My friend Cathy Nelson recently wrote a post entitled “If An Assignment Can Be Plagairized.” We attended the same pre-conference session at the recent South Carolina Association of School Librarians Conference in Greenville, South Carolina. Doug Johnson‘s session was entitled “Designing Research Projects that Kids (and Teachers) Love!”

Doug shared how to try to plagiarize-proof assignments:

     One way to prevent plagiarism is to require students to use primary sources such as interviews, surveys, and experiments.

     Another way to prevent plagiarism is to allow students choice and creativity. The use of technology allows creativity.  Even      if the teacher has assigned a PowerPoint project and specified the number and content of the slides, the students still gets to choose the color, font, clip art, etc.

That last line was a “light-bulb” moment for me.  Students are given (not allowed to choose) an assignment.  Their final product is the beat-to-a pulp-dead-horse PowerPoint slideshow.  Students are told they have to have X number of slides.  So, they come to the media center, head for the computers, and ….what….begin to research? Not quite. 

No…they open PowerPoint and start a slideshow before they have any research to put in it! They design the first slide with a title, their names, and the date due….and then play with design and look for pictures, and try different font. 

I tell them, “You need to research first.  Don’t worry what it will look like yet – that comes at the end.”

Do they listen? Uh…no.  And why?  Because this (the design, colors, font, pictures) is the ONLY thing they have control over.  It’s the only choice they are given in the whole assignment.

When they finally do get around to “reseaching,” they end up copying and pasting (and putting way too much text on a slide – but that’s another post).

Instead, we need to plagiarize-proof the assignments as Doug and others have suggested.

Now, my brain is fried after doing true research and working on a paper for a grad class today, so forgive the departure here from anything remotely relating to plagiarize-proofing assignments.

Instead, I offer for your viewing pleasure a video that was shared by Holly Foster, a fellow grad student in my Master’s of Library and Information Science program at the University of South Carolina. 



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Quality Garanteed

The Wally Principle


Wally World

I have a love-hate relationship with Walmart Supercenters.  I will complain about the crowded parking lots, the long lines, and the people who live in another brain zone, but I always go back.  Why?  They have the lowest prices on groceries, so I get the most bang for my buck there. I hate to make a quick stop at another grocery store because it’s so convenient, pick up a box of cereal that is priced at $4.59, and realize the same thing would cost me $3.29 at Wally World. I am willing to be inconvenienced to save money, because although time is a resource in short supply in my world, money pays the bills and will make my retirement much more enjoyable.

Education Nation

Those of us in public education are working in the Walmarts of academia:  we are overcrowded, we welcome everyone, and we give people the most bang for their buck. Yes, people love and hate us, but we are the most convenient and least expensive education for their children.

In our Supercenters, students can learn how to speak a foreign language, discover the microscopic life of cells, and get hands on experience in wellding. They can increase their vocabularies, learn how to think critically, and explore new literary worlds.

Pleasing the Customer

Walmart has established itself as a force to be reckoned with in pleasing the masses.  By providing a multitude of goods, they give people choice.  By rolling back those prices, they provide value.  By being open twenty-four hours a day, they cater to the people’s lifestyles.  In short, Walmart has spoiled  us.

How do public educators please the masses?  By providing a wide range of electives, they give students learning choices.  By offering a “free” education, they offer every child an opportunity.  By extending their hours, converting to year-round school,  and offering virtual courses, they are trying to cater to people’s lifestyles.

 Evaluating Success

Walmart is in competition with other retailers.  How do they know if they are successful?  Quarterly reports.  What data do they use?  Profit gain or loss. Numbers. 

Schools are in competition with each other.  How do they know if they are successful? Annual yearly progress reports. What data do they use?  Test scores. Are they up or are they down? Numbers.

Loss of Focus

But schools are not businesses, making profit more important than product.  We are all about product.  Quality.  We know that it is not instant nor easy, but it is worth it.   

However, the “powers that be” require numerical proof that we are producing quality.  Do they want to study a child’s portfolio of his best work to show growth over a year?  Do they want to see a child immersed in a project on a subject that fascinates them? Do they want to ask a child what he has learned during a unit?  No.  Why?  The answers are probably numerous, but I’m sure they are rooted in money, time, and uniformity.

In my state (South Carolina), second year teachers must go through an evaluation process.  Do they take a test to measure their effectiveness as a teacher or what they learned in their first year teaching experience?  No. They are observed in action on four different occasions spaced throughout the school year. They must provide Long Range Lesson plans and reflection on the unit of study completed before each observation.  This sounds like a much more effective method of determining what someone has learned than taking a test one time during a school year.

So why do we as educators provide fairer evaluations of our teachers than we do of our students? What is wrong with this picture? 

Image attribution:

Image: ‘Wal-Mart Supercenter, Miles City




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Multimedia Web 2.0 Tools with Educator Accounts

Many Web 2.0 sites offer services designed with educators in mind. They provide secure, private sites for students and teachers to share their work.

What’s even better is that these sites are free or very inexpensive. Here are four exceptional digital storytelling tools to add to your toolbox. Encourage your teachers and students to use these to incorporate multimedia in the classroom.

Animoto for Education

    Create music videos to enliven your lessons or have students create them as the final product in a unit. 

     “Animoto Shorts are 30-seconds in length and free for everyone. You can produce, remix, and share as many as you’d like. Full-length videos, in contrast, are extended in length. A video’s length is determined by the number of images and the music it uses.” ~ from Animoto’s Since You Asked section

     Educators receive a free All-Access pass (a $30.00 value) which allows both them and their students to create full length videos. Click here to learn more including how to create multiple email addresses that allow you to monitor each student’s account.   The Animoto site also has several examples of how educators have used it in their classrooms.

VoiceThread for Education 

Twilight Book Review (VoiceThread)

Vodpod videos no longer available.    

more about “Twilight Book Review (VoiceThread)“, posted with vodpod

“Ed.VoiceThread is a secure K-12 network for students and teachers to collaborate and share ideas with classrooms anywhere in the world.”~ Ed.VoiceThread homepage

This is the only service discussed in this post that costs – but the cost is low and well worth it! See the K-12 pricing brochure for more information.

A great resource:  VoiceThread 4 Education wiki

Glogster for Education


     Glogster, a poster creation site, “gives support and help with creating school accounts and keeping Glogs PRIVATE.” Use the posters to liven up a wiki page or have students create projects.” ~ from Glogster’s Teachers, try education 2.0 page

     Technology and Education Box of Tricks  Read this blog post to get an excellent overview of Glogster.

Smilebox for Education

Click to play BSH 9th Grade Campus LMC
Create your own scrapbook - Powered by Smilebox
Make a Smilebox scrapbook

“Smilebox is an easy and creative way to safely send photos, videos and personalized information to your students and parents in a secure way. It’s perfect for newsletters, overviews of teaching units, performance and field trip recaps, classroom activities and more. ” ~from Smilebox’s Welcome to the Teacher Toolbox page

Educators can sign up for a free premium Club Smilebox account (a $39.99 value).

What other multimedia Web 2.0 tools out there have upgraded educator accounts?  Please help me add to the list!

YouTube Alternatives (continued)


A few days ago, I shared five educational video sites to try when YouTube is blocked at school. If I had been keeping up with my Google Reader, I would have read Joyce Valenza’s Dec. 19th post in which she shares several ways of using YouTube videos in school despite its being blocked.

Dean Mantz commented:

This is a good time to discuss the downloading of YouTube via third party applications. I agree with “Bob” about the YouTube agreement. Here is a portion of the Terms of Use: 4. General Use of Website-Permission and Restrictions C. You agree not to access User Submissions (defined below) or YouTube Content through any technology or means other than the video playback pages of the Website itself, the YouTube Embeddable Player, or other explicitly authorized means YouTube may designate. So, is the use of the sites above legal or not? I will leave that to you folks to decide.

Joyce replied to Dean:

Before I say “no” to this, I will try to contact the YouTube folks after the holiday. (No email, just phone number.) In another statement, they advise: “Our community guidelines and clear messaging on the site make it clear that users must own or have permission from copyright holders to *post* any videos. We take copyright issues very seriously. We prohibit users from *uploading* infringing material and we cooperate with copyright holders to identify and promptly remove infringing content.” (My asterisks) My question is, is it fair use if you don’t post and simply use the file temporarily in a classroom? Are we okay if we do contact the creator of the video?

As a LMS concerned with copyright issues, I had checked the YouTube user’s terms of agreement before suggesting using “back door” entry into YouTube. I will be interested to read what Joyce discovers.

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Take Five: YouTube Alternatives


What do you do when YouTube is blocked at your school?  There are many other sites where you can find educational videos.  Hopefully, you will be able to access some of these from your school:

“ was started in April of 2008 to help students, teachers, educators, and the public get educated on a variety of topics. As the first user powered online learning network, you can expect to come away with knowledge that both challenges and empowers you.

By harnessing the power of social communities and video sharing, is able to provide the best documentaries and educational videos found on the web. It is our goal to make the process of watching, adding, rating, and discussing the videos as simple as possible. ”

Categories:  Conspiracy, History, Political, Religious, Science, Sports, Weird, Music, War, Nature, and Society

How Stuff Works

How Stuff Works’ Video site includes categroized videos from Discovery, The Learning Channel, the Science Channel, and Reuters.  Categories include Adventure, Animals, Auto, Computer, Electronics, Entertainment, Food, Geography, Health, History, Home and Garden, Money, People, and Science. 

What a wide range of videos!  I watched “Loch Ness Monster Evidence” and “It’s All Geek to Me: Cell Phone Tricks” (cut through the carrier’s message you usually have to wait through to be able to leave someone a voice mail) from just the home page.

Edublogs TV

This video hosting site is dedicated to education.  Categories included Career and Technology Education, College and University, Elementary, Fine Arts, Globalstudent, Globalteacher, High School, Languages, Math, Middle School, Moodle, Professional Development, Reading, Science, Social Studies, and Writing.

Connect with like-minded educators through the social networking aspect of the site, listen and download audio clips (including dance, electronic, hip-hop, Latin, pop, and new age among others), and join and upload your own videos.

TeacherTube and SchoolTube

Both of these sites are offered to educators as alternatives to YouTube.  Just as at YouTube, there are gems to be found at each site. 

Now, if my addition is correct, I’ve offered five alternatives.  But perhaps I should ask Ma and Pa Kettle to check my figures.

SC EdTech


After voting on November 4th, I drove down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in order to attend SC EdTech for the first time. I looked forward to learning more about instructional uses of technology and Web 2.0 tools and was not disappointed!

Wednesday, Nov. 5th

Here is a break down of the sessions I attended:

  • Cathy Nelson’s Your 2.0 Sandbox: Come Play and Learn”  Cathy covered many Web 2.0 tools including RSS feeds, Twitter, wikis, and blogs. She created a informative wiki for attendees which provides links to these and many more tools.
  • Lorie Cafarella’s “Digital Storytelling”  Lorie defined digital storytelling and focused on using Windows Movie Maker to showcase student work. She gave a four step process for creating a digital story.  Two sites mentioned during the presentation for sound effects were and
  • Kevin Merritt’s “Elvis Found Hiding in a Megacache! Geocaching Rocks On!” Kevin gave a concise overview of GPS devices and and pointed out features of  Then we went on a field trip to find a nearby geocache.  (This was my first time out of the Sheraton since arriving on the previous damp night in Myrtle Beach.)  

Thursday, Nov. 6th

Another full day!

  • CayLen Whitesides’s “Encouraging Reading through Technology” CayLen Whitesides is one of two media specialists from York Comprehensive High School.  Their incorporation of technology into promoting reading is inspiring. Heather Loy has already written a blog post about this presentation that is worth checking out.
  • Chris Craft’s “Don’t Read to Me:  A Presentation on Presentations” Chris’s enthusiasm for his topic is evident.  I have been souring on PowerPoint presentations for quite some time now, so was ready to hear what Chris had to say.  According to Chris, too many people use PowerPoint as their notecards and/or overload their presentation with too many cutesy graphics. Chris used his understanding of the cognitive load theory to explain why this is BAD.  (An older version of his presentation can be found here.)
  • Jeff McCoy’s “Googlicious – Maps, Space, Earth, and Oceans” Jeff demonstrated Google Earth and the new flight simulator (with some virtual tragic results!).
  • MaryAnn Sansonetti’s “iPod-ibilities in the Classroom 2.0”  MaryAnn wowed me with this presentation!  I had no idea of the multitude of instructional uses of iPods in the classroom. She has created a wiki to share many of these.

Thursday evening

Not only did I learn many new ways to enhance instruction through technology today, but I also had the pleasure of spending some “down time” with several other educators.  Cathy Nelson, Heather Loy, Chris Craft, Jessica Donaldson and I went to Broadway at the Beach this evening.  We walked the “boardwalk,” fed the huge fish (who got into fighting matches with the ducks over the food), and ate dinner at the Liberty Steakhouse. 

This was definitely one of the highlights of the conference for me.  It is such a treat to spend time with others who share the same passion for improving how our students learn.

Banner image from

New (to me) Resource

A fellow graduate student in my SLIS J757 class at USC shared this link in a message to the listserv today. 

RHI: An Annual Magazine for Educators

Although this is the first issue I have seen, Random House has just published the third annual issue.   I have downloaded the 112 page publication and quickly browsed through it.  Of course, since it is published by Random House, you will find their products being pushed, but the magazine has some terrific articles making this worthwhile reading for teachers and library media specialists.

The focus of this issue is on reluctant readers.  Articles include:

“Ten Ways to Build a Reluctant Reader Library”

“You Got Any More of These? Re-engaging Adolescent Readers and Writers with Meaningful Texts”

“Winning Back Your Reluctant Readers”

“Fantasy:  Why in the World Do Kids Read This Stuff?”  an article by Terry Brooks

One of the joys of being a library media specialist for me is connecting a reader with the right book and having them come back and request more “just like that one!”