Saturday, 21 February 2009

Readin’ Writin’ Rithmatic and Responsible use of Technology

This week’s topic frightened the hell out of me! Copyright and Intellectual Property Rights. Whew, scaaary stuff. Especially when you read an article like this one by Doug Johnston that petrified me!! What CAN I use? What ARE the rules for teachers? Who IS in charge of enforcing the CanCopy license? What does the CanCopy license mean? CanCopy is not that helpful either, it’s not any clearer than copyright legislation!!

There’s copyright and copyleft (AKA Creative Commons) and CanCopy and citation rules and trademarks and the list goes on and on and on . . .

How can we expect students to “respect intellectual property rights” (as this week’s discussion revolved around) and the laws surrounding it, if they have never learned about it, don’t understand it and it’s so complex that even their teachers are fuzzy on the subject? In order to respect you must first understand (“Seek first to understand” was what on of my university professors always taught us).

I believe students do understand intellectual property rights, they just don’t know that it’s called “intellectual property rights.” Just this week there was an incident in one of my classes that exemplifies this. A group of students were arguing vehemently in the corner of my classroom. When I approached the group, one student “Max” explained to me that his group had kicked him out of their group project in English that morning but refuse to give him the poster he had worked so hard on. The other group members believed it should stay in the group because although they agreed he created the poster, they said he did so with the work they did prior to its creation, essentially he amalgamated their work onto the poster. So who does the poster belong to? All the students involved have a clear idea of what their own intellectual property is and have a definite sense of their rights with regards to their work. “Max” feels that his creative efforts in putting the poster together merit some authorship rights. After a calm discussion about the amount of work the group had already done, they agreed to let “max” back into their group and thus the issue was resolved. But had I been teaching a course on ICT I definitely could have used this example (and probably will in the future) to teach a lesson on intellectual property rights and copyright.

I did try to fit this topic in to my course this year by creating a Trailfire for my students to follow on Digital Law and Responsibility. The students had to read this article and then watch this video and then we had a discussion about file sharing.

Copyright becomes a great big gray area when discussing it with students; they have a sense of justice that can only be described as follows: many felt copyright only protects big businesses making more and more money. However, they also admit, when questioned further, that they DO recognize that copyright also protects the struggling artists. Most said that when it comes to downloading music, they’ll buy music from their favourite smaller Indie bands via the bands’ websites or iTunes, but download music from well established big wig bands.

So where do we teachers go to find out about this stuff? How do we go about learning ourselves and then teaching our colleagues and students? Now that I know about it, am I obligated to share my knowledge and become the copyright police?

The following quote from Mike Ribble’s Passport to Digital Citizenship sums it up nicely for me: “We Need not only to educate our children on the issues that are occurring with technology, but provide resources for our teachers and parents as well” (p. 16). Hurrah! So True! The four stages he refers to are a great model for developing an ICT class curriculum/implementation strategy. If I were a teacher librarian (ahh, dreams . . .) I would insist on seeing students at least once a cycle for some ICT training. I would use Mike Ribble’s book Digital Citizenship in Schools (here’s a nice excerpt) and Digiteen as well as Manitoba’s own Literacy with ICT document (and maybe these lessons created by Doug Johnston) as the foundation of the course, and Ribble’s Four-Stage Technology Learning Framework for Teaching Digital Citizenship as the model for implementing the course. I would also share with the school staff the curriculum topics for the course so that they knew what to expect from their students after they received the course and so that they could ask questions if they were unclear on any of the issues or topics.

I loved both the “Kids Know Your Rights!” article and the “Intellectual Freedom for Youth article, as they are great documents that could be used with my students. It’s too bad that there are not Canadian versions of these documents as those would be much more useful and appropriate. Hmmm . . . maybe I could have a final project in my course that had students creating a document that looks similar to those two articles, as both a way to show their learning, and help other students understand the issues. Of course I’d have to get permission from the authors!

As a professional I appreciated the short article “Intellectual Property Defined” as it helped me understand some of the terminology better. I honestly had not realized that all that fell under the purview of “intellectual property”.

And admittedly, I have not yet had time to read the Library Bill of Rights (and its eighteen interpretations!), Code of Ethics of the American Library Association nor the Freedom to Read documents, but I have them bookmarked and plan to read them at my earliest convenience.

“But when copyright moves from text into the realm of media, the lines of what is and what isn’t acceptable become blurred.” (Joanie Proske, p. 4) This is an excellent point; we need to do a much better job of teaching this to our students and ourselves. After reading all the articles and this week’s discussions I firmly believe we have to bring copyright to the level of the students, we have to provide PD to teachers on copyright and Creative Commons and proper updated citation rules for things found on the net, and we need to either develop sound curriculum foundation documents that incorporate ICT or greatly assist our fellow teachers in the integration of the already existing Literacy with ICT document across all subject areas.

Maybe we as educators also need to put more emphasis on structure, form and process than actual content. Students focus on what is “worth the most marks” so if a bibliography and proper citation are worth 5/10 instead of 1/10, maybe they would see its importance. We need to shift the way we think about what is important, change our priorities on an institutional and curricular level so that time and focus CAN be spent teaching these things, rather than rushing through them and justifying it with the same old, “there’s no time” excuse.

The ethical use of technology should become a staple part of a child’s education; the 3 R’s should become either: “Readin’ Writin’ ‘Rithmatic and Responsible use of Tech” or how about “Respect, Responsibility, and Rights”

Christine :)

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