

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Doug Johnson at Blue Skunk Blog shares his Dozen Ways to Teach Ethical and Safe Technology Use. A notable takeaway is that these 12 items have little to do with teaching students to apply a lengthy district policy or specific technological skills and more to do with applying existing community expectations and modeling best practices.

2. Stress the consideration and application of principles rather than relying on a detailed set of rules. Although sometimes more difficult to enforce in a consistent manner, a set of a few guidelines* rather than lengthy set of specific rules is more beneficial to students in the long run. By applying guidelines rather than following rules, students engage in higher level thinking processes and learn behaviors that will continue into their next classroom, their homes, and their adult lives.

Of course, the district will need to have some formal and enforceable policies, but this approach is more likely to be practical in informing your day-to-day interactions in the classroom.

And of course, good classroom management procedures help a great deal here as well:

9. Create environments that help students avoid temptations. Computer screens that are easily monitored and the requirement that users log in and out of network systems help remove the opportunities for technology misuse. Your presence is a far more effective means of assuring good behavior than filtering software.

Catch Johnson’s full dozen over on his blog.

Image citation: Michael Rosenstein, “May 9, 2010” brotherM’s Photostream. 9 May 2010. 3 Jan 2011 <>.

Google by Reading Level

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

The value of search tools lies within the ability to do one thing: Find the resource you need.

There are numerous ways to narrow those results, such as including more search terms, narrowing the timeframe, or a site-specific searches. It is also possible to narrow your results be reading level.

Select Reading LevelWhile the accuracy of the reading level in terms of appropriateness for your particular reader will vary, this is one more tool in the arsenal for helping to wade through the sea of results toward the information you or your students are seeking.

To specify reading level in Google search, click the Advanced Search link near to the search box and choose from the Reading Level Menu.

Basic search results only shown

To show all results, but display the reading level of the resource, choose “annotate results with reading levels”.

Annoted Reading Levels

For primary and most intermediate-aged learners I still advocate for the use of search within focused collections, such as a single site like World Book, or the use of a Kid-friendly directory such as Yahoo! Kids, but this can be help when mainstream search tools such as Google, Yahoo! or Bing are needed for younger students or where more refined reading levels are needed for older students.

[via Display Readability Levels in Google Search Results on Digital Inspiration]

Information Literacy and Online Safety

Friday, December 3rd, 2010
Google Digitial Literacy Tour

Source: Google Digital Literacy Tour

If you’re looking for resources to help your students improve their information literacy skills and stay safer online, Google’s Digital Literacy Tool is a great resource to explore.

I want to let you know upfront that some of this material is YouTube hosted, which will pose some filtering-related problems. Talk with your tech coordinator for possible workarounds.

One thing that the writing team has done well is to look at how to apply the same information literacy skills that are good for research to student safety. After all, a common thread in both online safety and research is understanding the source well enough to determine it’s trustworthiness and learning to approach all online communication sources with a healthy degree of skepticism.

The materials consist of three “Workshops,” with each workshop including brief video segments, well-developed lesson plans, teacher and student materials, and a presentation to accompany the lesson. Topics include: Detecting Lies and Staying True, Playing and Staying Safe Online, and Steering Clear of Cyber Tricks

This resource was developed in partnership with the iKeepSafe Internet Safety Coalition.

Partial screen shot of "Google Search Tips for Kids" poster

A bonus resource to check out while you are there is the Classroom Posters page which includes some very handy and kid-friendly search strategies.

[Source: Official Google Blog: Blazing the online safety trail]

PDF Tip: On occasion, opening PDF file from a website,  such as this one, will result in an ominous “This file is damaged and could not be repaired” error message. An effective workaround (most of the time) is to save the file first, then open it from your computer.  To do this, right-click on the “Save Target As” or “Save Link As” option from the menu. The saved file will generally open with no issues.

PDF files are an increasing source of malware. Users are encouraged to see to it that Adobe Acrobat Reader is kept up-to-date to reduce this vulnerability.

A Framework for Approaching Instructional Technology

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

One obstacle that clouds instructional technology efforts is an overly broad definition of what constitutes instructional technology. Taking a step back from the matter, one might be surprised to learn that instructional technology might actually be better considered within three separate, but overlapping subgroups or domains. Classifying our efforts into these three domains can bring into focus the strengths and weaknesses of our implementation.

Consider these areas in the context of a Venn Diagram. In the first circle are the Administrative items, the second, Teacher/Instructional elements, and in the third, Student skills.


The first grouping of tools are those items that serve a primarily administrative purpose. These often center around systems and processes that make the classroom, building, and/or district operate more effectively and may also reach into school-home communications. Typically these items involve the teacher directly, but have little or no direct impact on the student’s experience. Student may not even be aware that these items are in use.


  • Electronic or online gradebook software
  • Teacher webpage / newsletter tools
  • Individualized Education Plan authoring software
  • Teacher-used Email
  • Electronic testing software
  • Classroom response systems (i.e., “Clickers”)

Relative Commitment:

Since these aspects are generally core to day-to-day operations of the organization, professional development in this area generally covers 100% of applicable staff and expectation for implementation is high, if not mandatory.

Teacher / Instructional

A second grouping of skills and tools are those geared toward use by the teacher to enhance or automate instructional processes. The core objective behind the use of these elements is almost always content-area driven, rather than targeting student technology competencies. Students may directly use or simply observe the use of these tools in their learning processes.


  • Videostreaming
  • Interactive Whiteboards
  • Skill-and-drill exercise software
  • Electronic testing software
  • Classroom response systems (i.e., “Clickers”)

Relative Commitment:

Considerable funding is invested in the use of Teacher / Instructional tools and, as such, there is generally a high emphasis on training for most, if not all, applicable staff. However, because these tools are less vital to organizational systems and processes, the expectation for use is somewhat reduced and less likely to be assessed in some manner.

Student Skills

The third grouping of skills are those that are targeted first and foremost toward developing student technology competencies. In this domain, students would be observed using the technology or technology skills directly with the intent of meeting specific technology-related objectives. Although the core objectives for the lesson might also include a content-area skill, a technology outcome will always be a part of any student learning that fits into this domain.

When the skill (e.g., using a mouse)  has been mastered fully enough that it is now a part of the requisite skills for a content-area activity, it should no longer be thought of as a technology objective for that lesson.


  • Keyboarding
  • Online communications
  • Basic computer literacy
  • Online safety
  • Video production
  • Presentation skills
  • Information literacy
  • Online learning

Relative Commitment:

In spite of the emphasis placed on technology skills, this area tends to be the least emphasized in terms of both professional development and assessment. Professional development toward preparedness for teaching student skills is almost always voluntary and at the discretion of the teacher. In some school settings, these skills are addressed in 9 or 18-week classes every 3-4 years, but a full-curricular view of these topics is generally lacking.

Overlap and Sliders

A Venn Diagram is a good representation of the interplay between these domains given that the concepts aren’t always limited to placement within one particular domain. Concepts such as information literacy will almost always be a blend between the Information Literacy goals within student skills and content-area understanding. In fact, many students skills are difficult to teach without the context of content.

The placement of other skills will drift over time as student mastery and instructional objectives change. In Kindergarten, for example, the use of skill-and-drill types of learning games may serve the dual purpose of reinforcing content-area learning while providing opportunities for the students to develop a familiarity of basic computer operations such as mouse and keyboard usage. Over time, basic operations are mastered and, though content-area practice is part of the objective, mastering basic operations would no longer be considered part of the lesson objectives.

It is analysis of the lesson objectives – what it is that is being taught – that will best establish which domain an item will fall within, and depending on the lesson, the item may shift from one lesson to the next.

What’s needed

Self-evaluation may, in many cases, lead to the realization that student skills – the skills our students will own and take with them into the work beyond school – might just be the area on which we place the least emphasis. With this understanding we can take a balanced look at our technology efforts and refine the directions in which we need to move forward, making sure we’re making the best use of instructional technologies in all three domains.

Follow-up: Cell phones in schools

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

A few weeks ago, I posted some discussion on CNN’s “Texting to Learn” segment. In the meantime, I’ve come across a couple updates  related to cell phone policies and usage.

Sidebar: I feel it’s important to point out that these two policies target two different age groupings.

From the Daily Record online (dated September 16, 2010), “‘No cell phone’ policy at school cuts down on bullying

The halls of Hillsdale Middle School no longer are ringing with technologically-enhanced bullying.

An across-the-board “no cell phone” policy at the school is only one tangible change made since the implementation this year of the Olweus Bullying Prevention program.

But the results seen from that one change, as well as a number of other less obvious changes, are enough to have the school’s 32 staff members, many of whom attended a Tuesday board meeting, on board.

This one from the Wooster High School website, “Cell Phone and Electronic Device Guideline for Wooster High School

In order to accommodate 21st Century technology, allow parents/guardians an opportunity to contact their children during the school day, and teach students responsible use of electronic devices, our electronic device guidelines allow students to use their devices in the cafeteria. Teachers also have the option to allow students to use their devices in class for academic purposes.

Students may not use their devices in any way that violates school policies, including bullying, intimidation, inappropriate photos/games, or cheating.

Wooster High School is committed to helping students learn to utilize their personal electronic devices effectively and responsibly.

And this highlight from education and tech blog,  Dangerously Irrelevant

North Scott High School in Eldridge, Iowa is allowing students to use their cell phones for practice tests. Teachers are using PollEverywhere to assess students’ knowledge and see what course material needs additional attention.

(Read the rest…  Should students be allowed to use cell phones on all assignments and assessments?)

New technologies bring new challenges, new opportunities, and new problems. It will be interesting to look back on some of these discussions in 10 years and see how our views compare and how we decided to take on these challenges.

Image citation: Quinn Dombrowski, “Day 46: Generation Gap” quinn.anya’s Photostream. 15 Feb 2009. 7 Oct 2010 <>.