Posts Tagged ‘research’

The Research Process – Copyright and Fair Use: Notes from the May 6 Webinar

May 7th, 2010 1 comment

Copyright, or to be more specific, the use  and misuse of copyrighted materials, is a subject that is surrounded by much confusion and therefore fear for many educators. Students who have known nothing but the internet in schools need direct instruction and guidance on what they can be using from online sources, and also how to protect their original work they post. As educators, we should be learning as much as we can about the use of copyrighted material, and then helping our students navigate this legal mountain range.

Some of the ins and outs of copyright law and fair use are covered by information in the links below. This should not be considered a comprehensive list, and neither should you consider my attempts to explain copyright law as legal advice! Please consult as many sources as possible, and if you’re still confused, I’m sure your school has legal consults available.

Copyright overview and history:
US Copyright Office

Copyrightkids – Fun resource to get students thinking about copyright issues

Copyright and Fair Use in The Classroom – Interesting guide to copyright, from a college perspective.

History of Copyright Law – Wikipedia page does a great job pulling together a complicated history.

Copyright Infringement

Carol Simpson – Consultant on issues of copyright, has an interesting database of cases concerning copyright infringement in schools.

Do The (Copy)right Thing – Article on educator’s lack of attention to copyright from thejounal

Fair Use

Code of Best Practice for Fair Use in Media Literacy Education – Download the document from this page.
A Fair(y) Use Story–  Video mashup of various Disney movies to make a statement on fair use of copyrighted materials.

User Rights, Section 107 – Music video explaining the tenets of fair use.

Bound By Law? – Thanks to Barbara Greenstone for the link to this comic explaining copyright and fair use.

Copyright / Copywrong Quiz – Thanks to Cynthia Curry for forwarding the link to this quiz on fair use in education.

The Shepard Fairy Obama “Hope” Poster Controversy – Thanks once again to Cynthia Curry

Creative Commons

Creative Commons

Search engine for Creative Commons licensed work. Also available on the Firefox browser search tool.

Creative Commons on Flickr

Be sure to watch the recorded webinar sessions by clicking on the Webcast>Arcives tab above.

May 6 Webinar: The Research Process – Copyright and Fair Use

May 3rd, 2010 Comments off

As new media forms test the boundaries of existing copyright laws, educators can be left feeling uncertain as to how they can be using media in education, what they shouldn’t be copying, and how students use media as part of their school work. File sharing, sampling and remixing, downloading and podcasting all present new methods of distributing information, but how can educators go about this without getting themselves in hot water? This webinar will look at some of the issues around copyright that affect schools, begin a discussion on Fair Use of copyrighted materials, and how to avoid any trouble with copyright altogether.

This session will be delivered on Thursday, May 6, from 3:15 – 4:15 pm and 7:15 – 8:15 pm. For information, please access the WebCasts tab at the top of this page.

Image from the Library of Congress

Making Meaning – Step by Step with Vital Signs – Review

May 3rd, 2010 Comments off

April 29th sessions recorded:



MLTI is proud to partner with Gulf of Maine Research Institute’s Vital Signs initiative, a  program that encompasses technology, content and pedagogy using inquiry-based learning. Incorporating the four strands of science learning to deal with essential questions regarding invasive species, Vital Signs offers teachers and students a way to be real scientists dealing with real observations and data.

Vital signs website,, provides a rich environment that allows users to set up accounts so they can add to the data and make comments on fellow citizen-scientists’ observations. However, even if you do not register, you can access the ever-expanding datasets about invasive species through the Expore Data tab.

After formulating an essential question, a user can set up a useful query using the Advanced Search feature. The results of the search can then be downloaded as a CSV (comma separated values) file and inserted into a spreadsheet like Numbers, using the Sort and Export feature.

Once in the spreadsheet, pertinent data can be specified by deleting the extraneous data columns. Then charts and graphs can be made using the appropriate data.

Even better, Google Fusion Tables,, can be used to take the latitude and longitude data to place information on a map, and then export the map as a layer (KML) into Google Earth. Wow!

This is just a general overview. The specific steps are outlined in a document available at

The four strands of science learning are explained in Ready, Set, Science:

Original Research: Notes from March 25 Webinars

March 26th, 2010 Comments off

Original research can be defined as the collection of information and data from observations and measurements conducted as part of an investigation. Original research generates new knowledge around a subject, and is undertaken in order to produce new understanding.

It’s important that we have our students conduct an original research project, and have students construct that project from inception. By having students actively generate questions, measure phenomenon in the field, observe and reflect upon processes, we will be able to see the following benefits reveal themselves. Firstly, there is a deeper engagement in the curriculum. If students are taking an active role in developing new understanding, they will grasp the root of learning more readily than taking a passive, consumer of information role. Secondly, the development of communication skills is observable, as students write and rewrite the questions that will collect the data and information desired. In addition, by having students conduct interviews, listening and questioning skills are acquired, more so than in regular curriculum delivery methods. Students become more discerning  consumers of other people’s research: having understood the process of conducting research themselves, their critical thinking skills will be applied to other information they receive. Finally, student’s connections to their community can be strengthened by conducting research in a local area.

The Vital Signs program at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute offers teachers and students the structure and support to conduct original research, focussing on the monitoring of invasive plant and animal species in Maine. Sarah Kirn, the manager for the Vital Signs program, joined me for the webinar to discuss how Vital Signs seeks to develop student’s skills in data collection, data review and putting the data to work in understanding the concepts of biology and ecology. Teachers are trained in the various parts of the process, and then use these skills to conduct fieldwork with their students, looking for the presence (or non presence, hopefully) of invasive species in their local area. The data collected is peer reviewed, then uploaded to the Vital Signs online database, where it is further reviewed by experts in the field. The data is available for use online, by students, educators, scientists, and anyone who has an interest in monitoring the spread of invasive species. Students take on the role of scientists, and contribute data to a functioning and important set of scientific knowledge, available to the world.

Some examples of these observations from the field can be found on the Vital Signs site:

Vital Signs, and original research as a whole, fits into the science curriculum tool currently being used to guide curriculum development in Maine. ‘Ready, Set, Science!’, published by the National Academies Press (available to be read free online: promotes science learning as the interplay of four strands, one of which is generating scientific knowledge. By having students take part in research, reflect upon this research and produce new knowledge from this information, science learning, and indeed any curriculum area learning, is multiplied and made more concrete.

If you are interested in learning more about the Vital Signs program, please send an email to this address, letting the folks at GMRI where you heard about the program and the interest you have in their work.

Vital Signs run a summer institute that trains teachers to conduct Invasive Species monitoring programs with their students.  The two and three day institutes provide all the training and equipment necessary to take students into the field. Participants are provided with a stipend for their time. For more information, please contact the Vital Signs team, and visit the site. The dates of this year’s institutes are July 7-8, and August 18 – 20.

Other links shared as part of the webinar:

Introductory video for students heading out to look for crayfish, as part of the Vital Signs program – a connection with scientists:

Some online tools to help with information collection:

Surveymonkey, GoogleDocs and Skype

The 2010 Census:

Main Page, Census for Teachers

February 11 Webinar – Structuring a Research Project

February 8th, 2010 4 comments

My guest this month will be Richard Byrne, award winning writer of the blog ‘Free Tech 4 Teachers’. He’ll be joining me to talk about how students can utilize tools both on the MLTI image and online to structure and carry out a research project. Richard is adept at finding creative and powerful educational uses for thousands of web resources and tools, and he’ll be highlighting and demonstrating many examples. We’ll also talk about great ways students can keep track of their research, and collaborate to build a network of research around a topic.

To register for the webinar and join on the day, please click on the ‘Webcasts’ tab above, and navigate to the February 11 links.

Questions, Questions: Notes from the January 7th Webinar

January 11th, 2010 2 comments

Thanks to all who joined myself and Sylvia Norton for the webinar last Thursday, and especially for the responses and questions that really helped to frame and guide the discussion.

The webinar was a two parter, the first part looking at getting the research process underway by looking at essential questions, the building blocks of a research project, and the second part looking at MARVEL, Maine’s virtual library.

Looking at essential questions, I tried to uncover what makes an essential question ‘essential’. Some thoughts on this: Essential questions are both the jumping off point for the research process, and the overarching theme of the project undertaken. An essential question is the big idea, crafted to stimulate thought and ideas, and a proven method of sustained inquiry.

An essential question is not looking for a definitive answer, and truly should not be answered. It should be a recurring question at every stage of the research process, to keep the student focussed and also to stimulate deeper inquiry.

Here are some examples of essential questions that have been used by participants in the webinar:

‘What makes music great?’

‘How does geography impact culture?’

‘How are people’s lives influenced by war?’

‘Why is economic development uneven across the globe?’

These questions have many points of entry, and the work that students will create from these questions will be varied, multi textured and personal.

During the webinar, I attempted to deconstruct the essential question into it’s particular  elements. What makes an essential question essential?

Firstly, it’s open ended. It invites different avenues of thought, it encourages diversity in attempting to answer it, and very possibly it has no definitive answer. There are no incorrect responses to an essential question.

Secondly, it is open to interpretation. This means that all students can access the question, and have an intellectual and personal response to the question. For a research project where students must demonstrate critical thinking and judgement, this is important. Students must be able to connect to the concepts under study to make the work authentic.

It is worth noting here again that the essential question is the jumping off point for a research project. When students are first presented with an essential question, a period of reflection and initial information gathering should take place, to start to formulate the direction a student will take in the project. Our job as the teacher here is to guide the student in creating secondary, or foundational, questions that the student is asking about the theme or topic. We can help to solidify thoughts and make their ideas about the project more manageable.

Essential questions should be provocative. Intellectual juices should start flowing, and a hunger for knowledge should develop. The questions should be engaging, and therefore ag appropriate for the students in the class. An assessment of prior knowledge should be part of the the formulation of the essential question, to make sure that students can access the ideas behind it.

Finally, essential questions present an opportunity for new learning for every student. This means that they need to be wide ranging, in order to encompass every student’s experience, and not too focussed so that it will elicit responses of ‘I already know this’ or ‘We did this last year’.

During the live webinar, I presented the participants with some examples of new learning, and asked them to provide what they thought may have been the essential question that lead to this new knowledge.

The first example, the moon landings of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, elicited these responses:

‘What’s out there?’

‘Where do we go from here?’

‘What makes humans seek beyond themselves?’

‘What are the limits of mankind?’

The second example is Elvis Presley’s first album from 1956, generally considered to be ground zero of rock and roll. Here are the essential questions that lead to this moment:

‘When is ‘different’ better?’

‘How does music influence society?’

‘How can celebrity influence performers?’

‘How does technology change music?’

The thrid and final example is George Orwell’s novel ‘1984’. Here are the responses to this piece of learning:

‘Have dreams become our destiny?’

‘Could this happen to us?’

‘Why do we have government?’

‘When does protection become oppression?’

Some tools that could be used by students when getting to grips with an essential question at the beginning of a project, to help them construct secondary, or foundational questions:

OmniGraffle – concept mapping, to help students find visual links between ideas.

Noteshare Notebook – gather preliminary research findings

Flickr – provide a visual response to a key word search

A wiki – collect group ideas on the essential question

iChat / Skype – for use as a sounding board for ideas around the essential question.

Sylvia Norton, the School Library / Technology Planning Coordinator for the Maine Department of Education, took us on a tour through MARVEL, Maine’s Virtual Library. MARVEL is an unparalleled information portal in the state, a collection of database and catalog resources provided free to the citizens of Maine. Access is via a school / library network, or with a valid Maine library card number. Users have access to thousands of magazine, journal, and newspaper articles, and also books online.

For using with an essential questions, Sylvia first guided us to look at Brittanica Online School Edition, an encyclopedia that sets out to provide the preliminary search with an overview of the topic, with an easy to navigate interface that allows the student user to quickly delve deeper into a topic.

Also noted were the Student Research Center, an EBSCO database, with access to thousands of full text articles, which can be saved in user generated folders for quick access in the future. The beauty of the Student Research Center is that it provides a great visual interface for the researcher, giving them a quick picture of where they would benefit from searching.

Other places that Sylvia discussed as being great places for gathering an overview of a topic, or finding some deeper leads into a research project:

Novelist and Novelist Plus – a database of fiction and non-fiction (Novelist Plus) titles, with plot synopsis and suggestions for further reading. Searchable by title and author, as could be expected, but also by plot type and summary.

Maine Newstand: Full text articles from the five Maine daily newspapers, updated for the most recent editions. In addition to this, ProQuest offers articles from over 500 national and international news sources.

Mentioned as useful by participants, MARVEL also housed ERIC, a collection of articles from education journals. And my personal favorite, for information on wold countries and cultures, is the World Data Analyst, containing up to date statistics on many aspects of every country in the world.

Thanks again to all who joined us, and join us again on February 11th, when I’ll be looking at using digital tools to structure and carry out a research project.

January 7 Webinar: Questions, questions…

January 4th, 2010 Comments off

An essential question is the touchstone of any research project, the jumping off point for the research process and an overarching theme for the venture. This webinar will look at the whys and wherefores of the essential question, the importance of the foundational questions and getting students started on research projects. The webinar will be co-presented by Sylvia Norton, Maine’s School Library / Technology Planning Coordinator, who will take a walk through MARVEL, Maine’s Virtual Library.

Please join us on Thursday, January 7th, at 3.15 or 7.15. To register for or join the webinar, click on the ‘Webcasts’ tab above and follow the links. See you there!

Nov. 19 Writing Process Webinar Notes

November 20th, 2009 Comments off

Thanks to everyone who attended yesterday’s webinars. I had a great time talking with Jim about Organizing and Connecting Ideas and Information, and I hope you had fun listening and adding your ideas. If you missed it, links to the recordings are on the Webcasts page of this site.

We asked two questions early in the webinar about the kinds of writing you do and the kinds of writing you ask your students to do. I thought it would interesting to compare the two so I collected all the responses from the chat boxes and made Wordles so we could compare.

Here are the responses to What kinds of writing do you do?

teacher writing

And here are the responses to What kinds of writing do you ask your students to do?

student writing

We looked at some tools for helping students organize ideas and information. Below are some resources for helping you learn more about these:

Graphic Organizers and Mind Maps

Lists and Outlines


If you are interested in the Student Research Guide notebook, you can download it from the ACTEM NoteShare server. It’s in the Barbara Greenstone Collection. If you need directions for accessing notebooks on this server, please send me an email message.

Ideas and Resources Harvested From the Webinar Chats

  • Some students organize information in their heads before they start writing.
  • New Yorker cartoon about organization (mentioned by Jim)
  • MaineLiteracy Portaportal page
  • Resources from Greece, NY
  • The 2.0 Beta of is very stable, and can embed URLs in the nodes.
  • “When I write I use both mapping and informal outlines.  The web helps me get started–to generate ideas, see connections, etc. Then I go to an informal outline to organize as I start to draft.  Thus I have learned to be more flexible when working with young writers–need to know our students to know how to help them work through the process of writing.”
  • Give students experience in a variety of tools rather than assuming they will always use the one they use first…
  • Venn diagram classic GO for compare/contrast
  • This tool ( would be great in brainstorming a new unit! 
    •  yes, very helpful at uncovering kids’ prior knowledge as well as gaps
  • “One of my students showed me OmniGraffle.  She was quite pleased to discover it before me.”
  • Social Studies students could use this to outline govermental structures (or any other kinds) and include that in their presentations.
    • and exported as images, placed in iPhoto, useful across many apps.
  • That’s pretty cool (keystrokes in OmniGraffle) because the interface is pretty busy – so you don’t have to even click on any of those buttons in the toolbar 
  • Everyone should use the ACTEM NoteShare server!
  • Helping students to think metaphorically about the topic/ideas can also provide a stucture for the text.
  • Using visual images first is often an ice breaker for reluctant writers!
  • Or their cell phone cameras – they’re an amazing resource (to document field trips).
  • Can use presenters notes in Keynote for text and slide for images.  Kind of like a storyboard

Thoughts about synthesis:

  • Students are more likely to think deeply and create something new when they care about the topic.
  • We have to give them repeated opportunities to do this, to have conversations that have real implications.
  • Challenge based learning – make it real!
  • Examples of “making it real”
    • Interviews with older people or with a career person.
    • 7th graders published and illustrated picture books for first graders
    • “Last year my Mandarin classes wrote captions in foreign languages for photos of school events.  We published a few pages of these in the school paper and had readers guess what they meant.  English answers were on another page.”
    • Making a movie about cells and how they work for 5th graders
    • Storyboards and scripts
  • Thinking of Bloom’s Taxonomy and cognitive skills
  • We have many great tools to make those ideas “whole.” Keynote, iWeb,iMovie, iDVD, Garageband and podcasts to name a few. The variety of the tools gives learners the motivation and the control. The greater learner control, the more meaningful the content is to the learner and the longer the information stays with them.

November 5th Webinar Notes

November 7th, 2009 Comments off

Thanks for everyone participating in the webinars on Thursday, it was great to see so many people sharing info and getting involved in looking at using search tools more effectively. Helping our students by developing the skills of the initial search for information can give them back some time that can be devoted to deepening their projects, as well as increasing their success in finding useful, appropriate information.

Here are some of the items we touched upon in the webinar sessions:

A social bookmarking site that represents a great leap forward in quickly locating pertinent and interesting sites. Powered by users, delicious is a great use of social networking that students can tap into to help their search for information.
The bookmarks are user-generated, and information is added to these bookmarks in the form of tags, which is how users search the network. Users can be added to your network, which you may want to do if you find someone who shares similar tagging procedures.
Tag bundles can be created to store bookmarks in an easy to find place, as well as making your bookmarks more accessible to other delicious users.
To create a new delicious account, a user must have a yahoo account.

Google Wonder Wheel

Found under the selection ‘Show Options’ once a search is underway, this is a great tool for developing a visual of a search, as well as providing pathways a researcher can take to find more detailed, focussed information on a topic. The wonder wheel search can be traced forward and backward, which takes away the need to constantly use the back button or history menu when conducting a search.

Google Advanced Search

Allows users to find sites that have exact words or phrases being searched for, date range (particularly useful when researching current events) and sites generated in a particular language. The advanced search also allows users to locate sites similar to one they have found useful, and other sites that link to a particular site, helping a student to find related sites quickly and easily.

Google News Archives

A collection of news reports on reputable news media sites, arranged in date order and featuring a timeline that shows the frequency of results by date. Many of the initial results show sites that need payment to access the information, however under the advanced search option, searchers can select the ‘no price’ option to locate results that can be accessed instantly and without the need for credit cards.


The most popular video sharing site contains an amazing number of videos that students can access to deepen their understanding of a topic. Videos are a great tool for gathering reflection on an event or issue, and also for creating an entry point for a research project. Historical events  from the past 50 years are very well represented, in the form of news reports and eyewitness accounts.
Uploaded videos are tagged in order to be located from a number of search entries, and placed in categories which can be accessed by users under the channels selection. In addition, many videos are part of user-generated playlists, which makes a wider search easier to conduct, bringing related videos together in one place.
As with delicious, YouTube is a social networking site that is proving valuable to users being able to locate varied and interesting results from many sources. The ability to create comments and responses to videos means that students can share their knowledge about a topic, contributing the depth of information carried with a video on the site.
Users with accounts can save videos they find useful and interesting, build their own playlists of collected videos, and upload their own videos to contribute and gather feedback.


Another instance of a social network, where users can upload and share photographs and images, tag them with information and labels, and create sets for ease of location. Viewers of the images can comment and download the image for their own uses. It is worth noting here that many of the images are copyright protected by the uploader, however a search can be conducted for images that have a Creative Commons license, allowing viewers to download and use images according to the rights set out in the license.
A useful locating tool for images in Flickr is the Groups, which have been created by users and allow other users to join and contribute their images that relate to the subject of the group. A search for groups can narrow down the location of useful images, as well as opening up ideas that may have not been known when the initial search was begun.

Google Earth

Although it was not covered in the webinars, the use of Google Earth as a means of locating information is growing in importance, due to the mass of information contained in the layers that is added to daily, as well as information contributed by users to the Google Earth Community message boards. Searching for a particular piece of information or running through the themed forums can produce results that students may not have been able to locate on websites.

Helping our students to navigate the sometimes choppy waters of online research is something all educators should be concerned with. In future webinars, I will be exploring the structuring of research topics and the evaluation of resources, which will utilize some of the skills focussed on in this weeks webinar. I hope you will join me in the webinars on January 7th, 2010, when I will be exploring the development of effective questioning and the first steps of the research process.

A recording of the Nov. 5th Webinar afternoon session can be found here.

A recording of the Nov. 5th Webinar evening session can be found here.

November 5 Webinar: Directed Use of Research Tools

October 31st, 2009 Comments off

3951143570_20b4eccd3f_bThe entry points for locating information can be the key to finding appropriate, detailed and timely resources. With simple modification of practice, and more directed querying, online tools and applications on the MLTI image can become powerful additions to the research process. This webinar will examine search tools both familiar and less commonly used for research, and explore how educators can use these tools with students to produce more effective results. Participants may want to create accounts for Delicious, YouTube and Flickr in order to take full advantage of the information offered in this webinar.

Joining this webinar

Make sure to choose the correct time for the webinar you want to attend and click on the link provided (links will be provided the day of the event).

Thursday, November 5 – 3:15pm Webinar

Thursday, November 5 – 7:15pm Webinar

Please follow these steps to connect to the meeting:

  • Click on the link for the webinar you want to attend.
  • Enter your name in the box when prompted.
  • In order to listen and speak during the meeting, you will need to be connected by telephone as well as the Internet. To help you connect by phone, a box will appear asking for your phone number so the Connect conference room can call you back. If you have a telephone with a direct-dial phone number, please accept this option, enter your phone number, and we will call you right back.
  • If you have a telephone with no direct-line phone number (if your phone is only reached by a switchboard), please click on CANCEL when the call-back box appears, then dial-in to the meeting using this access combination:
    • Dial-In: 1-800-201-2375
    • Pass-Code: 714892

To participate in the web conference, you will need:

  • a computer with a broadband connection to the internet (Cable, DSL, or WiFi); Dial-Up will not work!
  • Adobe Flash Player (Flash 7 or later) installed on your computer; most computers already have the Flash Player installed – however, if yours does not, or if your Flash Player is in need of updating (version 6 or older), you can download the player for free from Adobe by clicking on this link:; this is a safe and quick download.
  • An open phone line; we recommend using a hands-free headset or speakerphone.

Image by Stefan Le Du, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial Sharelike 2.0 Generic License.