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Wednesday
Nov122008

Is that a projector in your pocket...?

 

Check this out*:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/05/technology/personaltech/05pogue.html

That's right. A data projector that fits in your (shirt, not coat) pocket and connects to an iPod. Cool.

Now back when I was a little presenter growing up on the prairie, it took two men and a boy to carry the equipment needed for data projection. I remember humping:

My trusty MacClassic, B&W, with added video-out pigtail which connected to...

an LCD projection panel to be placed on...

an overhead projector, better when bright and portable. The room still needed to be pretty dark and image wasn't much sharper than the presenter, but there was still quite a WOW factor for the time.

I honestly believe I got my tech director job back in 1991 because I impressed the hiring committee with my really cuttin' edge HyperCard resume that I projected with a set up just like this. Sort of a proto-geek.

Speaking of equipment, the best backhanded compliment I ever received was from a very nice lady who gushed, "Just watching you set up the equipment was the best part of your presentation!"

Hard not to get a big head.

Off to the School Library Journal Summit in Fort Lauderdale where all the problems of the world I am sure will be solved. Cathy Nelson promises to stream some of the programs. My (literal) 15 minutes of fame will be "7 Audacious Statements about Fair Use and Copyright" as part of a panel.

Warm weather and old friends. Could be worse.

*Thanks to Tim's Assorted Stuff blog for this link.

Wednesday
Nov122008

Teasers from Best Practices in Fair Use

As I was re-reading the Center for Social Media's Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy (released with great pomp yesterday, including an excellent short address by Joyce Valenza), these lines jumped out at me:

[Fair use] is a general right that applies even in situations where the law provides no specific authorization for the use in question—as it does for certain narrowly defined classroom activities. (p.1)

Like literacy in general, media literacy is applied in a wide variety of contexts—when watching television or reading newspapers, for example, or when posting commentary to a blog. Indeed, media literacy is implicated everywhere one encounters information and entertainment content. (p.2)

...there is a climate of increased fear and confusion about copyright, which detracts from the quality of teaching. Lack of clarity reduces learning and limits the ability to use digital tools. Some educators close their classroom doors and hide what they fear is infringement; others hyper-comply with imagined rules that are far stricter than the law requires, limiting the effectiveness of their teaching and their students’ learning. (p.4)

...there have been no important court decisions—in fact, very few decisions of any kind—that actually interpret and apply the doctrine in an educational context. This means that educators who want to claim the benefits of fair use have a rare opportunity to be open and public about asserting the appropriateness of their practices and the justifications for them. (p.5)

In fact, the cultural value of copying is so well established that it is written into the social bargain at the heart of copyright law. The bargain is this: we as a society give limited property rights to creators to encourage them to produce culture; at the same time, we give other creators the chance to use that same copyrighted material, without permission or payment, in some circumstances. Without the second half of the bargain, we could all lose important new cultural work. (p.5)

Today, some educators mistakenly believe that the issues covered in the fair use principles below are not theirs to decide. They believe they must follow various kinds of “expert” guidance offered by others. In fact, the opposite is true. (p.7)

Experts (often non-lawyers) give conference workshops for K–12 teachers, technology coordinators, and library or media specialists where these guidelines and similar sets of purported rules are presented with rigid, official-looking tables and charts. At the same time, materials on copyright for the educational community tend to overstate the risk of educators being sued for copyright infringement—and in some cases convey outright misinformation about the subject. In effect, they interfere with genuine understanding of the purpose of copyright—to promote the advancement of knowledge through balancing the rights of owners and users. (p.8)

We don’t know of any lawsuit actually brought by an American media company against an educator over the use of media in the educational process. (p.17)

And lastly...

The next step is for educators to communicate their own learning about copyright and fair use to others, both through practice and through education. (p.14)

OK, folks, I hope your interest has been piqued. Download this document and read these statements in context where they are even more powerful. Share the document with fellow educators (especially your favorite librarian). Keep in mind these words from the document:

Educators need to be leaders, not followers, in establishing best practices in fair use.

 

Tuesday
Nov112008

Guide to better conference sessions

The primary concern of most public speakers is, “what am I going to say?” But how you say what
you’re going to say, and what your body is doing while you are saying it, are just as important.

If you’re doubtful, consider the following statistic. Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at UCLA, did a study stating that there are three elements to any face-to-face communication: words, tone of voice and body language, and we are influenced by these things as follows:

  • 7% of our influence comes from the words we say
  • 38% from our tonal quality while saying it
  • 55% by what our body is doing while we’re saying it

from "Being a Gifted Speaker Isn't a Gift" by Frances Cole Jones (ChangeThis Newsletter)


Tom Hoffman at SVC Tuttle (fairly) recently posted a mini-rant about how most conference presentations "suck" and observes:

There are myriad reasons why, but the bottom line is that it doesn't take a little more effort to go from a meh presentation/conference to a great one. It takes three, four, five times as much effort -- that is assuming that you've got something interesting to say at all.

And over at The Thinking Stick, Jeff Utecht questions "the reason for f2f:"

There is a reason we like going to conferences, there is a reason why students like coming to school (and it’s not to be by oneself), there is a reason we want students in a class. What is that reason?

  • What is the reason we gather face to face when content can be found 24/7/365?
  • What is the reason when research can be done outside face to face time?
  • What is the reason when reading/listening/gathering/analyzing content can be done outside of school?
  • What are we doing with face to face time to maximize the learning potential for students?

After a month of conference going and lots o' F2F experience, both as a perp and as a victim, Tom's and Jeff's observations resonated with me. And yes, as Tom suggests, many conference presentations do "suck." But I'm not so sure it really does take five times as much effort to create a good session.

I've made suggestions about improving F2F workshops and improving panel discussions. Maybe it is time to take a whack at those ubiquitous 45-60 minute "concurrent" sessions. What separates the dismal from the delightful?

On a basic level, having a limited topic, sharing new information, resources and practices of practical value, or espousing a challenging POV combined with experiential or academic expertise may seem to be all that is necessary. Of course, preparation helps. I am always amazed by some presentation teams that seem to be working out speaking order and such as attendees file into the room. But these things seem to be basic  requirements for effective teaching and can be met through virtual learning experiences as well.

One thing that a conference session - or the conference environment itself - produces is superior peer-to-peer communication. As I remember, studies show that one has a better chance of learning through "lateral learning lines" established by visiting with fellow attendees than one does from the presenter. Yes, back channel communications are making inroads into online teaching, but I somehow find that running chat window more distracting than helpful. Most speakers establish a separate window for group interaction that enhances rather than detracts from the presentation.

But my observation is that the reason F2F is so powerful is simply that passion is easier to convey. A really good concurrent session does not need a smooth delivery, great PowerPoint slides or even radically new information. But it MUST have excitement and enthusiasm. The presenter has to convince me that she/he truly has something important to say. If that happens, I am engaged and learning. And inspiring such passion is awfully hard to do in impersonal media.

Maya Angelou once observed:

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

The "feeling" bit comes through when human beings interact in person. Somehow electonics drain it away.

Hoping F2F is here for a very long time.

Image source <news.cnet.com/i/bto/20080613/REEMB_380x567.jpg>