At my school board’s 21st Century Teaching and Learning Technologies Symposium, the keynote speaker was Dean Shareski.  By video conference from Saskatchewan, he asked us if we felt we had an ethical obligation to share. (I love the serendipity of his name and message!) If we discover a lesson, activity or idea that engages students and/or helps them be successful, makes teachers’ jobs easier or more impactful, or is just plain fun, are we ethically obligated to share?

When I was a new teacher, I was privileged to be part of a department that shared everything. We worked collaboratively in course teams to develop common lessons and evaluations while encouraging individual teaching styles in the classroom. Everyone contributed their expertise to the team and even if a teacher didn’t contribute very much because they were new to the department or were occasional teachers, we still shared because that was better for the students. I thought all departments were the same. Of course, this is not true. I know many teachers who refuse to share anything with their colleagues, who keep their binders at home in case someone takes it and copies it when they are not there.

There are many reasons, all valid, why teachers don’t share. They are fearful of criticism. They don’t feel it’s fair if they do a lot of work and someone else doesn’t. They feel they have intellectual ownership of their work and others will present it as if it were their own. Perhaps, they think some teachers are lazy if they do not develop their own lessons. However, isn’t it better that they use your excellent, engaging lessons instead of photocopying worksheet after worksheet and showing movies? What is better for the students?

I was recently part of a team of resource teachers (RT) who developed and led the rest of the RTs in a learning session. As part of that team, I helped make a PowerPoint presentation with embedded videos. Afterward, I sat down with another RT and taught her, step-by-step, how to download, trim, convert and embed video files in PowerPoint 2007 using RealPlayer. I documented those steps in a list and then sent it to the rest of my team members. When one of the RTs on the team asked me to share these instructions with all the RTs on our shared workspace website, I hesitated because I was worried about the legality of encouraging people to download clips. I was also fearful of criticism in case I had made an error or someone could not follow the instructions.

Sharesky helped me to see why I should “put it out there”. So, I have added a section in my instructions to help teachers find videos people have shared in the Creative Commons that are copyright free and have since posted the instructions for all teachers in my board. I have also been inspired to create this blog and have attached these instructions to this post. Please feel free to take these instructions to use, modify, or even pass off as your own work. If you find anything unclear or incorrect, or you know an easier way to embed video, please let me know in the comments. I would love it if you help me make my instructions better! I’ve also attached introductory instructions for Prezi, Exploratree, Voicethread, and Gapminder.

We all access information online. None of it would be there if people did not share. Before I start working on something—anything—I always see what’s “out there” first.  Why reinvent the wheel?

What do you think? Do we have an ethical obligation to share?

Instructions to embed videos in PowerPoint

Prezi instructions                  Intro to Voicethreads                      

Instructions for Exploreatree                   Intro to Gapminder