Blog Bling and Creative Commons



Want some photos, clip art, videos, music, sounds, polls, inframe-content or other bling on your blog? Not sure where to find it and if you can legally use it?

The Commons

Last week, I attended the CEATCA 2012 Teachers’ Convention. And, like the last one, I left with some information to share.



The convention this year had a couple of Creative Commons PD sessions. I am a strong advocate of respecting copyright and attribution. This is largely because I am a teacher and I want my students growing up mindful of and reverent to their own and others’ thoughts, actions and creations. I also am an artist and writer and care about others’ intellectual and artistic properties.

Pete MacKay of, in his CEATCA Convention PD session, A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words But Is It Free To Use?, summarized the Creative Commons, public domain, Copyright Zero and copyright licenses and how they should be dealt with. There were a few points that I would like to share with you.

  1. These licenses apply to everything. If you didn’t make it, someone else owns it and you need to determine how you can use it. In Canada, according to Pete, fair use is no longer in effect. It never was like fair dealing in the U.S., but now we don’t even have it. I am not sure how I feel about that. It will have severe repercussions in areas of research.
  2. Even if you get permission to use material, the creator still retains his or her rights. You do not own it. Yeah, old news, but news that is often forgotten.
  3. You do not have the right to broadcast what you purchase or what you get through Creative Commons. This includes mood music before a presentation. This is not news, but it is worth rementioning. (By the way, I now have permission to use all parts of that 50 second video.)
  4. Share-alike means if you use somebody else’s work as a part of something you make, what you make must also be share-alike. You can not copyright your work while it contains share-alike components. This is an interesting slant on what I understood share-alike to mean.
  5. If you play music over an image that is protected by no-derivatives, you are breaking the law. But if you insert that image into a silent slideshow and in no other way alter the image, you are not. Okay! That one still baffles me.
  6. Any looser license you apply to any of your work, such a Copyright Zero, is irrevocable due to the grandfathering effect.
  7. YouTube has a three strike policy. First strike, you get a notice, but you don’t have to do anything. Second strike, you have an ad place over your video (but these can be closed anyway). Third strike, you are “encouraged” to buy iTunes. There is a fourth strike somewhere in there too: you have to watch a copyright video. (This information was provided by Dave Mitchell, who discussed copyright in relation to YouTube in another PD session of the convention1.)
  8. To quote Creative Commons Search, “Do not assume that the results displayed in this search portal are under a CC license. You should always verify that the work is actually under a CC license by following the link.” In short, trust only the raw source of the material.
  9. If you want to discover how an image is licensed, you can reverse search it.
  10. You can also cite material properly in current APA and MLA format.

So, bottom line, why should your students and you adhere to copyright laws? Well, how would you feel if someone took credit for your thoughts and work? And what if the material you are proudly exhibiting on your site was stolen by the person you got it from? Who gets the blame? Copyright protects and respects everyone, including you.

The Bling

The PD sessions on copyright that I attended at this year’s convention inspired me to publish and share my go-to image-and-media resource page with you.



This list of 150+ search engines, tools, resources and licensing explanations for enhancing your posts and adding that deeper dimension to your content is where I go when I create media on my blog. I offer it openly in hopes that you find it useful in your image and multimedia adventures. Just respect the copyright wildlife and you will do well.


1 Dave mentioned that SMARTboard Notebook prefers YouTube formats of WebM and FLV, while MP4 and divx are better for clipping and editting. In addition, he suggested using KeepVid to download YouTube videos to your desktop so you can ensure their use in class. When using KeepVid, do not push any of the shiny red buttons beneath the URL box (your mother warned you about shiny red berries, right? White ones are occasionally bad for you too.). Instead, use the small blue download button beside the URL box. No need to pay for a free service, is there?

Have fun with the resources.


On Videos

It is July 22 and I was hoping to upload my first video, a humourous take on my last post, and add it to that post by today. I have been itching to create and publish a video for a long time. I’ll spare you the excuses and just admit that I missed my deadline.

Well, actually, I didn’t.

My first video, which I created in 2003, is now dysfunctional. It has fallen to the harsh reality of technology upgrading. What used to run quite smoothly, had a catchy tune, Whispering Bells from The Del-Vikings, and had two video clips, Two Spheres of Earth and Whispering Waters, that seamlessly fit that tune, has now a title very aptly chosen: Haunting Catastrophe. 😀

The video was meant as a lab assignment, the audience of which was the lab instructor and me, so I did not worry about copyright. I did credit the guilty, including myself, but I had no need to ask for permission for any of the clips.

If you followed me on Twitter back in February, you will likely remember my campaign to get permission from A&E to clip a Mr. Bean video for my Noticing the World post. I never did get permission, but Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson?) was generous enough to clip and upload the video for me exactly as I asked. (Thank you again.) I linked to that clip since I still did not have permission to embed it.

Still, I thought you might like to laugh at my first video. So I uploaded it to my YouTube channel despite the copyright infringements in it.



Feel free to laugh at the end credits. 😛

And I will get back to that video I am working on for my last post.

Update: YouTube seems to have updated the video for me, so the credits work fine. Nice, and yet I leave you nothing to laugh at as I intended.

Videos like images serve many purposes in posts. They convey a lot of information in a little space. And they break up text into eye-appealing pieces.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a thousand questions. If that sounds familiar, I said it a few times on Twitter. A video shows action and suggests change, continuity and flow. It entertains and informs and like text reveals more about the creator than the created. In educational posts, it opens inquiry and evokes emotion.

Videos teach, regardless of their content.

Video Stats


Duration: 5 sec
Effects: fade in from black, two-line fade in and out, fade out to black
Transition: none

Clip 1

Duration: 15.13 sec
Effects: none
Transition: diamond out into clip 2 (duration / overlap: 1.25 sec)
Name: Two Spheres of Earth (.mpg)
Authors: Tony Phillips and Patrick Barry
Created: April 22, 2002
Source: Space Science

Clip 2

Duration: 25 sec
Effects: audio silenced
Transition: spin into credits (duration / overlap: 1.25 sec)
Name: Whispering Waters (.mpg)
Authors: Ron Roy and Frank Josephs
Created: unknown
Source: Mood Tapes


Duration: 4.58 sec
Effects: scroll, up stacked, fade out to black
Transition: none

Total duration

47.20 sec (clip-by-clip duration: 49.61 sec)

Audio Clip

Name: Whispering Bells
Band: The Del-Vikings
Created: 1956
Source: Stand By Me Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, Track 4, Atlantic Recording Corporation 1986, CD 81677

Using Prezi: A review

In my previous post I had a lot of detailed information that I wanted to communicate and only so much post-length in which to communicate it. In fact, the post and my message were inundated with this detail, threatening the viability and practicality of the post.



So I had to find a way to deemphasize the detail while not losing any of it.

I started out with plain HTML coding. That ended quickly. It was easy to tag and write, but the product was pages long. So, I then tried animated GIFs. This was a little better, at least as far as coding and explaining were concerned, but the product was still long. So then I tried a PowerPoint, or rather an Impress, since I use OpenOffice instead of Microsoft Office. (Why would anyone pay $400 to $500 for something they could get, at equal or better quality, for free?) The impress was 43 slides long after pruning, giving you an idea on how long the first HTML posts actually were. It worked nicely, but like most slideshows it was static and blocky, almost institutional.

So I took the leap and tried Prezi. And I am very glad I did!

First impressions



My first impression of Prezi came from several prezis educators created, some embedded in blog posts and all advertised on Twitter. These prezis were, as far as I was concerned, of high quality. I was intrigued enough to list Prezi as a tool I would like to try one day when a topic suited it. So it waited until my last post.

Prezi has simple navigation. When you open it you have five options, a Sign In button, an introductory video tour and three prominent tabs: Your Prezi, Learn and Explore.

  • Your Prezi leads to your account, which you activate after you Sign In. In here are your bar-setting creations.
  • Explore categorizes and presents feature prezis made by Prezi staff and end users. There are also Prezis We Like on the home page.
  • Learn has four short, simple videos, explaining how to use the application, plus a Learn box containing links to Community and Support. In Support is a manual, which is actually a table of contents to a Prezi knowledge base. Search is also available on all pages.

With these six resources (I never selected Community), one can navigate the site.

The application is also fairly easy to use, once one familiarizes him or herself with the application navigation, which is compacted into a rotary bubble that sits out of the way in the upper left corner of the work screen.

I did however have initial trouble selecting objects and several false starts because of that after I exited then reentered Write/Select mode. I am not sure if this was a glitch in the application or a fault in my use of it. I had a similar problem near the end of my creation, when selecting objects did not isolate dragging to that object but resulted instead in dragging the whole content of the work screen. These were minor distractions though and I was quick to overcome them with persistence.



Designing and making my prezi

How to start

It is possible to make a prezi from scratch, with a little planning. Though I created a slideshow to begin with, and the fourth Learn video explains how to convert slideshows into a format Prezi can use, one doesn’t need to. In fact, Prezi explains how to create a prezi from intial main points and nesting and grouping ever more detailed points after that.



There is an advantage to creating an initial slideshow though.

Prezis contain two components: the content and the layout/navigation. With a slideshow already created, one can transfer the content onto the work screen and then concentrate on designing the prezi layout and navigation, rather than dividing one’s attention between simultaneously creating the content and creating its presentation.

So long as one can create a PDF of one’s content so that separate points are on separate pages, Prezi can use it.

Tips and tricks



Which brings us to some tips and tricks on getting the most out of Prezi.

  1. Prezi works on units or points of information, whether these are text, images or videos, which it can zoom in on so these units are the only thing on the user’s screen. Slideshows and PDFs need to be designed so that each slide only displays what the user wants Prezi to zoom in on alone. My initial slideshow increased from 43 slides to 86 slides so that individual points could be focussed on separately. The only slide that retained multiple focus points on it, for reasons of aesthetics and message, was the thirty third one (the vertical-polynomial-multiplication summary slide) in the original impress.
  2. Because of the number of slides a broken slideshow can have, I suggest you print off thumbs or titles in order to plan the order of their presentation. Additionally, group related concepts/slides and start considering screen placement and size of slides. I planned a large title and subtitle around which I positioned various clusters of nested slides (main points were larger than and centered between associated minor points). I designed the scale and grouping of the slides, the order (or path) of their presentation and only weakly considered placement. I avoided linearity and haphazardness and decided to wind the slide clusters clockwise through the title.
  3. An early problem I came across in Prezi was that I had no reference scale with which to determine the viewing size of my prezi. Prezi does have upper and lower limits to zooming in and out, but I did not know whether the maximum limit was one viewer screen, more, or less in size. Prezi did not offer help in this respect and I had to figure it out through trial and error on my own. Trick: Prezi will zoom to maximize your prezi on a viewing screen, regardless of your prezi’s size. (On the zoom slider along the right edge of your screen is a home button. This fits your prezi to fill your viewing screen.) Size your prezi at some mid-zoom level when you create it, so you have some room to zoom up and down several levels as you add units or items.
  4. Crop your slides (right click and select crop) so that the necessary information fills the slide. Slideshow slides often have wide margins and “white” space. You don’t need these in a prezi. Cropping allows you to nudge items close to each other without having to continuously bring these items forward so you can later select them.
  5. There is a size limit to Select. At a given zoom level, if an item is too small, it can not be selected in order to prevent accidental editing of these items. Zoom in. UPDATE: This problem is also true for items that are too large. This might explain my troubles with selecting and dragging some objects as described in the First Impressions section. To solve, try zooming out.
  6. You can toggle between Show mode and Edit mode by pressing the space bar.
  7. Both PowerPoint and Impress do not retain borders on tables when converting them into PDFs and prezis. Screen capture (an Insert option) can bring these tables properly bordered into the prezi.
  8. It is also possible to type directly into the prezi, which I did for my signature and URL items.
  9. Edit, redo and play with your prezi and its components. Just last night, I modified the path of three items in order to smooth out their presentation. Try different arrangements and designs until you create a prezi you like. You can always edit.

Embedding my prezi

I use WordPress (WP) as my blog host. It has a knack of refusing any scripting and most embedding into it. Usually, I get around this using VodPod. But VodPod does not recognize Prezi, so I published my post originally with a link to my prezi rather than an embed.

You might notice, if you visit my previous post, that I now have embedded my prezi.

There are ways of doing this. You can:

  • type the URL, without an anchor tag and href attribute, into visual editting in WP, preview this and see if WP embeds the prezi, (I edit in HTML, so didn’t try this.)
  • use WP’s shortcodes and follow WP’s directions, (There is no shortcode for Prezi.)
  • or try the [gigya …] shortcode Panos recommends in The gigya shortcode 1 – inserting videos. (This worked for me. I learned about it through Twitter. The necessary advice is in the comments.)

My embed looks like this. (I got the information — width, height and flashvars — from Prezi’s embed button.)

[gigya src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" width="500" height="364" bgcolor="#ffffff" flashvars="prezi_id=vndrhmrgdnxc&lock_to_path=0&color=ffffff &autoplay=no&autohide_ctrls=0"]

And WP did this.

<iframe frameborder="0" width="508" height="372" src=" &height=364&bgcolor=#ffffff&flashvars=prezi_id=vndrhmrgdnxc
&_tag=gigya&_hash=a988d67c8847e82e2fc93078359cfeb4" id="a988d67c8847e82e2fc93078359cfeb4"></iframe>

I spill



Prezi is a great online tool. It is easy to use and its products are practically limited only by your creativity. It has a few glitches, which I mentioned above, but hopefully this post and practice will iron these out. I highly recommend this tool for a novel and interesting way to present your detailed information or slideshows. I have yet to figure out if an overall audio can be added to a prezi.

Update to Prezi

Last night Prezi announced improvements to its application.

Its select zebra, which allows the user to select, edit, rotate, resize and drag items on the work screen, now looks more intuitive, while retaining most of its functionality. Some of its editing options are no longer associated with the zebra.

Also Insert Shapes allows one to insert an arrow or line, then, once one returns to Write/Select, to double click the arrow or line to create a middle holder with which he or she can curve the line or arrow.

Using Twitter and Other Social Media for Professional Development

A week ago, I attended the Central East Alberta Teachers’ Convention. As usual, I enjoyed the networking and the convention sessions. It is nice to connect and share with colleagues.


CEATCA LogoCEATCA Logo © 2009 CEATCA | more info (via: ATA)
Reproduced without permission


This year, however, was additionally satisfying as I discovered I had learned a skill that I could share with other teachers. I noticed a push, or a pulse, toward online social networking at the Convention. Teachers were talking about it. And sessions were providing resources for it.

During the Convention, I had a great conversation with a vice principal of one of the schools where I substitute about social networking and how a few months ago I ventured into the land of tweets and blogs. I offered her a summary of resources that I used to learn how to digitally network. And she was interested. This was great; I was thrilled to be useful. But it got better. Since the Convention, another teacher asked me for more information; we had agreed to exchange session information beforehand, but this information was bonus. I combined the two requests and shared the resources with these two teachers.

I realized that others might also be interested, so I decided to post publicly about how I started social networking. This then is my first response to the 2011 Central East Alberta Teachers’ Convention. It is also a summary of much of my professional development this school year.

If you are just delving into social networking and want to know how to do so, the following information might help you. Even if you are a veteran, you might find these resources a strong way to enhance your portfolio.

Why social network?



Social technology is about mutual, and public, sharing. There are two general reasons it is used in education. In both cases, it is a tool only; it should never be an end onto itself.

  1. Broadly, technology is used to share, to network, to create Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) and to develop professionally. Social media activities, such as tweeting, blogging, commenting, social bookmarking and RSS feed reading, serve this purpose. Several secondary activities, such as video creation, slide sharing, imaging and audio creation, enhance these activities.
  2. Specifically, technology is used to create learning opportunities using specialized relevant tools. Any of thousands (and growing) of Web 2.0 and 3.0 tools serve this purpose. The tool should enrich and enhance learning, not distract from it. Best practices should be in effect.

To learn how to use Twitter and other social media



Study the webinar series, Using Social Media for Transformative Teaching & Learning, presented by George and Alec Couros. Each webinar is 1.5 hours long, plus there are several activities that you are asked to do on your own time. But it is worth it! (I have encountered many baffled teachers who just jumped into social media without any immersion.)

To learn how to blog and set up a blog



Participate in the Teacher Challenge Kick Start Your Blogging (KSYB). This Challenge consists of eight activities and is designed to take 30 heavy days to complete. There are several Challenges running throughout this year, but the “old” ones are still active. A new wave of teachers is just starting KSYB.

In addition, the Twitter hashtag #ksyb is used to network with others in the Challenge and to advertise your Challenge posts. Several of us who already took the KSYB Challenge still use that hashtag to keep in touch and advertise current posts we publish. In essence, we created a KSYB PLN. Anyone is welcome to join.

To learn how to create a professional education portfolio



A professional education portfolio is an extension of a blog. It is found in the pages part of the blog and illustrates throughout a student’s, teacher’s or administrator’s career how she or he meets the outcomes or quality standards for his or her position. In essence, it is a specialized illustrative resume that goes beyond standard or outcome descriptions, grades and bullet statements.

Participate in the short North Central Teachers’ Convention tutorial, Creating A WordPress Portfolio, again by George Couros. Pay particular attention to his answer to “What does the portfolio portion of our blog look like?” under Other Links. In his answer, he shows examples of student, teacher and administrator portfolios and explains how the portfolio can follow the individual rather than the institution. This portfolio can be used on an individual, class or school-wide basis.

A selection of (ever-growing) resources to jump start your social networking



Twitter: How to Navigate – Hash Tags, Chats, People and Lists




Tech in the Classroom

Twitter: @stefras, Blog: Digital Substitute, Web: Teaching Resources, Node: I Am Here

I further discuss Twitter and the building of a PLN in a previous post.

Math Lab: Revisiting Technology and Imagination

I have to tell you about an incredible activity that I engaged in a few days ago.

This was one of those rare days of late when I just took the day off – no teaching, no marking, no tweeting, no blogging.

I relaxed. And may I say relaxing is highly underrated? You never know you need to until you do it.

On this day, I reworked a math lab called Sherlock Holmes offered by Dr. David Pimm of the University of Alberta. It is a 5 x 4 tangram containing seven pieces with a minimum of side lengths and angle widths given. The task has two parts. First, find the length of each side of each piece. Second, prove that the tangram can never be arranged into a square.

Sherlock Holmes” by Dr. David Pimm

The fun begins when an additional task is given to you: while engaged in solving the tangram, describe and justify either the math processes or the math content you use at each step in your activity. Now you have to pay attention to the task, the Math and what you are doing. School math does not get any richer! Nor does it come closer to the activities professional mathematicians engage in.

Or does it?

Most real-world math problems are open ended; they do not provide specific solution schemes or even all the information necessary to solve the task set before the mathematician. The mathematician must make assumptions in order to address the math task and engage in the Math activity. The Sherlock Holmes task does this too. The student or mathematician must determine what assumptions (there are more than one of them) must be made to solve the task. So, the task is open to interpretation, solution and answer. Now that is math worthy of a Math lab.

Out of the Box

I first worked on this problem about five years back, and I got it wrong! I received high marks because I was meticulous with my activity, but my solution was messy, took several steps and never did solve the task.

I did everything from drawing to geometry to calculations by hand, which was fun. I endorse math-by-hand-first, at least when dealing with unfamiliar math. Too many students do not know Math nor how to solve math unless they have a calculator, and when asked they have no idea why the calculator spits out the correct answer. With each lost comprehension or misunderstanding, these students fall further behind in their Math reasoning and soon learn to hate math and Math.

This is so sad. I love Math and working on rich math tasks. Math to me is a series of puzzles and riddles and games. It is

a way of thinking: of thinking things through imaginatively, logically, thoughtfully and step by step. … It is the process of solving and creating puzzles; that is, of recognizing, understanding, manipulating and describing patterns. Mathematics, then, is about patterns and school mathematics is about riddles, challenges designed to encourage the exploration of [overarching and] underlying patterns.Me (2005); I credited Geri Lorway, but these are my words.

What other class in elementary and secondary school is premised on playing with puzzles and games?

So, a few days ago I took a day off and I returned to the “Sherlock Holmes” lab. And I solved it! This time, I used GeoGebra, a visual mathematics software, much like Geometer’s Sketchpad except that it is open-source and free. I use GeoGebra a lot and provide several free resources for teachers to use.

I actually used GeoGebra to create the puzzle image above, but I decided, while I was at that, to use the program to also solve the problem.

“Sherlock Holmes” changed

GeoGebra did a superb job. With it I saw more clearly what aspects of the task were fixed and what aspects were free to manipulate. This clarified what assumptions needed to be made and allowed quick experimentation of these assumptions to solve the task and check the answers I came up with.

The best part is I could see the puzzle moving as I manipulated it and I identified the (one silly, arithmetic) error I made five years ago which prevented me from solving the puzzle. I solved the puzzle in three steps using the program. But the activity was not as fun as doing it by hand. There is a certain “magic” and flow in using one’s imagination to problem solve.

And there is something fun and relaxing about playing a challenging game.

So, why don’t you take some time and choose a math lab and play a game? I would love to hear what lab, of mine or others’, you chose, how you fared and what you experienced. Play, enjoy, learn and leave a comment.

This post was inspired by The Rascal Triangle which I read a couple of days after engaging in this activity.

What happens when whiteboards are removed?

Adding technology to the classroom

When applied and implemented thoughtfully; in the best interest of learning; and with student growth in knowledge, comprehension, skill and curiosity in mind, technology can liven just about any learning experience.

Technology provides boundlessness or openness in learning by removing the walls of classroom-restricted resources, such as textbooks and teachers. It removes the box … the confines of the text, the pen of the classroom, the limits of the options of approach and the hem of the single-referent teacher.

It should be used judiciously to maximize impact, exploration and retention, and to minimize dilution, dramatization and flaunting. Simply put, it should be used to learn from and with. Learning about it should be secondary.

I attended a webinar offered by John Scammell about the new high school Mathematics curriculum being implemented in Western Canada, particularly Alberta. His emphasis that over the years we learned FOR problem solving, then ABOUT problem solving and now THROUGH problem solving parallels this notion that technology is a tool to learn with rather than the reason or goal to learn about or to show off.

Technology provides one facet of great learning. It has the best potential, in my opinion, to make learning and doing boundless for those whose willingness and imagination drives them, both broadly and deeply, to explore more to learn more.

Removing technology to make room

Yet, technology has drawbacks. As a substitute teacher, I experience a few that on the surface are not obvious. For instance, this year, I noticed more Smartboards in the classroom. This is great. What I could teach if I had a class and a Smartboard.

However, Smartboards take space. They can also be used as small whiteboards at a pinch. So Smartboards naturally replace whiteboards. This not only doesn’t remove functionality from the classroom (it increases it infinitely), it encourages teachers to use and practice using the Smartboards daily.

Then the problem: the substitute teacher. In my school district, the substitute, not being part of the staff or student body, has no access (userid and password) to computers in the school, so locking him or her out of those Smartboards.

The following result has happened to me on more than one occasion.

This comic has been cross-posted in Educational Comics.

Drop censorship of Internet access

There are many reasons that school boards should adopt open Internet access. Overarching these though is the fact that teaching and learning are hampered and put back into the nineteenth and twentieth Century box by this censorship. As a substitute teacher, I find myself even more censored than my contract colleagues. When my students have more access to technology than I do, there is something wrong. We should at least be equal!

What restrictions do you face where you teach? Are your students or you “falling behind” because of these restrictions, or does it matter? What would (do) your students gain if (because) they had (have) free rein on how they can learn and what they can learn from or with?