Search this site
Other stuff

All banner artwork by Brady Johnson, college student and (semi-) starving artist.

Locations of visitors to this page

My latest books:


        Available now

       Available Now

Available now 

My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

 The Blue Skunk Fan Page on Facebook

EdTech Update





New guidelines for Fair Use!

Well, I'm really excited! Check out this press release from the Center for Social Media:

TEMPLE UNIVERSITY Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19122
A Commonwealth University

Yes, You Can Use Copyrighted Material in the Classroom
New Code Outlines Five Principles of Fair Use for Teachers, Students

PHILADELPHIA, PA (November 11, 2008)— A national magazine tells a professor she needs
hundreds of permissions to use its cover photos in her class, when in fact, she could claim fair
use, which does not require payment or permission. Many teachers want to use YouTube as a
teaching tool but aren’t sure if it’s legal; others warn their students not to post their video
assignments to YouTube. Under fair use, both actions are legal.

All manner of content and media is now available online, but fear and misinformation have kept
teachers and students from using this valuable material, including portions of films, TV
coverage, photos, songs, articles, and audio, in the classroom.

Now, thanks to a coordinated effort by the media literacy community, supported by experts at
American University and Temple University, teachers and students have a guide that simplifies
the legalities of using copyrighted materials in an academic setting: The Code of Best Practices
in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education, available online at:

The code, which will be released on Tuesday, November 11, at the National Constitution Center
in Philadelphia, was developed by the National Association for Media Literacy Education, the
Action Coalition for Media Education, the National Council of Teachers of English, the Visual
Communication Studies Division of the International Communication Association, and the
Media Education Foundation, and facilitated by Peter Jaszi and Patricia Aufderheide of
American University and Renee Hobbs of Temple University.

Educators use copyrighted materials from mass media and popular culture in building students'
critical thinking and communication skills. For example, a teacher might have a class analyze a
website or a television ad to identify purpose, point of view, and source credibility. With the rise
of digital media tools for learning and sharing, it is more important than ever for educators to
understand copyright and fair use.

Fair use, a long-standing doctrine that was specifically written into Sec. 107 of the Copyright
Act of 1976, allows the use of copyrighted material without permission or payment when the
benefit to society outweighs the cost to the copyright owner.

“The fair-use doctrine was designed to help teachers and learners, among others,” said Peter
Jaszi, director of the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property at American
University’s Washington College of Law. “It's one of the best copyright tools teachers have.”

“Finally, copyright confusion among educators will be a thing of the past,” said Hobbs, founder
of Temple University’s Media Education Lab and professor of broadcasting,
telecommunications and mass media at the university’s School of Communications and Theater. “In an increasingly copyrighted world, the code of best practices clarifies copyright and fair use
for educators and students.”

The code, which outlines basic principles for the application of fair use to media literacy
education, articulates related limitations, and examines common myths about copyright and
education, is a follow-up to a 2007 report, The Cost of Copyright Confusion for Media Literacy.
The report found that teachers’ lack of copyright understanding impairs the teaching of critical
thinking and communication skills. Too many teachers, it found, react by feigning ignorance,
quietly defying the rules or vigilantly complying.

The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education outlines five principles,
each with limitations:

Educators can, under some circumstances:
1. Make copies of newspaper articles, TV shows, and other copyrighted works, and use them
and keep them for educational use.
2. Create curriculum materials and scholarship with copyrighted materials embedded.
3. Share, sell and distribute curriculum materials with copyrighted materials embedded.

Learners can, under some circumstances:
4. Use copyrighted works in creating new material.
5. Distribute their works digitally if they meet the transformativeness standard.

As part of the project, the Center for Social Media has produced a video to help teachers and
students understand how they can use copyrighted materials. The Code, video and other
curriculum materials for educators are available at
and can also be found at

“The best practices approach has worked superbly for other creative communities, such as
documentary filmmakers,” said Aufderheide, director of American University’s Center for
Social Media, part of the university's School of Communication. “The code will empower
educators to work as creatively as they want to, with a much better understanding of their rights
under the law.”

This project was funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, with additional
funding from the Ford Foundation.

For more information, contact Katie Donnelly at

Press Contacts:

Jazmyn Burton, Temple University,, 215-204-7594
Maggie Barrett, American University Media Relations,, 202-885-5951

One of my pet projects this year has been trying to get the role of the librarian in dealing with copyright issue changed from "copyright cop" to "copyright counselor." This document, I'm sure, will be a featured resource in my efforts.

According to Cathy Nelson, Joyce Valenza will be doing a live presentation tomorrow as well. Be there or be square!



Never moon a werewolf

An entire weekend at home with no articles to write, columns to prepare or workshops to tweak. After a very hectic October and early November of travel and work, it's nice to veg. Well, sort of veg. Some random thoughts...


The holiday catalogs are starting to arrive, and I am stealing from their offerings to add to my t-shirt slogan list. Some new ones:

  • I'm currently away from desk.
  • Of course I live in the past. It's cheaper there.
  • Never moon a werewolf.
  • Chemistry is just like cooking. Just don't lick the spoon.
  • Paddle faster! I hear banjo music.
  • Say NO to negative thinking.
  • At my age I don't even buy green bananas.
  • To err is human. To arrrr is pirate.
  • Ask me about my vow of silence.
  • I cannot resist the primal, demon rhythm of the polka.
  • I used to be a millionaire. Then Mom threw away my baseball card collection.
  • Being vague is as annoying as that other thing.
  • I'm so far behind, I thought I was first!
  • At what age am I old enough to know better?
  • And my favorite:


I am always pleased when I get a suggestion for improving one of my workshops or presentation techniques. I got two good ones during the ISLMA conference this week.

At the beginning of most of my workshops, I advise people that they don't need to take notes since most of the material in the session is also in the online handouts. After a workshop last Thursday, a very nice lady came up afterwards and suggested that I give people "permission" to take notes. She says doing so helps her process and retain the information better. I sometimes forget the power of permission we "experts" exert.

Another thoughtful suggestion was that when I cite a graphic in my slides with a URL, that I run the address vertically rather than horizontally. "It's less distracting," the participant suggested. Good idea.


This January for the first time, I will have a president who is younger than I am. I suspect as good a reason as any to do one's best as an educator is that eventually your dentist, your banker, your oncologist, your plumber, your grandchildren's teachers, and your president will all have once been your generation's students. If they are incompetent, you have no one but yourself to blame.


I greatly enjoyed a recent post by Rob Rubis on his Edging Ahead blog. In it he asks:

So have our lives changed in fundamental, core ways [because of the Internet]? Do I interact, on a day-to-day, moment-by-moment basis with my family, friends and professional colleagues, in a way that is fundamentally different than I did before 1995? Are my daily life routines (getting up at 4:50 am, working from 7:00 - 4:00, spending from 6:00 - 9:00 with family, and awaiting “weekends away” from work) different in core ways from what they were “before”? Has the business of meeting work commitments, fulfilling family obligations and achieving personal goals changed become fundamentally different from what it was?

While I am still chewing on Rob's question, I believe that blogging has changed the way I look at the world. I often read, observe and reflect with an eye on a thing's "blog-worthiness" just as Seinfield's Elaine always vetted men on their "sponge-worthiness." Being a better "noticer" is not a bad thing.

Oh, my initial reaction to Rob's question was thinking about about the old cartoon that asked, 'What did we do to look busy before there were computers?" Indeed.


This weekend's cold nasty weather makes it a good time to cook stew. Since it takes about 3 hours to cook, I only make this favorite recipe on the weekends. Give it a try. The paprika gives it a little zing and the rutabaga a little sweetness. And it's so good for you.

Two Harbors (MN) Beef Stew

Serves 8

Beef mixture
2 pounds beef round, cut in 1" cubes
1/4 c flour
3 T oil or margarine
2 c hot water
2 t instant beef boullion
1 medium onion, cut into chunks
1 clove garlic, diced
2 t paprika
1 t sugar
1/2 t black pepper
1/8 t allspice
2 bay leaves

4 medium carrots cut into chunks
3 medium tomatoes (I use a big can of whole tomatoes)
1 medium rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1/3 in chunks
1 green pepper cut into thin strips
1 16 oz can small white potatoes, drained

In Dutch oven, heat oil or margarine over medium-high heat. Place flour in paper bag; shake beef cubes in flour to coat. Brown floured beef cubes. Add remaining beef mixture ingredients. Simmer over low heat 1 1/2 hours. Add all vegetables except potatoes. Simmer 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add potatoes and cook until heath through, about 15 minutes.

Be advised that if you want a true Minnesota culinary experience, you'll need to add a can of Cream of Mushroom soup to the mix. And maybe sprinkle some crushed potato chips on top. But live dangerously and try it as it's written at least once...


Political social networking

Obama's camp ... understood that humans are -- and have always been -- social creatures, and that social media are nothing more than a powerful accelerant to human interaction. To suggest that they are new is akin to suggesting that chewing our food is a modern concept or that the love of warmth is a fad activated by the discovery of fire. Social media are the continuation of our species' drive to connect, communicate and collaborate. Obama embraced this reality and, with it, propelled a network of mobilized, purposeful advocates the likes of which no marketing effort has ever seen. David Krejci, "Message received," Minneapolis Star Tribune, 11-5-08

Krejci's opines that Obama's use of social networking sites played a decisive part in his victory. (Excuse me for a second... HE WON! YIPPEEEEEE! Thanks. I needed to do that - again.) Obama's Facebook page has 900,000 members and Facebook was one of over 16 sites he used to both inform, motivate, and, yes, raise funds.

I've long been concerned that prohibiting the use of the Internet in schools in any form will politically disenfranchise students who may not have ready access outside of school. (See 1998's "Citizenship and Technology" column.)

Might one of the victories of this election be that social networking sites will be seen by more educators as educational and civics tools, not just for recreation? I hope so.

Henry Jenkins, Director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT and author of the McArthur report Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture, writes:

We are using participation as a term that cuts across educational practices, creative processes, community life, and democratic citizenship. Our goals should be to encourage youth to develop the skills, knowledge, ethical frameworks, and self-confidence needed to be full participants in contemporary culture...

What a person can accomplish with an outdated machine in a public library with mandatory filtering software and no opportunity for storage or transmission pales in comparison to what person can accomplish with a home computer with unfettered Internet access, high bandwidth, and continuous connectivity… The school system’s inability to close this participation gap has negative consequences for everyone involved.

For our kids, civic engagement equal social engagement.

My 1998 column concluded:

Jonathan Kozol in his book Savage Inequalities reminds us that there are two kinds of schools in this country: those training the future governors and those creating the future governed. Well-used technology can go a long way to help assure all citizens have the ability to participate in governing their own lives. And it won’t be long before technology is not just helpful in allowing this participation, but essential.

It really wasn't all that long.