Creative Commons Resources I Can Use in my Classroom – Khan Academy Rules!

Source Name: Khan Academy
Title: Introduction to Order of Operations
Use in Classroom: Assign students to watch this as a preparation for the topic and create their own fully worked out example or a list of 3 questions they had, due the day we first cover this in class.

Source Name: Khan Academy
Title: Order of Operations Practice
Use in Classroom: Take students to a computer lab and send them to this site to practice; walk around, watching them and helping them, while they complete these questions

Source Name: Khan Academy
Title: More Complicated Order of Operations Example
Use in Classroom: Have students watch this as a review after we first cover this in class. Email them a question which they email back the fully worked out answer.

Source Name: Khan Academy
Title: Understanding Exponents
Use in Classroom: Show to students after we cover prime factorization.  Have them factor 3 numbers whose answers will require exponents.

Source Name: Khan Academy
Title: Commutative Law of Multiplication
Use in Classroom: Show to students after we cover Commutative and Associative Properties.  Have them write up a fun way they can remember the difference between the 2.

Source Name: Illuminations
Title: Factorize
Use in Classroom: After presenting factoring in class, have students use this site to check the answers on their homework.

Source Name: flickr
Title: Mechanic’s Institute Library (San Francisco) (II)
Use in Classroom: When students complain about math and ask why they need to know this, I’ll show this picture and ask how math was used in creating this?

Source Name: Wikimedia Commons
Use in Classroom: Ask my Microsoft Word students to go here and pick a picture they like and write a paragraph about it, and make a APA reference to the photograph.

Source Name: BYU
Title: Personal Finance
Use in Classroom: Send my Microsoft Excel classes here and have them locate a spreadsheet they can use in their lives and input their own data, for example, the Debt Free Spending Spreadsheet.

Source Name: You Tube
Title: A Legacy Speedometer Model in Excel
Use in Classroom: In class, have my Microsoft Excel class watch this to expand their minds as to what Excel can do, and have them each come up with a new idea that Excel might be able to do that they had not previously considered.

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Public Domain Resources I Can Use in my Classroom

Source Name:             Free Homeschool Resources
Title:                               Adding Fractions (1/2 to 4/5)
Use in Classroom:     I could use this as a daily warmup, doing a different line from the worksheet each time we meet.  We could also do an in-class, hands-on demonstration of 1 problem a day, like cutting an apple in 1/2, then quarters to show 1/2 + 1/4.

Source Name: Free Homeschool Resource
Title: Fractions – Multiply
Use in Classroom: I could print these for students and tell them to bring them back to class, completing as many as possible, then we would review them together.

Source Name: Math Charts
Title: Fractions
Use in Classroom: I could show the fraction charts to the class then have them draw their own examples

Source Name: Math Charts
Title: Percentages, decimals, fractions
Use in Classroom: I could print these with all columns filled in for them to study, then give them to them again in class with all columns blank but one and have them fill in the blank columns.

Source Name: Math Charts
Title: Algebra (some terminology)
Use in Classroom: I could print these and have students make up their own example and label it appropriately.

Source Name: Jefferson County Schools (
Title: Divisibilty Rules
Use in Classroom: Show the power point in class – it’s excellent!

Source Name: Jefferson County Schools (
Title: Division with 0
Use in Classroom: Emil students the link to this power point and give them 10 long division problems to do as homework.

Source Name: Jeopardy Games(
Title: Fraction Jeopardy (5th Grade)
Use in Classroom: Use this to review for the test.  Winning team gets 2 extra credit points on their test.

Source Name: Library of Congress
Title: Formulario di lettere et di orationi volgari.
Use in Classroom: Tell students there are at least 4 common geometric shapes in this picture.  How many unique shapes can they find?

Source Name: IXL
Title: Add fractions with unlike denominators
Use in Classroom:
Send students to this website, and have them draw their own visual representation of the problems

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Copyright vs Creative Commons

Creation runs through every fiber of my being, and I believe creating is one of our most natural states.  Copyright law protects all our creations from being copied, altered, or distributed, regardless of the context (save Fair Use) (retrieved from  This can be a huge relief and benefit or a massive inconvenience, depending on the creator and his or her purpose in creating the work.  In my case, I am both an instructor at a career college and a singer.  When my colleagues and I create handouts, tests, and other class materials, we freely share them with one another.  Do I want my work protected by copyright law, causing each and every instructor to come to me to get express written permission to use my work?  Do I want to have any control and/or limitations on their use?  What about when I record an original song and post it on the Internet?  Do I want certain uses of my work to be permissible without my having to give consent for each individual case, for example, if someone wants to use my work in a remix or for educational or non-profit uses?  Do I need recognition as the artist? Profit? Copyright from my understanding is either black or white, and by simply creating any work, I have full ownership, all rights reserved (retrieved from Luckily some folks could see the bigger picture, that another solution is needed for individuals, that there are now millions who want to share their work more freely and easily than what copyright dictates is legal (retrieved from  They created “Creative Commons” ( which is a website on which anyone can quickly create their own custom license with “some rights reserved” and specify exactly what those right are (retrieved from Now with that in mind, let’s delve more deeply into the questions posed above.

With respect to education, one of the NETS-T standards for teachers is “Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity” (retrieved from In direct support of that goal is sharing my work with my colleagues, and even with the world over the Internet, although I am more hesitant to do that. I became an instructor because I am passionate about what I teach and want to share my knowledge with others in hopes they that they, too, may feel some excitement about the subjects we are learning. So when I create materials for the purpose of learning, I am happy for other instructors to utilize them. We share a great deal of resources where I teach, so I do not need to grant permission or even necessarily receive credit when they use it in the classroom, as long as they give me credit when other staff or faculty ask about it. It is fine with me for them to modify it for their own use. If we are all working together in this way, we can more easily meet another of the NETS-T standards, “Design and Develop Digital  Age Learning Experiences and Assessments” (retrieved from This is especially true when sharing resources over the Internet. I have been inspired to create more of my own digital age learning experiences, from viewing others’ digital lesson plans online.

On the other hand when it comes to music, I feel completely differently. If I spend my time, energy, and money to write and produce a recording of an original piece, I want to be compensated for it just as other recording artists are. If I share my song through the Internet, I would do so through a company that charges listeners and pays me royalties for each play (like Pandora) and/or for downloads. There are cases under which I would allow free use of my material, for example, if there were a fundraising event for a cause which I supported.  I do not see myself giving free permission to use my work for just any reason. I would want to make certain, as much as possible, that my work was not being altered, especially in ways that distort the original intent or make fun of my work or someone else’s work. So I would want to approve use of my work on a case by case basis.

While I would prefer more flexibility with the educational materials I create and am grateful to have others’ material as a resource, I prefer more control with my artistic creations. A creative commons license serves me well for my lesson plans, tests, and other curriculum, whereas the copyright law suits me just fine for my music. I applaud the people who created creative commons for having the insight, generosity, and ingenuity to create customizable licensing. It gives greater freedom for sharing the abundance of creative works around the globe, from which we all benefit.

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Multiple-Choice Tests Are not the Best Answer

I teach general education courses at a career college which prides itself on preparing students well for their chosen fields.  One of the ways we achieve this is by giving students ample hands-on experience in their classes, especially in their majors. In my gen-ed classes, I assign a number of practical applications of material–with little to no room for creativity–as well as true/false and multiple choice questions. This is true for both the homework and the tests. While I do not think true/false and multiple choice questions are the best assessment method, they work well enough and save me a lot of grading time. At least, that was my opinion until I started graduate school. What I am learning in my education courses is rocking my world and entirely changing the way I think about curriculum. In particular, Dr. Tony Wagner’s talk: “7 skills students need for their future” ( makes me reconsider using multiple choice tests at all. I will discuss why multiple choice tests are not helping students prepare them for their careers and their lives.  Then I will look at some of our alternatives.

Dr. Wagner told us that the first of the 7 skills students need most to succeed in their careers is “Critical thinking and problem solving,” which was non-existent in 17 of 18 top classrooms he visited.  He stated:

There is increasingly only one curriculum in American schools… And that’s test prep. Now if the tests are good tests…like the College and Work Readiness Assessment, then I think that’s just fine.  I don’t have a problem with that; I believe in accountability.  But the problem is we’re trying to do accountability on the cheap in this country.  We’re using computer-scored multiple-choice tests that tell us absolutely nothing about whether a student can reason, analyze, hypothesize, weigh evidence, read text well and really comprehend what they’re reading; nor does it tell us anything at all about how well students can communicate. [These are] the things that matter most.

As I listened to his compelling talk leading up to this most important point, I was not happy to realize this is happening across America as well as in my own classroom.  I could not help but to identify with his words; even though I give hands-on assignments, I do also put many multiple-choice questions on the tests.  Teaching to a multiple choice test does not work.  In exactly zero of my ten+ jobs–ranging from restaurant and customer service jobs to professional corporate jobs–did my boss give me a multiple-choice scenario.  That would have been very helpful in some cases.  I have also spent a number of years being self-employed.  I wish someone had given me four choices from which to choose when I was trying to find a bookkeeping software for my iPhone because I was constantly on the go.  I must have looked at 50 different options.  I have since found one, and it was research and analytical skills that helped me find the answer that was right for me, not rote memorization.  To further illustrate this point, I once hired a professional career counselor who told me that when she hired people, all she wanted was to see a resume that said “problem solver” across the top.

Wagner says we can teach to the test if the tests are good.  One of our options is to rewrite our tests.  This is no small undertaking for already over-worked teachers.  I would like to have more open-ended questions on tests and more room for creativity.  I have not done this because of the huge time investment upfront as well as grading.  If we had more staff and smaller classes, this might work.  What I plan to do is rewrite a few questions each term until I have a test with which I am pleased.  An option for some of us is to use tests that already exist.  High school teachers could teach to the College and Work Readiness Assessment test Dr. Wagner mentioned.  Unfortunately, changes can take considerable time to get approved and implemented.  If we are not able to teach to a better test immediately, then we must reduce teaching to the test.  Of course, we want students to do well on tests, but there has to be room for other curriculum.  One change I can make now is to have students take turns presenting topics in class instead of always listening to me lecture.  Another option for teachers is to present more real-life scenarios in class and have students collaborate in discussion to reach solutions, and back up their solutions using class material.

It is challenging for changes to take place on a broad level because so many people are involved, but each teacher can hopefully modify his or her curriculum little by little until the desired changes are realized.  Some teachers have more flexibility than others.  I am fortunate to work someplace where teachers have a lot of creative power as long as we deliver the required material.  We educators also have to continue to educate ourselves by following the work of people who are paving the way to a completely transformed educational system, like Sir Ken Robinson and Dr. Tony Wanger.  We need to collaborate with other instructors whenever possible.  One thing I will do is share with my peers and supervisors the powerful youtube videos I have been watching. I am certain that no matter what limits we currently we face, we can all find something we can change, no matter how small, to improve the learning experience for our students in meaningful ways.

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How Filter Bubbles Affect Students–and Everyone–and What Can Be Done

Two friends sit down next to each other and search “madonna” on One of their searches returns a series of recent news hits pertaining to the pop star as well as music video links; the other’s returns hits containing biblical and religious references.  Neither of them sees the links the other sees.  How is this possible?  If you had asked me this a week ago, I would have said “impossible–one of them must have done something different.”  However, that was before I was enlightened by Eli Pariser’s youtube video on filter bubbles: websites “invisibl[y]”editing out content that they determine we do not want to see. This affects all of us, and in education, it specifically affects teachers implementing the NETS-S standards in their classrooms.  Standard 3 states “Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information” (  Since we cannot count on students obtaining consistent results in their web searches, teachers need to not only be aware of these filter bubbles but also need to be able to modify assignments accordingly.  I will discuss some possible impacts and give suggestions for teachers to minimize the negative effects of the filter bubbles.
Here is a possible scenario. A teacher asks students to write about India and research the country on the Internet, implementing NETS-S standard 3. One student’s results are about current events in India, and another’s contains links to women’s rights issues in India, while still a third gets India weather and travel tips. The students write different papers and are confused when discussing their papers with each other. The teacher, unaware of filter bubbles, marks down the student who wrote about traveling there. Now there is confusion, lower grades, and less confidence; instead of feeling empowered with technology, the students feel discouraged.
If the teacher knew about filter bubbles, she could encourage students to work together and compare results.  She could tell her class to perform their searches on 3 different devices, one of them being a public computer which they have never used, into which they enter no personal information. Another idea is to have them search the metasearch engines like dogpile which–since it searches multiple search engines which likely do not have the same filters–should minimize filter-bubble effects. She can work into the assignment cross referencing their data with books as well as making the assignment well-defined enough that they will clearly know if their searches have not been effective before they write the paper.
It seems we live in a day and age in which we need to stay strongly aware of the Internet and how it works. I for one have taken for granted that google searches are the be-all end-all of Internet research, even though I teach a class called Intro to the Internet and encourage students to use metasearch engines. How embarrassing that I have been in the dark on a number of pertinent issues pertaining to the web, like filter bubbles.  I am grateful to be learning about this and can see that I need to give students many more open-ended, hands on projects.  For example, I could tell them to get together with a friend and pick 5 topics all unrelated to each other.  Each student in the pair performs the same 5 searches, after which they compare their results. They do the same on a different search engine and write up their conclusions.  This type of assignment is far more interesting and practical than most assignments I usually give.
I am grateful for all I am learning in CSE 624 at WOU. I wonder if others have been clueless as I have and if the word is getting out to them. I rarely watch TV or do extensive research on the Internet, so maybe I have been one of the few who does not know the extent of the privacy issues we face. However, I am afraid that privacy issues, specifically filter bubbles, actually affect the majority on Internet users. I hope that others are getting educated as I am, and I will certainly pass this information along to my family, friends, and students. People need to be aware–the ease of the web and of information sharing makes it extremely accessible and also very risky. We all need to keep ourselves as informed as possible, and I will do my part to share this information widely. One of my plans is to post a link to the filter bubble video on Facebook, which will hopefully continue to get shared and make its way around the world.  It is ironic: harnessing the power of the Internet, we can reach people all over the world instantly and warn/educate them about possible pitfalls of the Internet. That is, we can as long as the filter bubbles do not stop this movement in its tracks.
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I’m a fan of Sir Ken Robinson’s Educational Philosophy!

Note ~ All quotes below come from the youtube video here, unless otherwise noted:

I was quite struck by Sir Ken Robinson’s speech on Changing Paradigms. I have not been able to stop thinking about it! What, for me, was so compelling, was the fact that–in referring to imagination and creativity–we “systematically destroy this capacity in our children. And, in ourselves.”

On the one hand, watching him prove his point made my heart sink, realizing what has been done and continues to be done to our children, what has been done to me and my sister, and what I do in my own classroom: only valuing and giving credit for 1 right answer, one way of thinking. On the other, I felt excited at the possibilities present if we were to completely “transform,” not “reform” our educational system, rebuild it from the ground up.

I was encouraged to read the NETS-S standards because they specifically address creativity.  Standard #1 says students “demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology” ( Robinson points out that what is so remarkable about humans is this ability to conceive of things and ideas which have never before existed, and that this is, in fact, the reason we have “culture,” “enterprise,” and “innovation” and the arts. Fostering creativity in the way this NETS-S standard describes is absolutely a part of the solution.  Praising students for their original ideas, having them “generate new ideas, products, or processes” (, a substandard under Standard #1 reflects this value.  Standard 4 is “Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making” (  This standard is letting students take the lead in the creative process.  Students do everything from “plan and manage activities” to”identify[ing] solutions [and] explor[ing] alternative solutions” (

The NETS-S standards are set up to empower the student to use technology to the fullest, map out new roads, go where no one has gone before, think, be original, and explore. I sincerely hope that this will be a model for other aspects of our education, and that this emphasis on students finding their own answers will spill over to all academic disciplines and create new ones. Obviously there is only some degree to which this can happen in subjects like math, but students can be given far greater creative license in math than they are given today in order to discover properties and classifications on their own and be validated for those, in addition to learning the rules that have already been created. They can also be given more open-ended opportunities.  What art project can you create using these properties?  How would you demonstrate this principle to a 3- year old? Now multiple answers are correct. All answers are correct if they actually effectively completed the assignment.

Sir Ken Robinson mentions that many highly intelligent people have been made to feel otherwise by our system. The NETS-S standards give me hope that we are moving towards an educational system that fosters all children’s talents and gifts, not soley the academic ones. Of course, we still have a long way to go. I have high expectations that we can implement the changes he suggests. It starts here with me.

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