Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Copyright -- Fair Use vs. Creative Commons

At last week's PowerRanger meeting we reviewed "copyright." In the USA, original work (also referred to as intellectual property) created since March 1, 1989 is assumed to be copyrighted, whether or not it has a notice attached.

Copyright infringement can occur by using or reproducing someone's creative work without their permission. However, section 107 of copyright law provides guidelines for the "fair use" of intellectual property "for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching… or research." Teachers and students need to be aware of these guidelines, and of the "four factors" used to determine the "educational" fair use of intellectual property.

We discussed two scenarios and debated whether or not the teacher or student in our "examples" was in violation of copyright infringement. My disclaimer in these discussions continues to be that, "I am not an attorney." I can only share my understanding of copyright infringement, and let you know that lawsuits are determined on a case-by-case basis.

I also shared information about the "Creative Commons," a nonprofit organization founded in 2001 to help "people dedicate their creative works to the public domain -- or retain their copyright while licensing them as free for certain uses, on certain conditions.... Creative Commons' first project, in December 2002, was the release of a set of copyright licenses free for public use... this will enable people to ... find, for example, photographs that are free to use provided that the original photographer is credited, or songs that may be copied, distributed, or sampled with no restrictions whatsoever."

This organization is gaining momentum, as you will notice the "Creative Commons" badge displayed on a number of websites, including this blog. Students and teachers also have the ability to search the internet using Google and Yahoo, to locate digital resources tagged with a Creative Commons license. What a great way to promote responsible "digital" citizens!
For more information, visit the http://creativecommons.org website, or the creativecommons.org search page at: http://creativecommons.org/find/

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Your Tax Dollar$ at Work!

Since our federal taxes were due yesterday, I thought it might be fitting to share this FREE website, made possible by Uncle Sam:

What is FREE?
FREE = Federal Resources for Educational Excellence

More than 30 Federal agencies formed a working group in 1997 to make hundreds of Federally supported teaching and learning resources easier to find. The result of that work is the FREE web site.
Visit: http://www.ed.gov/free

You will find resources for a variety of subjects: Arts, Educational technology, Foreign languages, Health, Language Arts, Mathematics, Physical Education, Science, Social studies, and Vocational education. Subscribe to the RSS feed for "New Resources," or browse the resources by Subject, Archives, or use the Site Search tool.

Check out the "Special Collections" page with topics such as "Financial Literacy: Learn the basics about getting the most out of your money—saving, investing, banking, buying a home, balancing your checkbook, and more. Find out about mutual funds and the Federal Reserve. Try an online retirement calculator. Test your 'financial smarts.'"

There is also a page organized just for students.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Ajax -- stronger than dirt?

If you grew up in the '60s, you may remember having back yards filled with clothing hung out to dry on lines stretched between poles, porches, fences or buildings. Remember, too, the Ajax white knight, who rode through neighborhoods "zapping" laundry to magically transform dingy whites into sparkling whites? The peer pressure among homemakers was intense. After all, everyone in the neighborhood could critique your laundering prowess. These are the images that come to mind when I hear the word "Ajax."

Fast forward to the 21st Century!! Although the laundry detergent and household cleanser from my youth are still available, in this day and age, Ajax has a totally new meaning. It is an acronym for "Asynchronous JavaScript And XML" which, according to "Wikipedia," is a web development technique for creating interactive web applications, such as ajaxWrite: http://ajaxwrite.com.

Free to use, no sign up required, and nothing to install, ajaxWrite is a "streamlined word processor, comparable to Microsoft Word with ... functions you use most often, right where you'd expect them to be. You can import and export documents in all popular formats, including documents with graphics. The save function lets you save your work to a drive on your computer. Also, since you run ajaxWrite from your web browser, it is platform independent and can therefore be used with any operating system." Note: ajaxWrite only works in Firefox.

What intrigued me the most was the statement regarding the "ability to import documents in all popular formats." I have been looking long and hard for an easy way to convert Microsoft Works files, for editing on the Macintosh. Although there is a "Works to Word" converter for Windows, no such utility exists for the Mac. Word on the Mac can open Works files, but only as text, and so formatting and structure is not preserved.

Well, I was excited to test some sample student papers I've been holding onto. Unfortunately, when I tried to upload a document, my browser froze and I had to force quit. So, it seems there are a few bugs yet to be ironed out.

I am hopeful that perhaps in the near future, ajaxWrite will provide the solution for working with Microsoft Works files that students have brought to school to print out, or to finish up, but neglected to "Save as ..." Microsoft Word before they left home. Perhaps ajaxWrite will be our "knight in shining armor" very soon!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Teaching and Learning through video

With the popularity of "videos-to-go" (ala iPod), educators have the potential to grab students' attention beyond the classroom. Of course, competing with flashy music videos may be challenging, educational videos are certainly worth exploring! Our subscription to UnitedStreaming provides an excellent foundation for extending learning beyond the classroom. And, many of the videos have editing "rights," allowing subscribers to edit the content, such as providing custom narration (why not have the students rewrite these). If you don't have a login yet, visit my Patriot public folder for access information.

And, for further exploration, check out Google Video. Advertised as "the world's first open online video marketplace, where you can search for, watch and even buy an ever-growing collection of TV shows, movies, music videos, documentaries, personal productions and more." Search for your favorite topic and watch brief previews on the search results page."Clicking on a thumbnail image will take you to a playback page, where you can watch the preview or, for free content, the video itself. In addition to viewing free content, you can also purchase or rent premium content at the Google Video store using your Google Account."

Thanks to Google Video and the National Archives, visit NARA on Google Video for links to old NASA footage, United newsreels, and Department of the Interior films.