Friday, March 29, 2013

Time for a Spring Cleaning?

Many TPT sellers collaborated and decided to throw a quick sale this weekend, which incidentally coincides with our last two days of the sales' quarter on that web site.  I hadn't planned to join in until I saw how adorable the graphic was created by Krysta Wallden.  I had to post it!  She's so talented & a lovely person, and you ought to check out her TPT store if you're interested in making cute things for your classroom!

Enjoy the sale Saturday & Sunday, and have a lovely Easter weekend!  Here is the link-up code so that you can see who else is offering some reduced prices.

(Sorry!  The link code isn't displaying properly, so I just linked to Dilly Dabbles' blog where you can access the whole list!)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Teachers & Digital Citizenship: Part 2

Starting with two apologies - one for this second part taking longer to finish than I'd hoped, due to a bad cold and other factors this week, and secondly because it's so long!

Teachers, it's time for us to get educated! Accept that it's part of your job to know about online etiquette and how to be an upstanding digital citizen, and to be passing correct information about copyright and digital resources on to your students!

Some of you might think it sure would be nice if this information was disseminated in a tidy, easy to consult format by school boards or districts, but I guess until a whole lot more of them are taken to court for lost revenues from certain resources, that won't happen.

Others dread that it might happen in this format. Self-directed professional development can be the best there is! You only need to spend time figuring out the answers to YOUR particular questions, and not listening to a one-hour-long presentation on something you already mostly knew, and have for years.

Canadian teachers ought to be familiar with this document called Copyright Matters made available in the summer of 2012 by the Councils of Ministers of Education, the Canadian Teachers' Federation and the Canadian School Boards Association.

American teachers might be interested in this free online course that I found out about from a blog-world acquaintance, Lorraine at Fabulous Fourth Grade Froggies.  It's designed specifically for teachers to better understand copyright, and how it pertains to us from a U.S. perspective. The fact that it's rather involved and lengthy, requiring several hours per week over multiple weeks is an indicator that this IS a complicated area.

But that doesn't give us permission to just pretend such issues don't exist, and to disseminate erroneous information either through teacher to teacher communications or as role models with students watching out actions far more intently than we sometimes realize.  In part 1 of this blog post, I included a couple of quotes from teachers (whose names I did NOT include, to give them some measure of anonymity rather than to take their words without permission) that I'd copied & pasted from facebook teacher groups over a period of time. I'd like to take a brief look at what's wrong with each.

One teacher suggested getting a copy of a novel or graphic novel out of the library and scanning it page by page to project in the classroom to save money.  Clearly this would be depriving the publisher of their set price per copy for the print resource.
(Who's to blame for the teacher not having adequate current, engaging resources he or she needs for the number of students in the classroom?)

Another teacher offered to share a resource that was visible in a classroom photo. The teacher thought the set of posters/anchor charts were a freebie from TeachersPayTeachers and offered to share the resource by email.  In this case, and in several others a lot like it, it turned out that the resource offered up was not a free resource, even if the teacher in question obtained it for free. In any case, in most situations, owning a copy of something (even legitimately, as in this instance) does not give you the right to distribute it to others.
(Who is responsible for tracking from where a resource originated?)

Two other quotes acknowledged the wink-wink nudge-nudge "sharing" of resources that as an accepted practice but one that we should engage in not too openly, to avoid getting ourselves into legal trouble. This cavalier attitude shows that it's more than just an issue of ignorance. (How should it become clear to teachers that such offences are to be taken seriously? Is this something for the College of Teachers to step in on, do we need employers - with whom we sign contracts often including morality and ethics clauses - to step in, or are we able to act as autonomous professionals?)

One of those quotes commented on how it's wrong to show DVD movies that we've purchased (or borrowed from the library) in class.  Guess what?  Here in Ontario at least, THAT is actually permitted!! It's against the rules to use a copy in the classroom, illegally obtained or even just backed up by yourself.  But borrowing a copy from a friend or from the library or using something you have purchased
(This goes back to my very first point - teachers must have up-to-date, current information.  The rules have changed significantly my friends!) 

My advice:

  1. Share LINKS to resources that you find online, not the resources themselves. 
  2. Don't ask, offer, or take others up on their suggestions to share resources that you know or suspect are copyright-protected. 
  3. Don't scan & upload books and other resources that you have in print form. This is quite commonly prohibited by the part of the copyright or terms of usage statement that generally says " part of this book may be reproduced, copied or transmitted in any form without express written permission from the publisher..."
  4. When in doubt, ask.  Yes, you may come off as someone with a lot of nerve, but it doesn't hurt! And that's way better than appearing as an unethical person, in my opinion.
  5. Last but certainly NOT least... examine the reasons why teachers have engaged in this type of pirating swapping and hoarding gathering, and let's start a discussion about how to best resolve those issues!

To leave you with something tangible, here is a printable copy of a generic parent pledge and child pledge related to digital citizenship at  I also offer up to you my version of a Teacher Pledge.

Of course there's a WHOLE lot more to digital citizenship than just this one aspect. Maybe I'll write more on this topic in a series, but if so, only after a break.  This has been a little tiring and more negative than I'd like, and honestly I'm still kind of holding my breath waiting for some backlash.  I'm starting to suspect it might only be happening in staff rooms next to the photocopier and in semi-private wikispaces devoted to wholesale sharing of copyright resources.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Teachers & Digital Citizenship: Part 1

Digital Literacy is not the same thing as Digital Citizenship.

Sometimes I feel that as educators, we are pushing forward, hard, on the use of technology, but perhaps falling short on the other aspect and failing to consider the ethical implications.

The following are ACTUAL quotes from teachers on facebook in "professional groups":

"Just a thought... get it out of the library, scan it and then you can project it - for free."

"I think they might have been a freebie from TpT....If you'd like to message me your email, I can send them to you."

"Obviously nothing would be shared through this posting.. It's merely a discussion about how to find these resources and yes e-mail would be a great way to find something by 'accident' "

"...need to be careful about making the groups illegal File Sharing spaces. We know all teachers photocopy pages upon pages of books, and we watch DVDs in our classes..."

So what's wrong with this situation? First of all, simply the lack of education - among a group of educational professionals - is appalling to me.  More on that later.

Second, I know in my school... in my board... we've been told as teachers it is up to us to prepare students with the skills they will need to be successful digital citizens. While that might include "look how easy it is to rip someone off by not giving them any credit for their work, or not paying for something you ought to pay to have or use" I think that needs to be balanced with "here's the upright, proper way of going about things" and even "here's what you might want to do to protect yourself and your own digital intellectual property".

Third, maybe we ought to "practice what we preach" to the children and obtaining resources through legitimate means rather than peeking over our neighbour's shoulder to get the best answer (or handout, graphic organizer, sentence starters or art lesson, as the case may be.) What kind of role models do we want to be?

Maybe you're of the camp that believes teachers must be naturally giving, helpful and supportive and have no right to charge a fee for any kind of educational materials.  Fine, then don't purchase from sites like TPT or TN (... oh and yeah, the well known publishers often have their stuff authored by teachers too, but then the publisher keeps 80% or more of the profit).  Recognize that you continue to have a responsibility even if you are only benefiting from the free materials that other teachers are sharing with you.  A difference of philosophy doesn't give you the right to steal something or to deprive someone of their rights as the author by passing it along to others.

Just because something is on the internet doesn't make it free. This is a quote written by two judges of the Supreme Court of Canada last summer.

Background image (c) Michelle Tsivgadellis, the 3AM Teacher  Read more:

So what should you do?

Here's just a bit of what you'll find in my next blog post:

To be continued...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

French Immersion Intermediate Drama

Two tiny bits of leftover business from my blog-anniversary giveaway...

Irene Priest's button
First, Irene Priest sent me a cute button to use, and I did want to represent her properly to thank her for her generosity - but I was unable to figure out how to set it up since I'm used to just copying & pasting bloggers' blog button codes from the little widget we all display in the sidebar. She doesn't have a blog set up at this time, and wanted it to to go to her TPT store instead.  Better late than never is I hope how she'll see it!

Second, I neglected to properly credit Michelle Tsivgadellis (did I really actually finally learn to spell her name?!?!) who is The 3 AM Teacher for the awesome frame I used as my blogiversary image.  Those of you who follow me probably already know just how fab she is, and how much I adore and admire her, and likely even recognized her work.  But in case not, I've edited the post to add in that credit!  Thanks, thanks, thanks, Michelle!

And now... ON with the REAL blog post!!

Resources are so hard to come by for teaching drama and dance in French. If you have anything fantastic (and affordable!) that I need to know about, I'd be delighted if you left a link to the resource in the comments at the end of this post! 

My students really enjoyed one project in particular this year. I offered four choices of Quebecois legend, each written in a rather simple style (for Core French). I need to thank Marilyn Banack of Le Français Fantastique (and other places!) both for the great stories... one of which I've already misplaced... and for the nugget of this idea.

Each group was responsible for reading their legend, and transforming it into a skit.  We reviewed the elements of drama and talked about how they needed to show their understanding of these elements in their planning & presentation of the skits.

I also looked at how they transformed the work, to include stage directions, direct speech rather than indirect dialogue, and of course the actual writing, as applicable (not very!) for a small French evaluation.

I'm hopeless at remembering to take pictures of my students in class... plus there's the whole "Is it ethical enough if I just blur out their faces" kind of thing which makes me feel a little bit ill-at-ease, so I just didn't do it... Plus I forgot my phone at home the day of the presentations!  But... I'm happy to share with you the assignment criteria that I set with my students and according to which I evaluated their work. This is based on the current arts curriculum for Ontario.

I did originally plan to assess the second and fourth criteria with an informal, observation plus conversation type of evaluation, but discovered that with my sometimes busy group of kiddos, I was better off having them write a brief reflection based on those questions, and assessing their understanding and ability to apply the elements of drama based on evidence provided in this way as well.

We repeated the process with a short tale from another culture, of their choosing. Most did traditional fairy tales & mother-goose type stories, but one group selected an aboriginal tale from North America which was a bit of a tricky choice for them. (I did help them decipher the tale!)

I did find it necessary to be explicit about now the role of a narrator should be minimized in a play, and provide suggestions for things they could communicate through direct dialogue and character actions rather than description.

One last thing for you related to this drama assignment. I provided the following online resources to my students as starting points.

Histoires chez Le Point du FLE
Contes, Récits et Sornettes
and there was a third one which... um.... had European sensibilities  shall we say, in terms of depictions of the human body.  Email me if you'd like that link for use with mature students.

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