web 2.0

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You may have noticed the new symbols on my sidebar. That’s because I finally woke up and decided to start thinking about copyright issues for my blog and other content that I put on the Internet. I was moved by the NYSCATE conference to consider Creative Commons Licensing.

Creative Commons licenses allows creators  to share content that they have created, while retaining some rights to the material. Steve Hargadon posted this great YouTube video on his K12opensource site by JustinG4000 which provides a great overview.

Having heard about it at the conference and seeing this video moved me to visit the Creative Commons site. The site makes it very easy to create a license for your content. Just click on the License Your Work on the upper right hand side of the homepage.

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The up comes a page with a few questions and buttons to help you customize the license.

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You can also fill out optional fields, making attribution to your site a function of copying and pasting as snippet of code. You can fill in whatever is relevant.

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Click Select a license and you are delivered to page that allows you to select the appearance of the Creative Commons icon/link and gives you a snippet of code to past into the appropriate place on your site.

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As you can see, the Creative Commons site makes it quick and easy to license your work.

Licensure choices

Creative Commons licenses starts with the premise that you allow others to copy your work as long as they attribute it to you (You can choose their Public Domain license if you do not care about attribution). The first choice presented is whether or not you allow commercial use of your work. I was almost certainly selecting No until Jim Klein responded to my Tweet asking about CC licensing. He cautioned that not allowing commercial use may prevent paid presenters from using your ideas (of course they could always ask permission). For my blog, I decided that I would allow commercial use on the remote chance that somebody would actually use my ideas. For my test prep materials, on the other hand, I barred commercial use.

The next choice is to decide whether or not you will allow others to modify your work. As outlined in the video above, you have three choices:

  • Yes–allow others to change as they please.
  • Yes–”Share alike” as long as they grant the same license to those who might use the derivation of your work.
  • No–modifications are not allowed

I chose “Share Alike.” I feel that if anybody want to use my material and modify it, they should allow others to do the same.

Copyright, creative commons, and pedagogy

Now that students are becoming content creators on the Internet whether or not in association with schools, they need to consider copyright and its implications. The options  presented with the Creative Commons license variations provides a great venue for discussing the implications of copyright in general.

Furthermore, considering the copyright of their own materials will make discussion of intellectual ownership in general more relevant to students than the standard plagiarism lectures. It becomes a real issue and will almost certainly give students a new perspective on the issues involved.

Creative Commons licensing makes sense, particularly for content creators on the Internet. Web 2.0 makes the issue of copyright very important to a widening number of people. Creative Commons also highlights issues in the realm of copyright that make it a great vehicle for discussion of intellectual property in schools.

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The popular “free” educational blogging site Edublogs has begun inserting inline content link ads in the posts of their free blogs. Once users are logged in, they no longer appear, but anyone view the blog sees the ads.

To disable the ads, one must become an Edublogs supporter costing $25 per year. There are other benefits such as more server space and Twitter integration. Alternatively, schools can set up Campus subscriptions starting at $900 per year for 100 blogs.

On the popular Classroom 2.0 site, teachers are registering shock and dismay at this unannounced development, saying that they feel “bamboozled.” Concern has been expressed about control over the content of these ads. Teachers and students have invested much into this blog platform and suddenly find the landscape has changed.

In fairness to Edublogs, the potential for advertising has been in their terms of service for some time–I looked into it many months ago. (You DO read the TOS before clicking I accept, don’t you?). In this tightening economy, the flow of easy captial has been shut off. The free hosted social applications need to pay their bills to keep their servers up and running and to pay staff.

I have always expressed concern about hosted Web 2.0 solutions for these very reasons. There is also the issue of data ownership. If one of these companies goes belly up overnight as has been the case with so many major corporations of late, what happens to your data?

The solution is free and open source software on either rented web server space, or on in-house servers. No, these are not “free” solutions, but they are inexpensive. Webhosting accounts can be had for as little as $5 a month and most offer ample resources for hosting your own Web 2.0 solutions. Furthermore, you will not find yourself blindsided by changes in policies and terms.

There are many options for software. Multiple blogs can be hosted on WordPressMU, Social Networks on Elgg, and the list goes on.

Stay tuned for more such developments and start studying up on free and open source Web 2.0 applications. As has been said so many times before: there is no such thing as a free lunch!

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Will Richardson expressed exasperation with a school leader in a recent post as he tried to blame parents for student misbehavior on FaceBook or MySpace. He proposed the schools need to play a big role:

There is a solution to this, one that we all know, but one that for some reason few seem willing to implement other than in the guise of a “parent awareness night” or some type of scary Internet predator presentation by a state policeman. For the life of me, I can’t understand what is so hard about opening up the first and second and third grade curriculum and find ways to integrate these skills and literacies in a systemic way. If you want kids to be educated about these tools and environments, then maybe we should, um, educate them.

He suggests that we not just talk to them about the dangers of the Internet and social networking, rather we integrate these tools in an age appropriate way from an early age.

As I posted earlier, using social networking is valuable for teaching Internet safety. These new literacies are the reality of our kids’ world and future. They are not going to disappear. Like the books we read, they can be used for good or evil. We need to harness these technologies for learning and promote their use as positive forces.

While parents should play a role, many simply do not understand these technologies. Congress has just passed a bill mandating instruction of social networking safety and cyberbullying. Since we must do it, we should do it in a way that is real and relevant, and in a way that teaches new literacies while harnessing their potential.

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New legislation passed unanimously by the US Senate and headed for the President’s desk mandates schools to provide instruction about safety on social networking sites. The language was appended to S.1492 bill Broadband Data Improvement. While the thrust of the bill is improving broadband Internet access to Americans, SubTitle A: Promoting a Safe Internet for Children includes :

(iii) as part of its Internet safety policy is educating minors about appropriate online behavior, including interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and in chat rooms and cyberbullying awareness and response.

What better way to teach them than to use social networking software in instruction, rather than lecture them about online perils? A closed environment monitored by teachers would give students real life practice in a safer environment. It would add relevance and authenticity to instruction. Discussion of appropriate online behavior prior to actually using social networking software would have a positive impact on student learning and is more likely to have a lasting effect on student online behavior. Mistakes would have lesser repercussions than on a site open to the world at large. They could be powerful teachable moments.

I plan to use this to bolster my case for the use of social networking software in our school. What impact do you think this may have on schools and their potential use of social software?

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Commercial interests have insinuated themselves into schools in many ways over the past several years: news programs aimed at students with advertising, sweetheart soft drink deals offering kickbacks to school districts. The list is endless. The newest manifestation of this trend is the offer of free web 2.0 tools for students and educators by a number of companies including Google.

Commercial interests have a profit motive in offering these “free” services to schools–otherwise they wouldn’t do so. If they do not charge for these services, how to they plan to finance or monetize these services? There are a number of ways.

First, there is advertising. Many of these free sites include advertising on their pages targeting the demographic of the typical reader. Worse yet, sometimes it includes advertising that is inappropriate for the educational setting. You have no control over what appears. To their credit, some sites offer advertising free access. That means, however, that they must be finding other ways to make it profitable.

Marketers highly value any information regarding the behaviors and patterns of school age children.  Aggregated data on Internet usage of children this age is extremely valuable and where better to find this data than our schools? By directing students to use these commercial tools, we are delivering a treasure trove of data to these companies. Brand loyalties also begin to form at these ages.This is why Coke and Pepsi were so willing to offer schools lucrative kickbacks for offering only their brands in school vending machines before there was a backlash.

Additionally, many Internet services have in the past started as free only to change to for pay models down the line once one has grown accustomed to the service. Those of us who have been on the Internet a long time has seen numerous such instances.

Another peril is data ownership. What many users to not realize is that hidden deep in the text of many Terms of Service is language which passes ownership of the content from the user to the company. Others simply have users unknowingly relinquish their materials to the public domain. Releasing content to the public domain can be a good thing, but individuals should understand that they are doing so.

Many Web 2.0 evangelists tout these tools on the websites, in their books, and at conferences. Cash strapped schools and teachers latch onto them without a second thought. In essence, much of the Web 2.0 movement is telling students to march lock stepped into the hands of these commercial interests. We are teaching acquiescence to big business.

I believe it is one thing to mention these tools to students and examining the terms of service while they do so. What I have seen however, is teachers blithely instructing students to register accounts on Blogger, or some other web service as a matter of fulfilling course requirements. I don’t think that we have the right to do this.

There are alternatives. Free and open source software alternatives exist for almost every web 2.0 tool. While they must be hosted on a server, such can be done very inexpensively on existing school infrastructure, or by renting servers or space on servers for little money. Last year, our school ran several such tools on rented server space for about $10 a month. I believe that we as schools and educators have a moral imperative to move in this direction. I discussed this in an earlier post as well.

Many of my previous posts have centered on open source Web 2.0 tools and their deployment in education. Future blog posts will continue to seek out the tools as an alternative to the commercialization of Web 2.0 in education.

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