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EdTech Update





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:


Minnesota's aging school library collections

Hard hitting investigative reporting:

Books on disco dancing from the 1970s. On computer graphics from the 1980s.
Where did we find them? Your local school library. How did these collections get so old?

From “KSTP/TV” at: <> (Go to URL for link to video of broadcast).

This five minute clip, an over generalization of the status of school library print collections, is probably pretty accurate. Our last school library survey (2004) indicated an average copyright date of 1985 for books in Minnesota school libraries. We are almost to the point that African schools will be sending their discarded materials to us.

The automatic assumption is that the reason for aged collections is a lack of funding. It's actually more complicated than that.

  • Every school school has the funds to maintain a first rate library collection. Now the school may not choose to expend its funds to do so, but it has the funds. Budget always reflect priorities. (Budgeting for Lean Mean Times) Poor budgets do not reflect a lack of money, but a lack of advocacy for the budget line item. Sorry, that's the way it is.
  • Old collections demonstrate a lack of professionalism as much as a lack of funding. It costs nothing except an hour or so a week to weed out old materials. Each week pick one section of bookcase and look at each book. If it is less than ten years old or has been checked out within the last three years, keep it. If not, toss it. Dump duplicate copies unless popular. Toss anything that is worn-out.
  • Yes, logic would have it that schools without professional school librarians are more likely to have dated collections. I wish I could make that statement with more confidence than I feel.
  • Full shelves of worthless books are much, much worse than half or three-quarter empty shelves. See Weed! and Weeding the Neglected Collection. I can state with confidence that your book budget will increase after a comprehensive collection weeding.
  • And put yourself in your students' position for a moment. Which would prefer using - a shiny new computer or an aged, nasty book?

As a profession, we librarians need to stop viewing the book as a holy object. Discarding Preparing for Jobs of the 80s is not the same as censorship. Like cornflakes, baby aspirin, and even the Kennedy political family, books have a shelf life that needs to be observed.

Start weeding today.