U of L 50th Anniversary Interview

2017 is the University of Lethbridge’s 50th anniversary. In celebration, the Faculty of Education has produced a series of videos that tell the story of the program through personal memories. This collection reveals what makes the U of L’s teacher education program one of the finest in Canada — community, relationships, pedagogy, research, and heart.

I feel lucky to have been asked to participate:

Jeff Milner from ULethbridge Faculty of Education on Vimeo.

New Teaching Position

Last Monday I interviewed for a full-time teaching position at a Hutterite Colony. Yesterday, I found out that I got the job! I’m extremely looking forward to it.

Ninety Percent of People Don’t Know How to Use CTRL-F

Last year I read, “Crazy: 90 Percent of People Don’t Know How to Use CTRL+F“, an article from theatlantic.com, and I decided then to make sure that as a school teacher I was going to try and reverse that statistic. Thinking about it today, I realize I have never posted here to help get the word out, so I’m doing it now.

CTRL-F will help you find text on a web page in most modern browsers. Press and hold Ctrl and then press F, follow that by typing in the words or words you want to find. Mac users try Command + F.

There — I just saved hours, if not days of your life.

CTRL-F Why you no work on paper?

Oh, and as a bonus tip, if you want the same search functionality in your personal (paper) book library, give the My Library feature of Google Books a try — it might just blow your mind.

From Extinct to Just Feeling Like I’m Dying

I’m slowly finishing off each of the classes for my PS1 semester. We had a terrific class this morning in my Communications and Technology class. Our sessional instructor hooked us up with a video conference “experience” with the Tyrrell Museum.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, in fact, I was pretty sure I was going to study for my psychology test during it, hence I sat in the back, but it didn’t take long to realize this was something I would really enjoy.

Some students in the hallway outside were making a huge racket. I felt a bit odd going out to tell them to be quiet, because, while it seems like you’re just watching a talking head when the man on the screen is giving his lesson, it’s pretty jarring when he asks what’s going on with you walking out of the room.

As the video conference continued we learned about some of the different types of activities and lessons that take place during a typical video-conference with the museum and an individual classroom. We had a short virtual tour of the museum and learned about different dinosaur facts. I loved that I was able to answer a lot of the questions — I guess I remembered a lot of what I learned about dinosaurs from when I was a kid. Here’s one for you:

Q. What the name of the dinosaur in this picture I took a few years ago?

albertosaurus
(Hint: It’s Alberta’s most famous dinosaur)

A. The Albertosaurus.

The Tyrell Museum is not the only place that offers video conferencing presentations, in fact, there is a huge list at the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration. I’m going to remember this for when I’ve got a class of my own.

Because we went in early for the video conference, we also got to leave an hour or so earlier than normal. I took the opportunity to go for a swim at the pool and did the usual 1km workout. I have to say that skipping out on it so much lately makes it hard to get back in the water. As I floated at the edge, I decided to put in 2 more lengths and really go all out — to see if I’ve still got it.

28 seconds for a 50 meter free, I guess you can say I’ve still got it, but I think I left “it” in the water because when I got out, I felt sick! Oh my, I had pushed myself too hard. I left myself with no choice but to sit it out for the next 15 or so minutes and even had the lifeguard a bit worried about me because my face was completely white and I must have looked like I was just about dead. I certainly felt that way.

If school doesn’t kill me, maybe the pool will.

CBC, Copyright and Fair Dealing

When I happened upon the CBC’s “Reuse and Permissions” page, I clicked the link because I was curious how the nation’s publicly funded broadcasting company would feel if I tried to reuse the content that I helped pay for.

From the FAQ:

Q. I am a university student and have come across a video clip on your website that I am hoping to use in a presentation. Is it possible for me to use it?

A. Unfortunately, we can’t give permission for this type of use without charging a sizeable licensing fee. However, you are welcome to create a link to the cbc.ca page in your presentation, so your fellow students may view the CBC content.

They can’t give permission without a sizable licensing fee?! It seems they’re not actually interested in licensing their content either or perhaps they’d have some information regarding just how “sizable” a fee they mean. For some students, using a “link” to the CBC’s website is not possible if the presentation is going to be done at a school where the Internet is not available. Now, having said that, using the web browser to view their content IS making a copy! That’s how the Internet works, everything is a copy! So they’re giving permission to make a copy while at the same time trying to imply a restriction on ones right to change the format in which the copy exists (ie. only playing the content from their website).

Now for an organisation so reliant on tax payers’ funding, the CBC’s policy is in itself ridiculous, but if we take it a step further and consider what the Canadian Copyright Act states about students copying work for educational purposes, we find some rather revealing details (though I’m not a lawyer, this seems pretty simple to me).

In the 2004 landmark ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada in CCH Canadian Ltd. v. Law Society of Upper Canada the concept of fair dealing in Canada was clarified, in part, when the Court made the following general observation:

[I]t is important to clarify some general considerations about exceptions to copyright infringement. Procedurally, a defendant is required to prove that his or her dealing with a work has been fair; however, the fair dealing exception is perhaps more properly understood as an integral part of the Copyright Act than simply a defence. Any act falling within the fair dealing exception will not be an infringement of copyright. The fair dealing exception, like other exceptions in the Copyright Act, is a user’s right. In order to maintain the proper balance between the rights of a copyright owner and users’ interests, it must not be interpreted restrictively.

This brings up the question of what exactly is Fair Dealing? Well, again from the landmark Supreme Court of Canada case that establishes the bounds of fair dealing in Canadian copyright law CCH Canadian Ltd. v. Law Society of Upper Canada:

It is impossible to define what is “fair dealing”. It must be a question of degree. You must consider first the number and extent of the quotations and extracts. Are they altogether too many and too long to be fair? Then you must consider the use made of them. If they are used as a basis for comment, criticism or review, that may be a fair dealing. If they are used to convey the same information as the author, for a rival purpose, that may be unfair. Next, you must consider the proportions. To take long extracts and attach short comments may be unfair. But, short extracts and long comments may be fair. Other considerations may come to mind also. But, after all is said and done, it must be a matter of impression. As with fair comment in the law of libel, so with fair dealing in the law of copyright.

In Canada, the six Fair Dealing exceptions are:

  1. The Purpose of the Dealing
  2. The Character of the Dealing
  3. The Amount of the Dealing
  4. Alternatives to the Dealing
  5. The Nature of the Work
  6. Effect of the Dealing on the Work

Though not all of these considerations will arise in every question of Fair Dealing, this list provides a useful analytical framework with which govern decisions of fairness.

Specifically, section 29.6 of the Canadian Copyright Act says:

“it is not an infringement of copyright for an educational institution or a person acting under its authority to

(a) make, at the time of its communication to the public by telecommunication, a single copy of a news program or a news commentary program, excluding documentaries, for the purposes of performing the copy for the students of the educational institution for educational or training purposes;

So, if you’re a student wanting to show a video clip of a news program or news commentary program, you don’t need the CBC’s permission to make a copy and you’re allowed to keep and show that copy for up to one year without paying royalties.

I think it’s disgraceful that CBC is so protective over their publicly funded content, however, the law does allow for the presentation of certain material for educational purposes in educational contexts. It’s too bad the CBC doesn’t realize this.

Ed 2500 Practicum – Day 1

It was about 10:15 the night before my first day at Westminster school. I was worried — should I wear a tie, no tie? Where were my khaki pants? I knew this pent up anticipation was overblown, but the school day would still arrive much too quickly. I was terrified I would wake up late and begin my descent on the slippery slope to failure. Despite my fears, I woke up bright and early, had no problem deciding what to wear, and made myself a breakfast fit for a champion. I arrived exactly one half hour before class and waited nervously in the office for someone to say hello. There isn’t much going on at Westminster at ten to eight in the morning, but I could hear the principal and the secretary talking in another room. Time stood still as I reflected the moment. Memories of my own experiences in elementary school flooded my mind. There were teachers that I loved and maybe one or two that left me with some unpleasant memories. I pondered what Mrs. Day would be like, how she would teach, and how I would interact with the students.

When I met her, I knew immediately that we would get along just fine. We took a quick tour around the school. There were so many names of teachers — I remember thinking, how am I going to remember them all, let alone the names of the kids in the class. Mrs. Day asked me to help her prepare breakfast for the kids — Westminster provides breakfast for each student, assuring that they’ve all had something to eat before they are expected to learn. I opened a box of apple juice and began to pour. Juice dribbled out in all directions. I’m not sure why I felt nervous, but I remember thinking sarcastically, what a great way to start things out: the very first thing I’ve been asked to do and I make a mess. No big deal though, Mrs. Day grabbed me rag and I cleaned things up. I finished pouring drinks while she cut bananas and muffins. Next we headed out for supervision and then back into class when the bell rang.

I liked watching the control Mrs. Day possessed over her class. She confidently instructed and the students listened. She identified which students weren’t paying attention and called them to order. She maintained the flow by not only identifying children individually by name but also by row; thereby calling a few students to action at a time. She also utilized their birth months when selecting a group of students to go back for second helpings. I liked the efficiency and order and how the students knew the routine and listened patiently for their turn.

The smart board lesson on how to write a story was fantastic. First the class listened and watched as a story was read and illustrated. Following that, Mrs. Day discussed with the class the formal elements of a story writing. I tried to watch which students were answering most of the questions, and while there were a few that consistently answered and a few that almost never answered, Mrs. Day did a good job of balancing out who she called on for responses. It was clear that she had given this lesson before and was very well prepared. She is a master at the smart board.

It was about this time that hands began to raise to ask if they could go to the bathroom. It was very interesting how some kids got permission while others were told to wait. I wasn’t sure how to feel about making anyone wait, if they said they needed to use the bathroom I would have trusted them to go, but Mrs. Day had experience and knew who was to be trusted and who was trying… not to take advantage, but who might have been more likely to waste time in the hallways. One of the students who asked to go to the bathroom didn’t explain that it was because he was feeling ill. When he came back he sat with his head on the desk.

Mrs. Day asked me to mark some math homework, which I really enjoyed. It was something I could do rather than feeling awkward about wandering the classroom and just observing. I had finished marking most of the homework when suddenly Mrs. Day said to me, “Mr. Milner, would you please go get the caretaker, one of the students just threw up.” I looked over and sure enough it was the kid that hadn’t been feeling well. I thought, what a thing to happen on my first day! Luckily it was pretty mild compared to how it potentially could have been.

Later, the kids had a math test in which I helped by answering kids questions about what a specific question meant. My limited assistance felt a bit useless but clarifying exactly what a question was asking was enough to help most of the kids complete their answers. Mrs. Day asked me to go out in the hallway with one student in particular and go through the test with her. (I didn’t realize she was a she and not a he… apparently not an uncommon assumption). It was a bit sad to realize that this little girl had a very limited reading ability. In the hallway behind us a police officer was talking with a student. I was a bit shocked to see a police officer questioning a student in an elementary school.

I’m not going to say I didn’t enjoy my first day. I certainly felt it to be an interesting day and I’m very excited to be here. I definitely thought the kids were cute and nice. However, I did remember thinking that elementary school wouldn’t be my first choice. I also remember thinking the neighbourhood where the school is located makes a big difference in the kind of issues a teacher has to deal with on a daily basis. I was very impressed with Mrs. Day’s manner with the kids and her clearly well honed teaching skills. She made me feel very welcome and just before I left we discussed what I can do to take part in teaching a lesson with the smart board next week. I’m looking forward to it.