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EdTech Update





Long tail message of the month!

A year and a half ago I wrote a post on The Seven Wonders of Grand Forks. I had a free day in town and spent it locating these wonders, including the water tower pictured below:

It was delightful to receive this comment about the post last week:

Grand Forks, North Dakota - Smiley Face Water Tower

My grandfather designed the paint scheme, and originally painted this smiley face water tower. On one side of the tower the smiley face is winking. When my grandfather, Oscar Osmundson, went to the city to get paid for his work they were hesitant about paying him. A few people on the city council thought that it wasn't finished yet -- that he only painted half of one of the eyes on that side of the tower.

My grandfather laughed and told them the tower was winking, and they decided to vote on keeping it. The wink won, and that's how it sits today. Thousands of people drive by the water tower every year, and they all have my grandfather to thank for the smile that the wink puts on their face. [Chad Osmundson]

I continue to be amazed at the number and variety of people who come to the Blue Skunk.

Oh, for those of you who would like to see the wink:


Elevator speech for educational technology

An elevator pitch (or elevator speech) is an overview of an idea for a product, service, or project. The name reflects the fact that an elevator pitch can be delivered in the time span of an elevator ride (for example, thirty seconds and 100-150 words) Wikipedia


Once again the Blue Skunk answers letters from the technology-lorn. (Sort of like love-lorn, only much more pathetic.)

Hello Mr. Johnson,

I am doing some research and working on formulating a sort of “mission statement” concerning the use of technology in the public school arena for a class ... . I would very much appreciate your “working perspective” on why technology should be funded and supported by the taxpayers in these days of budget cuts and really having to look at what is absolutely important to teach our children. ... I’m sure your thoughts on this are well-constructed and insightful [such flattery guarantees a response], and I would very much appreciate knowing more about them.

Thank you for your time!


My response:

Hi Sandy,

First, I would direct you to Maslow and Motherboards, an article I wrote for MultiMedia Schools back in 2003. As sad as it sounds, my thinking about why and how technology is important in schools has not changed much since then.

I would stress three main reasons why we need to continue to invest in carefully selected technologies:

  1. We are just beginning to benefit from the administrative uses of technology. Beyond simply doing attendance and grades online, teachers are using technology to keep in touch with parents and to track performance on sufficiently granular levels to meaningfully differentiate instruction for individual students.
  2. Learning to use technology to solve problems and answer questions, communicate effectively, and become self-teaching is important for every student to master vocationally, academically and personally. The person who cannot use technology well to amplify natural abilities is at a true disadvantage.
  3. Today’s generation of student demands an engaging, interactive learning environment. Technology provides this easily and effectively.

I hope this helps. I am not sure how well constructed or insightful these comments are, but they are short.

What I sent to Sandy is basically my "elevator speech" about why I think educational technology is important.

How does your elevator speech go? About technology, libraries or whatever you are passionate about? Share it if you would...


Fair Use Scenarios - Tunes and YouTube


In a continuing series of scenarios that explore educational fair use issues.

Sean*, classroom teacher and building leadership team member, created a video of a school planning retreat using Animoto and uploaded it to YouTube. For the soundtrack Sean used copyrighted popular music, a copy of which he legally owned. Soon after uploading the work, Sean received an e-mail from YouTube stating that his video had been flagged as containing copyrighted material. Youtube gave him three options:

  • remove the video from YouTube immediately
  • dispute the claim (using a provided link)
  • leave the video up and allow the recording company to place ads on the page as well as track the public statistics of the video, such as number of views
The teacher decides to leave the video on YouTube.
  1. What is the copyrighted material? Who owns it?
  2. Does the use of the work fall under fair use guidelines? Is the use transformational in nature? Can this be considered "educational" use?
  3. What is your level of comfort with this use? Are there any changes or limits you might like to see that would make you more comfortable?

Your level of comfort with this use of copyrighted materials: High 5 4 3 2 1 Low

You comments are most welcome.

*This scenario is based on an incident reported by Sean Nash of NashWorld in his post, "A Cooperative Resolution?" used here with his kind permission. Do read the original post (and subscribe ti Sean's blog).

The video can be seen here: