5 Resources Providing Open Source Images

Image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/91779914@N00/2279892412 under CC 2.0

Image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/91779914@N00/2279892412 under CC 2.0

Sometimes people mistake me or others in my profession as the Copyright Police. And while it's true that we librarians may literally be the only people who care so passionately about adhering to copyright laws, I think most people out there - from teachers assembling a PowerPoint for a science lesson to students creating an infographic to instructional leaders presenting at conferences to bloggers who write for a living - they really do have some level of respect for intellectual property. Sometimes people get nervous with image use because they aren't sure if they really can use that image that they want to use, or if they go ahead and use it, they fret over whether they've cited it properly.

*From Unsplash.com under CC0.

*From Unsplash.com under CC0.

My advice is simple, and it's the same regardless of your age, purpose, or profession. If you want to be absolutely certain that you aren't breaking any copyright rules with images, then you have two choices:

1. Generate your own images, with your phone/camera/computer/tablet/whatever,
OR
2. Use an Open Source or Creative Commons image.

Here are five - of MANY - websites that offer searchable collections of free, Open Source (free to use) images:

The great thing about these is that they provide pretty nice quality images - some clip art, but most are actual pictures, and you may have to wade through a few ads or sponsored images (ahem, Shutterstock) they're still providing you with gobs of content and asking nothing in return, not even account creation. And even though they don't require you to cite under most Creative Commons licenses, in my librarian heart of hearts I'll always do it anyway, even if just to promote their website. It's the least we could do, right?

What are your favorite sources for free, Open Source images?

Disruption and Leadership

I've been thinking about these words a lot the past few days, and about how so much of authentic, progressive leadership is disruption. Disruption of the way things are, disruption as an impetus to progress, and even how the nature of disruption itself can be used to force things to go topsy turvy solely for the sake of improvement. 

My school district was rocked and shocked this weekend when we lost a successful and disruptive leader in a terrible car accident. Dean Taylor was the newest and youngest member of our Board of Education and beloved across our vast school district. Though he had only a few years of experience serving on the Board, he certainly made good use of them. He was active in all (literally ALL, impossible though that sounds) schools across the district, and everywhere he went he looked for ways - both large and small - to be helpful.

He was out to our school for lunch just a few days ago, which apparently he did frequently for many schools, and gave the cafeteria manager $20 to put in the account of any kid that was overdrawn and struggling. A teacher friend at another school told me that her custodian said he made a point to speak to her on a recent visit and thank her for the great work she was doing to keep the school so clean. He asked her name, and she couldn't believe that someone so important would ask her name. When visiting another friend's school, the first thing he asked her was what she needed for her classroom. He really, truly wanted to know and understand, and if he could fix the problems (though not always possible), he truly would work to do so. 

I think we all looked to him as a sort of hero. If he couldn't fix it, he would at least listen and validate a teacher's concerns. That goes a long way with a group of people who tend to feel anything but heard or validated these days.

Like others, I followed his journey on Twitter and often wondered how he managed to do it all. How did he visit so many schools and have real conversations with people? How did he keep up with what everybody asked of him? How did he become a person of influence so quickly? How did he sustain the level of passion and dedication and energy he poured out into our enormous pool of educators and students?

Dean Taylor was disruptive in his consistent advocacy for boots on the ground, for those educators on the front lines of teaching and learning in our district. He fought passionately against a mass of lay-offs proposed at one point in time and, though not single-handedly of course, was credited with saving the jobs of hundreds of employees. He was a proponent of teachers having the freedom to use social media to network with one another, model appropriate use for students, and to tell the stories from our classrooms and libraries. He was a vocal advocate of libraries and librarians, and not only did he "get" the role of school librarians in modern schools, he had really fantastic and visionary ideas about how to implement those in the future!  

I met Dean through Twitter. In his mid-thirties, he was young and very hip to the social media scene, and one of his first strategies after being elected to the Board for reaching out to the learning community was to go through the district's hashtag and find active educators to help him understand how teaching and learning really work in our district. That's how we met. He followed me on Twitter (I didn't understand this at first; he was a Board Member. He was the Board PRESIDENT...and me? I was and am a complete nobody!), paid attention to/retweeting my posts, and within a month he was making the first of many visits out to my school, that particular time to observe what we were doing for the Hour of Code computer science event. I remember that he was so impressed by the work of our students, with the involvement of two parents in particular who were painting one huge wall of the library for us, and he in turn impressed all of us by asking real questions about what we do and what we need in order to do more for our kids.

Dean was disruptive in that he had the courage to ask questions, and to ask them of the people who never ever get asked: teachers.

It was a foreign concept for a nobody like me to be asked the big picture questions, but Dean Taylor taught us all that with him, there was no such thing as a nobody. Any time I would thank him for coming by an event or encouraging a group of teachers (he often popped in to professional development sessions), he would quickly wave it off and respond with "Oh no, thank YOU. You guys are the rockstars. I just get to hang out."

I remember talking to him that first day about our personal kids and all we hope to see them do, about how scary and wonderful it is to be parents, and our common goal in pouring our life into this school district because we wanted our children (personal and otherwise) to have every opportunity to receive a great education experience. From my perspective, every single decision he made and battle he fought over the next few years was fueled by that same mission. 

Dean visited my school and several others' many times, and he was even scheduled to return tomorrow to speak to a group of kiddos who struggle with behavior issues and share his story. He shared recently with me and a few other teachers at our Career Day last week (at which he was one of the volunteer speakers) that he actually was that same type of kid when he was in school, and he was eager for the chance to tell them that if HE could make something of his life, then so could they.

I couldn't resist pointing out that if he didn't have such a rebellious, disruptive streak as a child, he might not be exactly the type of leader our district needed. And I'm grateful he reminded me that there are other kids just like him who have disruptive types of futures in store for them as well,  and that if HE could make a difference by helping whoever and wherever he could, then so can they.

Though I'm sure he would be the first to tell us all that A) We're being ridiculous for grieving over him and B) He was far from perfect, the loss of Dean Taylor has and will affect many of our people because he gave so much and made such a difference in such a small amount of time. As one friend's husband put it, "It sounds like this man really wanted to leave a mark on this world and from what you're telling me, I think he did."

He sure did. There's just no better way to put it.

I will certainly miss his disruptive leadership, friendship, and kinship in a mission to serve people well, but I'll never ever forget him. 

Get in the pool

I had the privilege of sharing with some teacher leaders recently about tech tools that can help them specifically in the area of mentoring new teachers. A few were practical (like Jing, Twitter, etc.), others were in harmony with district or state initiatives (GAFE, Educate Alabama, etc.). Regardless, as usual, there was too much to share and not enough time to share it.

Presenting at state and national conferences, PD at the local school or district...all of that is the school librarian's arena. We are a people who loves to learn and share what we know.

The trickiest thing about presenting to large groups of people is the extremism and variety in skill level. There are those who still use a flip phone and get twitchy if you start talking about going on the inter webs, and there are those who can build a computer from a tub full of spare parts.

In our mixed interest and mixed ability group, I started out by asking everyone to envision going to the pool (appropriate, with our current temps in the upper 90s). Sometimes when you go to the pool, you see people sitting on the edge with their feet barely in. Sometimes you see people standing or sitting on the side with their legs in. Sometimes you see people standing or moving around in the shallow end, slowly and methodically. Sometimes you see people intensely focused on swimming laps, chugging along in the pool to reach a certain goal. And sometimes you see people just having the wildest of times. Cannonballs, diving board, flips, playing games, going under until they reach the bottom, just fully and wholly enjoying the pool.

Technology is the pool.

Sometimes people want to try out new technology cautiously, barely dipping their feet in or walking around slowly in the shallow end. And then there are people like me who are just in love with the pool. I'll try anything! I'll wallow around in it, swim until I can touch the bottom, and do flips off the diving board into the technology pool.

But I have to recognize and respect that not everyone feels the same way about the pool. To some people, the pool is scary. They'll stick their toe in, but even then they want a life jacket, a life raft, and a friend holding their hand. And that is okay.

My goal for the recent group was to just get them to stick their toe in the water. And using that analogy made everyone feel more comfortable, because no matter where you are on the technology integration continuum, there's always room for growth and for learning...but teachers can't do that unless they feel safe, comfortable, and supported.

I'm going back to my Feedly and Twitter to see what new tricks I can learn to jump off the diving board today. Maybe that's you, and maybe you're the one on the side in the life jacket.

However you can, just make sure that somehow, you get in the pool!

*image from unsplashcom under CC0

iphone-20150626083927-0.jpg

We have to stop pretending. #makeschoolbetter

I was tagged by Amanda Dykes in the #makeschooldifferent feed on Twitter. Amanda, tagged by someone else, lists five things that we are doing wrong in the education system as a whole. In the spirit of carrying the wave, here are my five:

make school different

When it comes to education, we have to stop pretending:

-that school libraries don’t matter.

Across the nation, libraries are understaffed and underfunded. Print resources and digital resources are absolutely vital to providing students and teachers with what they need to teach and learn well, as are learning commons-style space utilization. As the one place in the school reaching every student, every teacher, every parent, school libraries should not just be adequately funded...they should be a priority.

-that good teaching equates following all the rules.

Generally speaking, this industry rewards those who stay in the safe boxes, please all the people, and follow all the pacing guides to the letter. Making a shift to recognizing and valuing true innovation (not using iPads for Accelerated Reader tests and calling that innovative) would empower teachers, bring life to classrooms, and make school a whole lot more fun.

-that poverty isn’t the single greatest barrier to success, any way you measure that.

All over the US, teachers are held personally responsible (through high stakes testing) for student achievement, without any consideration of the fact that many of those students bring with them into the classroom a culture of poverty. They are hungry, they have seen and experienced violence, they are in foster care, they are sick, they are neglected...yet teachers are faulted and sometimes punished when those kids don’t score in the upper quartiles of the latest and greatest standardized assessment. When those kids can’t think or build or interact well with others, simply because their minds are trapped in another world.

-that education isn’t very big business.

When a company packages and sells textbooks and test practice materials/software, and then they also package and sell the test (for we are talking MEGABUCKS), that is an issue. When companies court districts and promise the moon if you’ll pick their equipment, their textbook, their instructional materials, the kids are cheated. When we are distracted by all the shiny new techie toys without truly evaluating them with the eye of an educator, the kids are ripped off. Go to any educational conference and check out the vendor hall to see just how big a business that the world of education is.

-that the current model of standardized assessment and “continuous improvement” is actually working.

In reality, it’s counter-productive, trapping administrators and teachers and students into “plans” they don’t value or find exciting...checking boxes that don’t matter to, well, anyone...except for the next level of box-checkers. Thanks to the testing movement, fueled by No Child Left Behind, only reading and math are taught in most elementary schools. Social studies and science are an afterthought, until kids reach middle school and their teachers shake their heads in bewilderment that kids today just don’t know how to think.

How can we teach them how to think, when we aren’t doing very much of that ourselves?

We have to stop pretending.

Vine: Trash or Treasure?

Vine app Vine labs

Vine (owned by Twitter) is a hugely popular app in the teen and college-kid world. Users produce looping, six-second videos that range from strangely goofy to pensively artistic. 

I check out Vine periodically just to maintain an understanding of the service, and have found it...well, mostly annoying, to be honest. Even the funniest zingers are not remotely entertaining once they've auto-replayed a time or two, and many times users are solely striving to be recognized as funny or clever by their peers. 

And we all know that teenagers, God bless their little half-baked selves, they tend to have a very strange sense of humor. 

The thing about Vine, though, is that I do see hugely redemptive qualities within this app. Because of the ease in time-lapsing videos, kids could use Vine to record various parts of science experiments and their findings...a much more authentic use of the traditional science report that would command the type of communicative precision required in a global society. Kids could also Vine their reflections on a book they've read, or even use Vine to design or frame up a short story they're writing in an ELA class. They could use Vine to create tutorials for completing math problems (great for teachers implementing the flipped instruction strategy) or for demonstrating how to properly shade a 3-D picture in art class. My favorite aspect of this app is the raw creativity kids can show off when crafting a well-executed Vine. 

Vine app information

Because Vine's Terms of Service are pretty open, nudity and sexual content (just as with Instagram or any other microblogging platform) is accessible to anyone who knows where to find it. From what I gather, Vine has taken strides to prevent the inclusion of pornography in any collections (removal/banning of certain hashtags) but anyone considering classroom use for this has to go into it with the understanding that though it's entirely possible to avoid explicit material, it's also still there for anyone who goes looking for it. I wouldn't recommend it for elementary or middle schoolers at this point (not until a tighter community or circle of security can be drawn around student users), but can see it being really useful for some high school groups. Teacher savvy is key to effective integration of this app! 

More resources on Vine:
Vine: What Parents Need to Know 

Vine Terms of Service 

Common Sense Media App Review