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EdTech Update





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 <>

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...