Copyright and Copyleft

A couple of years ago, I was asked to visit a local high school to observe how an ESL teacher was “integrating technology” into her class. During the hour that I observed, students spent most of their time copying as many images as they could from the internet and pasting them in to their own PowerPoint presentations. Not a single student in the class made a reference to the owner of the images they had copied. When I mentioned it to the teacher, it seemed as thought she had never thought about it before. About a year later I had the opportunity to help my friend’s son finish a homework assignment. His assignment was finished very quickly by using Google Images to create a picture explanation of a topic he was learning about in his science class. When I asked him if he was going to say where he got the images from, he looked at me like I was crazy. “Why would I do that?” he said. These two experiences made me realize that, as teachers, we are doing a pretty weak job of teaching copyright to our students. Somehow the hallowed laws of plagiarism that exist when writing a paper, don’t seem to apply when using electronic media. In instructional design, copyright is an ever present issue as well. Dwight Laws, director of independent study at BYU, talks about the great effort they go through to avoid including copyright materials in their courses. Because of the obvious lack of preparation in teacher education, and the need for copyright information in instructional design, I’ve made a list of copyright links that I use on a regular basis. If you are interested in learning more about copyright, follow the link below.

Copyright Information :: Urban Legends Site

Today I got an e-mail with a picture from a 1954 Popular Science magazine that supposedly showed what scientists thought a home computer would look like in 2004. While the picture is funny and very believable, the whole thing was a hoax. The picture actually came from a recent photo re-touching competition. The entire story can be found on, a site dedicated to disproving urban legends. Tools such as Snopes become more and more useful as we spend less time finding information, and more time judging whether it is useful and reputable or not.

Want to read the story behind the computer photo? Go to…

Google Announces “Google Scholar”

The latest tool from Google is aimed specifically at the educational community. It’s called Google Scholar and is focuses search results on scholarly literature such as peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports. The term “instructional design”, for example, brought up 46,500 results from scholarly publications.

Anurag Acharya, Principal Engineer for the project, said, “We at Google have benefited much from academic research. This is one of the ways in which we are giving back to the research community. We hope Google Scholar will help all of us stand on the shoulders of giants.”

For more info, visit Google’s official Blog

Asking Questions :: Getting the right people on the bus

In Katherine Cennamo and Debby Kalk’s book “Real World Instructional Design”, they highlight the importance of asking the right questions. This should be one of the strongest attributes of an instructional designer. I first learned the importance of asking good questions when I was supervising a technical support team for American Power Conversion at their headquarters in Rhode Island. I learned that the ammount of time and frustration that can be saved by asking the right questions can be enourmous (and yes, all of those stories about the questions that tech support people get are true).

From that point on, I made it a goal to become a better “question asker”. When it comes to instructional design, there is a question that, in my opinion, is the most important designer to ask. That question is…

“Do we have the right people on the bus?”

The “bus” is whatever project you are working on at the time. The analogy comes from Jim Collins’ book Good to Great where he says that the most effective executives have said, “…I don’t really know where we should take this bus. But I know this much: If we get the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus, then we’ll figure out how to take it someplace great.”

If an instructional designer is a good ogranizer of who is on the “bus” and where they are sitting, the bus will most likely go someplace great.

Paul B. Allen :: Tools for Improving Education

Last week Infobase Ventures founder, Paul B. Allen, spoke at BYU. His presentation focused online tools to help educators and students.

Overview of Paul’s Lecture:

“In just 10 years, the World Wide Web has given more than a billion users access to billions of pages of information on virtually every subject. However, real learning requires much more than just having access to data or information. In his presentation. Paul Allen discusses ways in which educators and students can use Web-based data and tools to gain and share knowledge. Topics include open source and open content projects, social networking and community tools, blogging, multimedia, mobile computing, and location-based learning.”

View a QuickTime video stream of Paul’s presentation
Download a copy of Paul’s presentation in PDF format

Sixteen Skills for Human Performance Technologists

In his paper Skill sets for the human performance technologist , Stolovitch lays out the sixteen essential skills necessary for an effective HP technologist. These skills can be broken down into two areas, basic technical skills (analysis, observation, evaluation, etc.), and basic people skills (management, organization communication, interpersonal, etc.). While I agree with the skills layed out by Stolovitch, I’m not sure that they apply more to HPT than any area of instructional design. If I were to hire an educational technologist, or a learning scientist, I would still want them to be able to “plan, manage, and monitor” projects, and “communicate effectively in visual, oral, and written form”. In fact, I would urge that we all accept these skills as a working foundation in whatever area of specialization we choose.
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Take that! Microsoft vs. Google

This week is a great example of why I love Google (and have less-positive feelings about Microsoft). This week Microsoft released it’s LONG awaited “new search engine” (story from the BBC). In the typical Microsoft style, they admitted that they had been left behind in the search engine market, but were coming up from behind to take over and triumph. Sounds a lot like the Netscape/Internet Explorer statements from several years ago. All except for one thing… Google will not be schooled by a company with a “reactive” business style.

The major piece of evidence that Microsoft used to show that they were taking over Google’s space, was the fact that their new search engine indexes five billion pages, while Google only indexed four billion. Yesterday, however, Google quietly released an “update” to the number of pages they index… to over 8 BILLION!

I think of what Sergey Brin said in his interview with Newsweek: “I’ve seen companies obsessed with competition, say, with Microsoft, that keep looking in their rearview mirror and crash into a tree head-on because they’re so distracted,” Not Google.

I hope the gloomy feel in the MSN Search offices today will help them learn a lesson in humility and let them get used to taking second place to Google.

See article Google One-Ups Microsoft (from

On Being Great :: Williamson Quote

In Marianne Williamson’s book “A Return to Love”, we find a quote that has great application in our lives…

“…Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
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Firefox released first official version

One of the best nerdy things I’ve done this year is switched from using Internet Explorer to using Firefox. It’s a much better browser. Even the U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommends it. For those of you who were hesitant to switch because Firefox was still a “preview” application, you’ll be happy to know that Firefox 1.0 (official version) was released this week.
Download Firefox.

Why I hated school

Most people who go into education do so because of some great teacher who inspired them, and in so doing made them want to do the same for others. I ended up in education because, after 12 years of hating just about every minute of it, I finally said “I can do better than this!” Now, as I try to find ways to make the educational experience better for others, I look at why I had such a negative experience. I think it comes down to the fact that certain characteristics, necessary for learning, were missing from my education.
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