Maybe it IS About the Video…

by Brian Bennett on 07/20/2016

In 2011, I wrote a post in which I strongly declared that Flipped Learning is not about the videos.

But what if it is?

11096369675_220527ceb3_k flickr photo shared by cogdog Creative Commons Attribution BY license.

The whole idea of Flipped Learning is moving from directing instruction in front of the community to allow active learning practices to prompt learning experiences in students. In order to do that, time has to be reclaimed somewhere...something during the class has to be sacrificed.

For many, the way to do that is through video.

So, it is about the video, but only in the sense that it allows the teacher to explore other methods of interacting with students within the context of the class. The transition from instruction in the room to instruction as a recording is a small leap; accessible to most teachers where they are now and one that can lead to deeper learning opportunities.

Obviously, the video is only an enabler of change, not the cause. There is still an active decision made by the teacher to change their classroom practice for students. It is not the only way to effect change in practice, but it is (or seems to be) quite popular.

Beyond offloading instruction, the video doesn't do much. Without taking steps to improve the learning experiences students have in the classroom, then no, nothing has changed. Use that time to push yourself and students into new experiences and allow those videos to help support the change.

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Commenting on Periscope in a Blog Post

by Brian Bennett on 07/20/2016

A week or two back, Lisa Dabbs, known for starting and moderating #ntchat wrote a post (a second post, actually) on why new teachers should use Periscope with their students.

There are some concerns with the Periscope terms of service and privacy policy that come up when the teacher is broadcasting students across the app. I posted a comment on Lisa's blog, but after some tweets and awaiting moderation, it isn't live, so I'm posting it here because the discussion is valuable. I hope Lisa and others are willing to comment on some of the points below.

Hi Lisa, I want to push back on the idea that new teachers should jump into using Periscope. Yes, it’s important to share and get feedback and it can be a great way to do that. But jumping right in and sharing student images and student information without at least mentioning the Terms of Use and Privacy Statements is, in my opinion, dangerous.

From the Periscope Privacy Statement (my emphasis added):

We use and store information about your location to provide features of our Services, such as broadcasting with your location, and to improve and customize the Services. We may infer your location based on information from your device. If you have turned on location services for Periscope, we may share your precise location.

There is no limitation on how long they store that information. If a new teacher is broadcasting and a student with limitations from their parents is included in that broadcast, that can lead to serious issues. Broadcasting specific location data is never a wise idea, especially when minors are involved.

From the TOS:

You agree that this license includes the right for Twitter, Inc. to provide, promote, and improve Periscope and to make Content submitted to or through Periscope available to other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Twitter, Inc. for the syndication, broadcast, distribution or publication of such Content on other media and services, subject to our terms and conditions for such Content use.

Often, this licensing is so Periscope can rebroadcast your content, much like other services ask for the same permission to share materials you create on a wide basis and not case by case. But, this can also include use in advertisements, promotional materials, etc. Again, broadcasting the images of students and having a company with their own profit in mind with no control over how or why those images are stored perpetually can lead to liability problems at some point.

You are responsible for your use of Periscope, for any Content you provide, and for any consequences thereof, including the use of your Content by other users and our third party partners.

In other words, “If someone misuses your content, it’s your fault for posting it.”

The teacher is responsible in loco parentis. We are representatives of the school district. Any liability the teacher takes on using any application can come back to the district. This is an express agreement that is glossed over in most cases. Periscope, because of its public nature, brings a unique challenge.

All I’m saying is that twice now you have implored new teachers to jump into a service with no mention of repercussions that could come from tacit use. You have a great amount of influence and a lot of people look to you for guidance. Please consider taking explicit steps with these recommendations to outline Privacy and Terms of Use considerations for apps and programs. Especially for new teachers. They have enough to worry about already.

As always, comments are open.

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17 Year Cicadas

by Brian Bennett on 07/8/2016

flickr photo shared by bennettscience under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

I heard the first periodical cicada of the summer yesterday. Before I could find him, he stopped buzzing. I'll have to pay more attention this afternoon and see if I can track him down.

17 years ago, I was in my first biology class. I still remember my teacher: Mr. Brown. He was a certified master diver and knew (it seemed) just about everything. He was the one who really made science alive for me. He was just one of the teachers who made me want to eventually get my degree in biology and teach.

Science is real. Our students need to experience the world around them and have opportunities to really see that we can learn through observation and inference. Hearing a cicada that has been underground for 17 years, only to emerge for four weeks to make more cicadas is one of those experiences.

I'm teaching AP Bio next year for the first time since the redesign in 2013. I'm excited to get back to the realm of the living (chemistry is can't really compete) and giving students a chance to be a part of the cycles happening all around us every day.

Learning is more than the cycles, charts, and facts. It's living and breathing with the rest of the world.

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Another Free App is Closing

by Brian Bennett on 07/1/2016

News came down this week that Zaption, a popular web app that layers quiz question and other interactive features on top of videos, is closing it's doors on September 30th.

Unlike some of the other recent closures, Zaption is being purchased by a finance firm (Workday) located in San Francisco. The terms of the sale aren't public, but my guess is that Workday wants to expand it's learning service to include interactive features for their client base. It adds value to something they've already built out and saves the hassle of licensing fees.

Here's the kicker: Zaption, as far as I can tell, has no information in their Terms of Service or Privacy Policy about what happens to user data. Nothing came up when I searched the page for sale, sold, acquire, acquired, bankrupt, bankruptcy purchase, purchased, asset, assets, or close.

User data is valuable in most cases. The immediate concern is that user data will be transferred in this sale with no prior disclosure. I've reached out to Zaption via Twitter asking for clarification on the plan for that data. Given the buyer and Zaptions offering, I'm hoping data transfer isn't in the deal and that the purchase is for the codebase.

There are two important things to remember:

  1. "Free" always has a cost associated with it.
  2. Read the Privacy Policy and Terms for the apps you use.

What happens to data in these situations is important. If you're looking for a good place to start, Bill Fitzgerald worked on a project with Common Sense Media to create a Privacy Policy Browser covering the conditions for some popular educational websites and apps. Check it out and see what you've agreed to. Being informed is important.

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Recognizing Devaluation in EdTech and Teaching

by Brian Bennett on 06/27/2016

ISTE 2016 is in full swing and right on cue, my hype-o-meter tolerance has dropped significantly. A huge concentration of edtech vendors and Twitterati all in one place can lead to a lot of mumbo jumbo. But, we'll power through the next four days and try to pull the wheat from the chaff.

Two big things that come up in waves each year: A) If you're looking for tech, free is what you deserve as a teacher, and B) If you're creating things, it should be given freely to the rest of the teaching world.

Free is king in edtech and it's killing good tech.

Exhibit A:

He later goes on to say:

The idea that resources for teachers should all be free because of a moral imperative is dangerous and devalues the hard work that goes into creating content.

If you go through the tweets, the main argument is that a lot of the materials on Teachers Pay Teachers (or similar) are really crappy. There are a lot of crappy products available that I choose not to buy. The guy selling it is perfectly within his rights to sell a product to compensate for the time put into creating it. There has to be some kind of recognition that all work is not equal and that being paid for significant time and effort to create a product is completely appropriate, even for teachers.

Second, my moral obligation is to my students first and foremost. I don't charge them for resources I create, much of it on my own time. I also choose, freely, to give a lot away to the teaching community because I don't feel the time I've put into those resources was significant enough to ask for compensation.

Expecting teachers to work for free devalues those hours and allows edtech companies to fill the gap and make good money while they're doing it.

There's another parallel to explore: expecting free software for the sake of teaching devalues the hard work of development, QA testing, troubleshooting, and maintenance of code. The time is valuable and it is completely appropriate to be compensated for that time.

The free-as-best mindset is a dangerous delimiter being placed on what is valuable or invaluable in education based on price alone.

Unfortunately, in order to appeal to the education community at-large, the free-as-best standard is being encouraged by edtech companies. The following was shared by PhET Sims:

The image is well-intended. But, the message is the same one that's plaguing edtech: all software should be free. (If you're not familiar with PhET, it runs from grants and individual donations. I'm a big user of their sims in my own classroom and I've taken the step to donate some money to the continuation of the project.) I'd be willing to bet that the developers working for PhET to create and maintain the simulations like to be paid for their work. The sims aren't free and the cost is not exposed clearly enough to the user.

ISTE concentrates these ideas and feeds the perception that price point is the main factor in the usefulness or value in a product. There are costs everywhere and to keep doors open as a company, you have to meet those costs. If you're not paying cash for a service, that cost is most likely data you're contributing, and that's for another post.

If you're at ISTE right now (or if you know someone who is) please keep this in mind as you research and share about new tools. Don't perpetuate the free-as-best narrative because in the long run, it's going to cost us all.