Syllabus details

When I was taking courses at Kent, I struggled with professors who left out portions of the course because I like to know everything involved before I begin a course. One of my professors has all her content accessible a few days before the course begins and my personality really likes that. I have had other students note that a very detailed syllabus is overwhelming. So how does one accommodate someone like them and someone like me? Do I make the syllabus shorter as you suggest, leaving out some of the detail?…or is the compromise that the syllabus is shorter like you propose but yet the entire course is available for people like me who need the detail to plan their time?

This is probably less of an issue with undergraduate, younger students, but I am very specific about what I want to do with my degree and how I plan to use it. I’ve dropped three courses because the syllabi were so vague and the instructor was unattainable or otherwise couldn’t explain what we would actually be doing in class. I want to be sure it meets my needs. And if I’m not sure, I don’t take the class. I did make an exception. I wanted to take the Photoshop workshop but I didn’t want to retouch photos and that sort of thing; my interest is in the graphic design techniques and typographic effects that can be accomplished with Photoshop. The instructor refused to give out any details before the class began, not even a short syllabus like you suggest. I took the course anyway thinking in an instructional technology degree that the emphasis was hopefully on design rather than photography. I was wrong. The course is well thought out and professionally done (impressive actually). But 3/4s of the class are techniques used in photography and photo retouching. I have no interest or use for that. So I spent a thousand dollars on a course that is meant for photo hobbyists (workshops are 100% cost, day one.) I’m learning new things but I can do that on my own. A syllabus would have steered my toward a course more useful to my goals. So I am very sensitive to what is offered in a Syllabus. I don’t think there is a need to surprise students. If it is too much to read, then they don’t have to read it, right?

Discussions, The 21st Century Classroom Course

Is it necessary for an online course to have discussions? I realize that we learn from each other. I have a group assignment in which everyone has to work together; wouldn’t that be learning from each other?

So I’m thinking, is it necessary to have “discussions” like we do on the discussion boards, or is it also effective to discuss as part of the group project? I have read that students need to “know each other” before they work well together with collaboration projects. I’m doing a coffee shop, but maybe that is not enough. I feel  like I should add a discussion because “everyone else does.” But on the other hand, that is not a good reason, especially for quality instructional design, where we learn that only what will strengthen the “big idea” is what should be included.

Teacher’s Beliefs = Add constructivism to learning goal

As I reflect on my proposed course, I am reading this article, Teachers’ Beliefs and Practices in Technology-based Classrooms: A Developmental View . It states that teachers normally use linear methods to teach and disregard computers, and hold on to teacher centered teaching rather than student centered learning. According to the authors a major cause of this “disappointment” is because of teacher personal beliefs and theories about education. As teacher’s beliefs determine how and why teacher’s adopt new methods, the authors postulate that it is important to investigate teacher’s beliefs. Makes sense.

The authors go on to say that it is worthwhile “to explore the implicit link between teachers’ views on learning and teaching and their actual classroom practices. Without  teachers’ skilled pedagogical application of educational technology, technology in and of itself cannot provide innovative school practice and educational change.”

With that in mind, at the beginning of the course, should I find out what teacher’s beliefs regarding technology are? Should I assume because they are taking the course that they see the value of the classroom? I do I be sure? Readings? Discussions? PBL activities? Debate? The authors note that teachers who teach using constructivism are more likely to have student centered classrooms. It is the student centered classrooms where technology becomes the powerful tool. So student-educators knowing constructivism should not be assumed in my course. And the ability to effectively use constructivism should be a learning goal.

I thought it was interesting that the article also noted that it is often difficult for teachers to implement the changes that is required to infuse technologies in the classroom. That is where I am hoping my course will help. It’s a beginning, already set up by the time the course is finished. So hopefully, its maintenance after the teacher goes to or back to the classroom.

Levin, T. (2006). Teachers ’ beliefs and practices in technology-based classrooms : A developmental view. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 39(2), 157-181.

Thinking About Needs, Week Two

I read this article that blew me away and it had some points that I need to consider for my course. Whether continuing development, or simply development, a course is meant to have a learning outcome that produces change in the participant.

Slepkov, H. (2008). Teacher professional growth in an authentic learning environment. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 41(1), 85-111.

The article talks about how day-to-day events make it difficult for many teachers to seek professional development, yet some do. Why?

Rather than predetermining what the expected outcome of any individual professional development opportunity ought to be for every teacher, the topics of professional development opportunities must be sufficiently broad to enable the classroom teacher to construct knowledge and gather skills that are meaningful to him or her at that particular moment in their professional life (p.94).

That makes me think of my course because I think my course can be part of a curriculum, but also used as professional development. So is my outcome wrong? Since my course would more likely be an elective or taken for PD by choice, is it meaningful to the participant?

The article states that many teachers take PD classes that are predetermined by someone else, then they are expected to go back to their classrooms and implement the professional development seminar/class/program IN ISOLATION–no support, nothing.

So for the professional development to be transformed into something the teacher uses, it needs to linked specifically to the teacher and the classroom. Bingo. In my course, the teacher’s own classroom will be the focus of the new learning; his classroom will be the real life environment. Development will begin with learning reflection, collaboration, and constructivism and will involve into a website that the educator-student can use with his whole classroom.

The best part about the course I want to develop means that the need to use the technology within my course may inspire teachers to not only continue using the technology but to broaden the use of technology in their classrooms. My course is meant to be just the beginning, as a means to scaffold new and new to technology teachers to enhance learning in their classrooms.

What is Multimedia?

Multimedia is a “smart” presentation that is not stagnant but adapts intelligently to the user. Multimedia is compelling  and  often incorporates social networking to connect users to each other. And we need to use it in the classroom because kids need to be producers rather than consumers. Technology and multimedia is the new norm; therefore, users should use their cognitive skills multimedia rather than static content, like research papers.

I really got an ahhh moment when Dr. Dalton discussed the research paper. He is so right. Why in the world do we make student’s write so many of them? It’s not (likely) they will be writing a lot of research papers and essays in their future. What they will have to do in their future is make multimedia in their careers and their social activities. To me, that is huge.

On a lesser note, I also found the remark that Sesame Street reduced the ability for kids to pay attention longer with less fun stimuli interesting. Our family hasn’t watched traditional television in about 15 years. My daughter never watched Sesame Street, Sponge Bob, Dora the Explorer, or any of the other entertainment on TV, but instead had movies on DVDs. At 17, she now has the ability to watch YouTube videos, internet TV, iTunes Movies, etc. basically at her discretion. However, it is interesting to me that she chooses not to (which of course, is why she can at her discretion). I always thought that was because she was never in the habit to watch television. I never thought that it might be the KIND of television and the “chunking of learning.” hummmm…… Perhaps she is able to be focused for longer periods of time on other things and so the TV isn’t calling her name so to speak.

Fair Use and Education, A Fifth Grade Scenario

The scenario we were supposed to write about concerned a teacher who was using materials on Africa for her fifth grade social studies class. In a nutshell from the teacher’s perspective we were supposed to write a memo explaining why we felt we could use the materials or why we used some materials we shouldn’t have used. I couldn’t find a reason why the teacher did anything wrong. Below is the paper I wrote.

Re: Copyright Issues and Fair Use
Ms. Wright, 6 grade
Small Town Elementary, Ohio
October 10, 2011

A recent incident over the fair use of copyrighted material, highlights possible misunderstandings at Small Town Elementary School. This memorandum is submitted to help clarify the issue of fair use. There seems to be some question of copyright violations concerning some videos and photographs I have been using for my sixth grade history curriculum on Africa. I have used some videos of programs I copied from the Discovery Channel, PBS, and others. I showed a video I rented from the video store, and I copied some photographs from a National Geographic compact disk I personally own. The school librarian believes that I am violating copyright law. And although I am not a lawyer, I spent some time on the internet researching fair use. Retrieved from the government website, ( fair use is stated as follows:

107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair Use 40
Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include —
(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Also, from the government web site:
It is not necessary to obtain permission if you show the movie in the course of “face-to-face teaching activities” in a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction, if the copy of the movie being performed is a lawful copy. 17 U.S.C. § 110(1). This exemption encompasses instructional activities relating to a wide variety of subjects, but it does not include performances for recreation or entertainment purposes , even if there is cultural value or intellectual appeal. (

Although I copied the documentaries with my VCR, I believe I did so legally under sections 106 and 106A. I showed The Ghost and the Darkness in it’s entirety, however, I provided the movie for instruction rather than entertainment. There appears to be no direct reference within the fair use law that specifies any time restrictions or limitations to how I may use a video for educational purposes. What I understand from my research is that in most cases, utilizing media in the classroom will not have copyright implications as the content in question is covered by exemptions for educators in Sections 110.1 and 110.2 of the Copyright Act.

The U.S. copyright laws concerning fair use are written to allow broad interpretation. Additional guidelines have been created by various institutions, but these informal agreements are guidelines and best practices and are not law. As I continued researching fair use I found guidance that excelled the quoted stature and have no apparent legal grounds. I found some fair use guidance on the University of Standford’s website. The web page,, list rules as to how long a broadcast video tape may be viewed etc. However, no references are given for these rules. (There is an ad for the book, however; click it to purchase.)

On the other hand, according to the website from the Center for Social Media at the American University, “The various negotiated agreements that have emerged since passage of the Copyright Act of 1976 have never had the force of law, and in fact, the guidelines bear little relationship to the actual doctrine of fair use.”  ( Although this quote specifically refers to media literacy education, it is reasonable to infer that using media, as is, also falls under this scope.

Those who try to limit fair use forget that the reason we have fair use in the first place is so that our students may have the benefit of the copyrighted material. There is an unwarranted fear and confusion about copyright and fair use laws which hinders the quality of teaching in this school. Misinformation about fair use squelches learning and limits the use of interesting learning tools. Other than close my classroom doors and hide what I fear is infringement, or comply with imagined fabricated rules that exceed the spirit and letter of the law, I would like to clear this misunderstanding up so that I do not limit the effectiveness of my teaching.

As there is so much confusion and misinformation concerning copyright law, many groups have developed best practices to follow concerning copyright. For example, documentary film makers have their own code. A group from the Center of Social Media at American University developed a code of best practices by educators with the help of legal advisors; the intent of the code is to guide educators concerning fair use in the classroom. The code was reviewed by a committee of legal scholars and lawyers expert in copyright and fair use. Although the code is not law, I believe that this code is congruent with the spirit of fair use and applies to my use of copyrighted materials.
According to the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Education,

The principles concern the unlicensed fair use of copyrighted materials for education, not the way those materials were acquired. When a user’s copy was obtained illegally or in bad faith, that fact may affect fair use analysis. Otherwise, of course, where a use is fair, it is irrelevant whether the source of the content in question was a recorded over-the-air broadcast, a teacher’s personal copy of a newspaper or a DVD, or a rented or borrowed piece of media. Labels on commercial media products proclaiming that they are “licensed for home [or private or educational or noncommercial] use only” do not affect in any way the educator’s ability to make fair use of the contents—in fact, such legends have no legal effect whatsoever…..Educators’ and students’ fair use rights extend to the portions of copyrighted works that they need to accomplish their educational goals—and sometimes even to small or short works in their entirety. By the same token, the fairness of a use depends, in part, on whether the user took more than was needed to accomplish his or her legitimate purpose. That said, there are no numerical rules of thumb that can be relied upon in making this determination.

The above statement, reviewed by a legal advisory board, makes it clear that the materials I am using in the classroom fall under fair use. I will, however, remain diligent to remain complaint with copyright laws.

If educators want to make a difference in our student’s learning, we need to incorporate hands-on active learning tools, rich with interesting content, applicable to today’s media saturated students. In order to get their attention, we must change how we teach, and if that means that we are bold with fair use laws, so be it.

Ms. Wright

To view the entire Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education please visit:

Making the Web Accessible

This week we are studying accessibility. I had no idea how little I knew.

As I was looking through the resources, I realized that before the college can provide accessible online courses, colleges have to train the designers to make the information accessible in the first place! My background is publishing; I made thousands of pdfs for a MAJOR book publisher and not ONCE was I asked to make it accessible. I didn’t know anything about pdf accessibility! And I can tell you, I know A LOT about pdfs. And guess what? I watched the Adobe video on how to make an accessible pdf and it is easy to do! Not only that, but it is even easier to make the files accessible in the native authoring program, i.e. InDesign. I have put together entire textbooks with InDesign. And guess what? I didn’t know there were accessibility features. I’m saying all of this to make a point. Most things that show up in a web course has to be created elsewhere first. Accessibility is hidden in the files, where the average user doesn’t see them. But these hidden instructions mean something to screen readers.

I think that when someone is designing a poster, or a math book, the person isn’t thinking that one day that material may be on the web. Sometimes we must think of where our product might end before we even begin. Accessibility is one of those times.

I realize I am probably the only person in the class who uses InDesign rather than Word. So I went to the Microsoft website and found this video about how to make Word documents accessible.

Video: Find and fix accessibility issues in Word 2010

Excuse me while I change some of the colors in my web site….