FunnyMonkey Blog

Bill Fitzgerald | January 23, 2013

Tomorrow, on January 24th, at Science Leadership Academy, from 10 to 4:30, we are having the first of several participant-led work days focused on authoring and sharing open content.

As we have discussed before, our goal is to create a framework that can be used by anyone, anywhere to hold similar community-led events for the purpose of authoring open content. Toward that end, here is a general schedule that we will use to structure the workday. We will likely adjust this as needed, but this general structure will get us started:

  • 10 to 10:30 - Introductions - if people have specific goals for the day, we'll use the intros to help set priorities and, where appropriate, set people up in teams;
  • 10:30 to 12:...
Bill Fitzgerald | January 17, 2013

With all the buzz about iPad integration, I figured I should share some tips that I have found on the web that appeared particularly salient.

Suggestion 1

For all of the people who are concerned about breakage and cost:

But iPads are so liable to be broken it will be said as to render it expensive to parents to keep their children supplied with them. There would be weight in this objection were it not that this liability to injury can be for the most part prevented. 1st, by care on the part of the teacher to withhold the iPads whenever the pupils are not sufficiently careful of them. 2, by having protective cases supplied by the school. Such preparation may seem a little costly at first but if it were left to my choice to furnish a school with books or iPads as a means of employment I should not hesitate on account of the expense to furnish the latter.

Suggestion 2

On how frequently learners should have screen time...

Bill Fitzgerald | January 16, 2013

Some follow up thoughts on this earlier post on open content.

As we talk about open content, one of the refrains we hear pretty regularly goes something like this:

Creating a high quality textbook requires skills in marketing, sales, web design, [fill-in-skill-here], and that is too much to expect from people who aren't professionals.

A similar, related objection to open content is that the resources created and released under an open license don't come with any test banks or evaluations.


I generally nod politely when I hear these objections because they have nothing to do with the process and value of creating open content, and everything to do with the business model of selling access to content. These are two different things....

Bill Fitzgerald | January 16, 2013

This summary is pulled from the longer post on the process of creating open content. We're all busy, and most of us just don't have the time (or have better things to do with that time) to sit and read the long version. So here we go.

The process of creating open content is pretty identical to creating any other type of content.

  • Plan what you want to write;
  • Research the topic;
  • Curate what you can, and write what you have to; and then
  • Publish your work under an open license.

There are really only two differences about creating openly licensed content and how most of us prepare and use resources, and they are more philosophical shifts than things that take time: first, open content needs to be released under a license that allows...

Bill Fitzgerald | January 16, 2013

In our experience working with people and communities around open content, one of the misconceptions we see regularly is that the process of creating open content differs from creating content that is not openly licensed. Fortunately, content is content; and if you have ever created a resource for use in your class, a piece of documentation, a video, a podcast, a blog post, shared a picture online, etc, then you have done the same type of work you will need to do to release openly licensed content.

A primary difference between openly licensed content and content that is encumbered under restrictive copyright is how we view the potential of that content over time. Content that is encumbered under a restrictive license is essentially fixed in time, where openly licensed content can evolve over time through use and reuse. The longer life of open content can shape how we release open content (for example, a polished video could be released with a link to the unedited source...

Bill Fitzgerald | January 1, 2013

Over the next six months, we have three scheduled events supporting communities developing open content. The three scheduled events are taking place on the following dates and times:


These events are being run unconference style. We will be documenting the planning (both logistics and content-related) to run a successful event over the next few weeks. Our goal is to create an replicable blueprint that supports anyone, anywhere putting on their own open content event. We will update this post with...

Bill Fitzgerald | December 31, 2012

At the outset of this post, I feel the need to freely admit a bias against the term "flipped classroom." The term feels like an attempt to re-invent something that was already there, as many teachers had been inverting the typical class structure for decades under various names: project based learning, student-centered learning, student-paced learning, or just good teaching.

But I digress.

Another Flip

The practice of inverting a classroom, and reserving class time for more quality interactions with and among learners is obviously a great pedagogical practice. The strongest advocates of doing what they call "flipping" a class are doing this as a change from their current teaching style, or pedagogical approach. These starting points are not always clearly defined, but an important element to consider here is that transforming one's pedagogical...

Bill Fitzgerald | December 16, 2012

December 10th was an interesting day for reports on apps for learning.

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center released a report on the ways in which technology can be used to foster and support improved reading skills among children. The report covers a fair amount of ground, and is worth reading in its entirety. Part of the report included a scan of apps and web sites focused on supporting literacy. From the report:

Digital products aimed at building literacy skills in young children are a significant segment of the market. Yet many of these products may not be providing the educational benefit they claim. Few apps and e-books have information in their descriptions that point to any effectiveness studies to back them up, and most only focus on very basic literacy skills that would not be useful for children who are beginning to learn skills like grammar and storytelling.

Jeff Graham | December 10, 2012


We here at FunnyMonkey have been using virtualized development environments for several years. Fortunately for us this has all been with VirtualBox, so making the transition to vagrant made perfect sense. Along with this transition we had previously been using a set of shell scripts to configure our environments exactly the same. While this process was certainly adequate and a major improvement upon XAMP/MAMP/etc, it still left a bit to be desired. Vagrant combined with puppet improves the shortcomings in our previous approach.

What is vagrant?

Vagrant bills itself as "Virtualized development made easy." and this is a fairly accurate self-assessment. From our experience vagrant is an improvement upon just a straight virtualbox development environment. So far, in our limited use, vagrant solves several problems that were issues requiring extensive documentation or manual workarounds for each deployment. With...

Bill Fitzgerald | November 27, 2012

Common Core is getting a lot of buzz of late, but one element that has received scant attention is starting to draw notice: by grade 12, fully 70% of all reading should be nonfiction.

Moreover, the guiding force behind this increased emphasis on nonfiction has a simple origin - the need to prepare students for the NAEP:

The 2009 reading framework of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) requires a high and increasing proportion of informational text on its assessment as students advance through the grades. The (Common Core) Standards aim to align instruction with this framework so that many more students than at present can meet the requirements of college and career readiness.

For those of you playing along, the switch there was impressively fast. The first sentence...


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