Copyright Confusion Conquered

Teaching concepts of copyright and fair use to teens – or anyone – has been a challenge for me for years.  I’m not sure why. Perhaps because it is complicated or because no one really every wants to hear that they can’t do something that they want to do.  Perhaps because I didn’t understand it well enough myself to explain it to others.  In any case, with multimedia projects on the rise, I wanted to be sure that I taught my twelve tablet campers how to stay within the bounds of copyright as we learned how to edit images, create slide shows, and use Premier.  I also wanted to keep in mind my vow to find ways to let students discover things on their own.   The lesson outlined below was by far the most successful one that I’ve ever used and took approximately 45 minutes.

Students will need internet access.

Step One: Independent Exploration: Using Specified sites to answer questions.

  • Students should visit
  • The should jot answers to the following questions.  I had them use OneNote on their new tablets to do this as practice with OneNote, but paper will also work fine.

    • When is something copyrighted?

    • Do you own the copyright on anything?

    • If something is on the Internet, does that mean you can always use it?

    • Read the following scenarios and decide if taking the action described is allowed by copyright laws and fair use guidelines.

      • Making a copy of a CD for a friend.

      • Using pictures you took on a family trip to Washington, D.C. in a school project.

      • Using images of three paintings by Monet in a school project.

      • Using a whole song by your favorite singer in a slide show for class.

      • Writing a parody of a song from your favorite band.

Step Two: Discussion

    Discuss each scenario taking time to explain fair use and public domain.

Step Three: How to find things you are allowed to use – Creative Commons

Step Three – Use it.

  • Give students a specific multimedia task that requires a particular type of license and have them find media that meets their needs:
    • A picture that can be used, unedited, in a presentation.
    • A picture that can be edited and used.
    • A video that can be edited as part of a video project.

We did this lesson on Wednesday, and followed it by using various media that fit the licensing needs to complete multimedia projects.  Students seemed to have a clear grasp on how to locate public domain and creative commons usable media and to understand the limitations and opportunities of fair use, as well as why it is important.



Changing the Subject

For nine years, I’ve been teaching computer courses to high school girls.  Next year, I start Chemisty.  Yes, the both start with C and involve “science,” but don’t otherwise have much in common. I have a science and technology background, but until the coming year, all of my classroom teaching has been in technology courses.

Computer Science makes it easy to use real world examples, problem solving, experimentation, hands on, and paired/group learning.  You learn to write good code by writing code – sometimes writing bad code.  You write, compile, and test.  Then you do fix the problems and compile and test again.  It’s fun to teach and students learn the language along with planning, problem solving, and patience.

Today, in a conversation about how computer science allows you to teach with 21st century skills in a very natural way, my inner thoughts turned to how I would be able to continue this mode of teaching in a new subject area.  What are my goals?

  1. To provide and welcome opportunities for my students to discover information on their own and share it with each other.
  2. To find and share real world illustrations of the concepts we learn.
  3. To find ways to assess my students that go beyond traditional assessments.

In the meantime, I’d welcome ideas from those who have taught this subject longer than I have.

iHeart my iPhone

Thanks to all who Tweeted about the iPhone/iTouch session today at NECC.  If you haven’t already, visit, a wonderful wiki from the session.

I’ve had my iPhone for a year and it is the only handheld device I’ve every used successfully.  It syncs beautifully with Exchange 2007, bringing me my mail, calendars and contacts.  My one complaint with this integration is that Active Sync with the iPhone doesn’t sync the notes or tasks, which I use extensively.  I don’t have a solution for the notes but I’m currently using toodle-do as a middleware to sync my tasks.  It’s clunky, but it works.

Some of my personal and productivity apps include

  • Tweetie for Twitter access
  • Facebook
  • WRAL News – my local new channel’s iPhone app
  • PhoneFlix to manage my Netflix queue
  • Free Ping to ping my network

Until recently, I hadn’t done much to introduce the iPhone into my classroom.  However, after nine years of teaching computer science, I may be adding chemistry to my list of courses in the upcoming school year.  This prompted me to look for apps that might be applicable to my new subject area.  Recent downloads:

  • The Chemical Touch Lite – an amazing (free!) periodic table.  This is a wonderful app.  It allows you to view the Mass, Density, Melting Point, Boiling Point, Radius, and Electronegativity of each element.  With a simple touch, you can move from the table to the wikipedia article on that element.  Waiting in the doctor’s waiting room last week, I learned all about Technetium using this resource.  Unsurprisingly, I chose it because it was tech-net-ium.
  • Stoichiometry simulator by T.J. Fletcher.  This is a beautifully designed app. The Lab Manuals are clearly written and the simulator is easy to use.  I look forward to seeing how this will apply in class.
  • Calorimetry Simulator by T.J. Fletcher.  Also nicely done with an attractive design and a clearly written help file that explains calorimetry.  The program includes simulations for several known metals and then three unknowns.  Also looking forward to using this simulator.

I’m also looking into whether the programming of Apps would be a good introductory programming class for our school.  I believe that it would be attractive to our students.  Information gleaned from the iPhone developer site indicates that you must be programming on a Mac.  As a dedicated Tablet PC school, this would be a deal-breaker.  My Apple rep is checking, so I’m hoping that there is a solution.

So why do iHeart my iPhone?  It’s easy.  Exchange integration is easy.  Getting apps is easy.  The interface is easy.  Are there things that I’d love to see added (Flash integration in Safari, copy/paste, the aforementioned notes and tasks), but overall, it is fabulous!

RSS Feeds – An embarrassing confession

I’m not sure why, but I’ve never used RSS feeds.  That’s not to say that I’ve never set up RSS feeds, but once set up, I’ve never used them.  I set up pageflakes.  I set up Google Reader.  I just never went back and read them.

Maybe they weren’t integrated into my daily routine.  Maybe things were hectic and they fell by the wayside.  In any case, with two failed attempts under my belt, I’m trying a third time.

So, in the name of making things easy, this afternoon, I’ve set them up in Outlook.  Outlook is not a hot rod feed reader, but per my previous post, I spend a lot of time there.

This is part of my effort to expand my PLN, so I’d love suggestions of feeds that I should add on the topics of education technology.  I want to know what other people are trying in their classrooms.  What Web 2.0 are they finding works well and what needs improvement?  What motivates students?

Now, wish me luck and here’s hoping that the third time will be the charm.

Why “Tech Life Balance?”

Note: This post was the initial post on a blog I had from 2009-2011 entitled “Tech Life Balance.”

One of the most frequent questions that parents ask me is how to tell if their girls are spending too much time online or how to curtail the amount of time they spend online with Facebook, IM and similar applications.  I have a series of tools and tips for these parents to use in collaboration with their daughters to keep the virtual from getting in the way of family time or academic work.  This post doesn’t include those tips, but I will endeavor to post them in the future. Additionally, I know that the division between virtual and real, and between home/school/work is getting narrower if it even exists at all.  I know that students can use IM to collaborate on assignments.  None of that is the point.

I am very connected and all of my devices are multi-purpose.  My husband has six computers: Work tablet, work desktop for photo/video editing, home laptop, netbook (for controlling his flash systems), audio processing rack-mount “desktop” and a cute shuttle for his extensive music collection.  Oh, and his iPhone. I (the head of technology department) have my Lenovo X61 tablet and an iPhone.  Clean and simple, yes, but it also means that I am connected at all times.  I check my email after my second sip of coffee and don’t turn it off until I go to bed.  Unobsessed with Facebook, I check it only twice a day and can usually spend a maximum of ten minutes logged in.  In the morning I read local news online, BBC, and Slate.  I actually have to make a point to check Twitter, which I should do more often.  It doesn’t sound like I’m lacking for tech life balance does it?

But I am.  Technology is my job.  Technology is my leisure.  I carry my iPhone at all times because I am on call.  Most of my email requires a response and many messages each day are requests for assistance.  So, my students have Facebook and I have email.

So, one aspect of tech life balance is about unplugging.  While recovering from a recent surgery, I was off-line for nearly seven days.  I hadn’t been unplugged for that long in ten years and may not be again for another ten, but it helped me realize that I could unplug to rest and restore.  If I can do that, I can unplug to go to a movie, to the gym, to cook dinner, or to paint.

Another aspect is about the role of technology in our lives.  My life, yes, but also my students lives.  In my classroom and in other classrooms.  Is it just as good to watch a Chemistry experiment online as it is to do it in real life?  Can I help my students learn with virtual tools as effectively as when I am there beside them in a tutoring session?  What will make a girl decide to take programming instead of other elective?  How can I use technology to implement systems that make things more efficient and easier?

Thus, tech life balance is the name of this blog.  In one sense, it is tech/life balance and in another it is techlife balance.   Enjoy.