FunnyMonkey Blog

Bill Fitzgerald | December 20, 2013

There is a lot of misinformation spewed about data collection in schools, and this is unfortunate, because it gets in the way of important conversations. At a high level, here are some concerns that merit greater attention as we talk about the role of data and the rights of learners.

Current methods of storing data are more permanent than anything we have ever used. When student, teacher, and school data is funneled into a datastore, that datastore is easy to replicate and move. If a single backup of a database is compromised, the entire dataset can potentially be accessed. This is not something that is caused by cloud storage, but poorly managed remote storage could exacerbate the issue.

Security around data storage and data handling is incomplete, inefficient, and/or poorly explained....

Bill Fitzgerald | December 17, 2013

Between the Snowden revelations and the swirling misinformation about data collection and Common Core, there have been an increased number of conversations addressing student privacy. While the conclusions reached within these conversations are unchanged, it's nice to see the topic even being addressed. The calculus generally follows this arc: "free" and "convenient" provide an acceptable reason to downplay or ignore privacy concerns.

There are wonderful things that can be done with free or low-cost tools online. The point of this conversation has nothing to do with the usefulness of working online.

However, if you are not paying (much) for the product, YOU ARE THE PRODUCT.

For the sake of argument, let's say that the US Government created a web...

Bill Fitzgerald | December 5, 2013

If I buy and read a copy of Gatsby, is the value of my "ownership" of the text diminished if someone else buys an identical copy of the book?

How about if someone checks the book out from the library?

How about if I buy a copy of Gatsby and don't read it? While I own the physical text, do I actually own the novel?

If I check out a copy of Gatsby from the library, read the text, and return the copy to the library, does my "ownership" of the text end when I return the book to the library?

Writing books, and creating other works of art, costs money, and requires time, and considerable effort. None of that should be overlooked, and creators deserve fair and adequate compensation for the work and creativity. Texbooks, assessments, and learning materials for K12 education, however, are largely designed to be subsidized via public money; burdening these materials with copyright restrictions that...

Bill Fitzgerald | December 3, 2013

As reported in EdWeek, 68% of school districts in the United States are planning on buying new Common Core aligned textbooks.

This represents an enormous amount of money. The districts that buy new curriculum will also need to devote significant resources to teacher professional development. Among states and districts spending money to prepare for the Common Core, early trends don't look good. As part of Los Angeles Unified School District's iPad 1 billion dollar iPad rollout, the district bought professional development content from Pearson. As the contract with Pearson clearly states, the District doesn't own what they bought, they can't modify it, and they can't share it.

In New York State, the Education Department...

Bill Fitzgerald | December 1, 2013

In an earlier post, I noted that there is a licensing discrepancy between the Common Core aligned curriculum on the EngageNY site and the same curriculum sold by the contractor hired by NY State to create the curriculum. The curriculum available on the EngageNY site is released under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Share-Alike license, where the curriculum sold by the contractor has all rights reserved. Before we go any further, we need to emphasize that the sale of work covered under a Creative Commons license - even work released under the Non-Commercial license - is not the issue. Openly licensed work can be sold without issue, and selling work under a Non-Commercial license just requires the permission of the license holder.

The point that originally attracted my notice was that the licensing had...

Bill Fitzgerald | December 1, 2013

Los Angeles Unified School District recently drew some attention when they announced a 1 billion dollar iPad purchase and rollout that appeared to be marred by poor planning. The iPads come with Pearson content and assessments pre-loaded.

A look through the contracts shows some incredibly restrictive language (pdf link) about who owns services bought with public money. The quotation below comes from page 27:

Pearson Education, Inc. ("Pearson," a subcontractor of Contractor) will also deliver professional development to the District, and will retain ownership of any offered curriculum products or materials, including any derivatives or enhancements thereto. Pearson will not grant rights to the District under a Creative Commons license; however, subject to any and all...

Bill Fitzgerald | November 24, 2013

Update: I asked if anyone from Creative Commons could weigh in here. If I learn anything new, I'll update this post, and/or follow up with a new post containing the additional information. End update

New York State spent 28 million on the Common Core aligned curriculum currently available at the EngageNY site. This curriculum was funded via federal money that New York won as part of Race To The Top.

Leaving aside the question of how that money could have been used to support local professional development, one of the...

Bill Fitzgerald | November 24, 2013

One of my favorite places here in Portland is Tabor Bread. It's a bakery and cafe; they source all their materials locally, and bake their bread in a large wood fired oven that they designed themselves.

When the bakers make bread, they follow the entire process: they mill their own flour, mix the ingredients, knead the dough, shape the bread, set it up to proof overnight, set and light their own fire, and then, the next morning, they bake their bread. But they stay with their bread throughout their entire process. They make notes on how the structure of their fire affects cooking temperatures and the evenness of heat distribution; they observe how minor changes in ingredients, or in relative quantities, affects the bread.

Not surprisingly, the bread is amazing.

Because I spend a good portion of my days thinking about learning, I immediately begin to wonder what would happen if we applied similar care and attention to...

Bill Fitzgerald | November 23, 2013

I learned about this from Leslie Hawthorne - there is a new project underway to help mitigate the decline of the bee population.

From the Open Source Beehives Project:

The Open Source Beehives project is a collaborative response to the threat faced by bee populations in industrialised nations around the world. The project proposes to design hives that can support bee colonies in a sustainable way, to monitor and track the health and behaviour of a colony as it develops. Each hive contains an open source sensory kit, The Smart Citizen Kit (SCK), which can transmit to an open data platform:
These sensor enhanced hive designs are open and freely available online, the data collected from each hive is...

Bill Fitzgerald | November 19, 2013

Over the last few months, inBloom has been getting increasing negative attention. These troubles started almost immediately after their "official" launch in early 2013. Despite some initial adoring PR masquerading as news coverage, inBloom has consistently stumbled. Between early adopters changing their minds and losing their jobs, and a lawsuit filed against the organization in New York State, inBloom appears to have lost momentum.

Here are some facts and observations I've seen along the way:

1. inBloom implemented a pre-existing data...


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