Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Are You a Virus?

Recently, I had a chance to hear Ron Canuel from CEA speak about the need for change, and the barriers faced by change agents. In viewing the change agent as a virus, he observed that it is common for innovators to be attacked while followers prosper. Finding it easy to relate to Ron's words, I'd like to extend the metaphor.

Viruses often innovate in the relative safety of a closed door classroom. If you use attempt to use technology in unexpected ways, or if you use tools before they become the norm, you may be a virus. There are many innovators out there, but most, like viruses, are difficult to see. It is only through the sharing of stories, that they become visible.

Virus can replicate but only within living host. If you are a virus, do you dare share your strategies and learning experiments with colleagues? In my experience, viral replication begins through such conversation and conversion. Open sharing may be just the thing that ensures that your district; your school; your department remains vibrant.

Once your peers or members of the ICT department identify you as a change agent, it may trigger the natural defenses of your school or system. The immune system is made up of those who want to maintain the status quo. It might be the technicians who place limits and filters on the tools you use, or it may be the colleagues who aren't ready to adapt their practices to the realities of a changing world. Regardless of the antibodies you face, know that it is natural for any body to defend the status quo. The most intrepid change agents are used to barriers, and though they may be slowed, their viral nature will be resistant to the system's natural defenses.

While viruses are immune to antibiotics, they do need to be aware of vaccination programs. Innocuous policies are commonly adopted in order to protect the system from disruptive change. "Personal devices are not allowed on the network." "Facebook and other social media sites are filtered." "Cell phones will be confiscated if they are seen." While effective in protecting the system in the short term, such inoculations tend to expire as neighbouring school systems evolve.

The metaphor leads me to believe that our education system is in need of an epidemic. Innovative practices will have to go viral in order to infect the practices of educators at all levels. If we are to re-imagine education, schools will need the services of an ever-evolving range of viruses. Care to join me for an educational pandemic?

Image credits: Viral Flu via Novartis AG; Ambulance by chriswong3238

Monday, November 7, 2011

We Can All Do Better

Do you have a blog? a wiki? a social media site? In posting to your online space, how good are you at modelling the appropriate use of content? Do you take advantage of Creative Commons resources? Do you attribute your sources?

Just as it's important to hold students accountable in the appropriate use of previously published materials, educators have a have a moral obligation to the model the ethical use of online content. While 'fair use' policies may give educators permission to use a wide range of materials, this doesn't negate our responsibility to recognize the creators of such works. In failing to acknowledge our sources, we miss out on opportunity to lead by example.

We All Fall Down
I acknowledge that I have at times used the work of others in inappropriate ways. I've used original pieces of music without permission; I've downloaded YouTube clips in violation of the terms of service; I've grabbed screen captures of images otherwise protected by copyright. But over the past few years I've been really conscious about acting justly with regard to rights of content creators, and have worked to inform others about their obligations with respect to copyright. For the past four years, I've also chosen to freely share my creative work with through the Creative Commons. Others are free to use and remix my photos, writing, presentations, publications so long as they attribute my contribution.

What Got Me onto this Topic?
If you've visited this blog in recent years, you'll know that a few of the highlights in my career as a learner have taken place at Educon, a conference of conversations, held annually at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. As a model learning event for teachers, administrators and librarians, Educon hits the mark in a great number of ways.

Upon visiting the Educon 2.4 website two weeks ago. I couldn't help but grin to see highlighted on the banner, a photo I took at last year's event. It's a group photo from a conversation I hosted with Zoe Branigan-Pipe called "Classrooms of Tomorrow". I clicked on the Creative Commons licensed image expecting it to port to the original shot, but instead, it led to the registration page. Without the intent to do so, the Educon 2.4 website was claiming ownership of my work.
Screen shot 2011-10-31 at 11.30.05 AM
Uploaded with Skitch!

While I await an update to the Educon banner, it leads me to reflect:
How good a job do I do in providing attribution to the work of others?
Do my public websites (blogs, wikis, social media pages) use content without consent?
Can I be more effective in acknowledging the contributions of others in my work?
Am I doing everything I can to model the appropriate and fair use of media?

Whether hosting a large conference website, or an obscure resource wiki, our public faces to the world must demonstrate appropriate attribution when we choose to use Creative Commons licensed content. At the very least, an incidental lesson will be taught to anyone who takes notice. In the best of circumstances, visitors will be inspired to follow a hyperlink to the creator's work. Uncountable ripples will follow as acknowledged creators will be more and more likely to share future works.

Can You Do Better?
The idea behind attribution is simple: If you use the work of another creator, give the person credit. In doing so, you'll be modelling for learners the appropriate way to recognize the contributions of others. In a world where creating and remixing is open to anyone, it's time to hold ourselves accountable and to model the ethical use of online content.

Photo credit: London Bridge is Falling Down by Forty two. Creative Commons icon by jorgeandresam

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Lesson in Murmuration

We live in a world where any extraordinary event captured on video must be viewed with mind of a skeptic. This once-in-a-lifetime video, I choose to watch with my heart.

Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.

The creative collaboration of the starlings is awe inspiring. On top of that, the willingness of the videographers Liberty Smith and Sophie Windsor Clive to release the video with Creative Commons license; and the open sharing of the original music by Emmett Glynn and Band, make my sharing soul smile.

Flocking behaviour has evolved in fish and birds to a level we as human beings can only hope to emulate. Still, I can't help but wonder what might be possible if teachers and students could mimic the murmuration of starlings. This video provides a powerful metaphor for how willing collaboration, distributed leadership, and shared responsibility can bring our classrooms to life.