Copyright and the need to educate teachers

I was looking at a comment written by a child on a blogpost today. In it the child had written a poem at the request of the teacher. It was extremely well written so I immediately suspected that they had copied it. To confirm my suspicion I simply copied the entire poem and pasted it into a Google search. Sure enough I found the poem listed on a legitimate website citing the author of the poem. I will take this up through leaving a comment of my own on the child’s post linking to the original poem and stressing to the children in that class that copying other people’s work without attribution is not acceptable. Hopefully the teacher will pick up my cue and instigate a class discussion on the subject. Maybe.

More worryingly, when I looked up the poem I also found the work included on at least half a dozen teacher’s websites, wikis and printable resource collections without any reference to the author. One teacher even had the gall to request that if anyone used her printable resource that she should be attributed as the author! I think a lot of this stems from the days when the photocopier was the single most important resource in school and photocopying anything and everything was quietly tolerated. How often have you copied a page out of a real book to focus on a piece of text in a shared reading session? The difference is, of course, that all of this went on behind closed doors and was tolerated by too many. Nowadays, the first port of call for resources is the internet and I suspect few teachers bother with considerations such as copyright and fair attribution. This might be all very well when it comes to using stuff in their classroom as you are extremely unlikely to be called out for doing it, but causes issues if the work is published online.

On average we get about half a dozen “take down” notices a year where a child or teacher has published something on their blog (usually an image) without checking the relevant permissions. Our position on such matters is simple, we’ll take the object offline, let the teacher know what’s happened and hopefully learn from the experience. We’re not in a position to start entering legal discussions about the niceties of copyright and fair use.

I have long since held it to be an essential part of ICT to teach children about issues of copyright and here are some of the web resources I use to teach image searching in particular:

Image searching:

http://photopin.com – a nice Flickr search tool that searches for Creative Commons images and includes the necessary image credit as an embed code.

http://compfight.com – an alternative Flickr search tool that you need to set to a Creative Commons search but works well on an iPad (which Photopin doesn’t). Note that there is a very nice Compfight plugin that sits in your post editor screen, too (details here).

What if Flickr is blocked in my school? This is an all too frequent occurrence and my answer is to get it unblocked. My argument is that the easiest way to teach children the  responsible method of finding content licenced to use on blogs is to use tools like Photopin and Flickr, not Google Advanced Search.

 
All Rights Reserved*
photo credit: no3rdw via photopin cc

Adding a Revolving Globe Widget to your Blog

Having a social widget which tells children how many people are reading their blog is one of the most important features of any class blog. This short video shows you how to do add one of the most popular widgets: the Revolvermaps spinning globe from http://revolvermaps.com

You might also want to add a Flag Counter widget: here’s the site

2 Key Skills to Teach Bloggers

There are relatively few ICT skills, if any, that are unique to blogging, yet its nature allows it to be used as an excellent platform to teach certain key web skills. There are just two that I would highlight for anyone new to blogging (and I’m including teachers as well as children in this). Note, I’m not talking about writing skills here, simply ICT skills.

Tagging

Tags are the principal means by which you make the content on your blog searchable. They are simply labels that you attach to a piece of writing to define, categorise, pigeonhole. These labels automatically build up into a search index to your blog allowing readers to find the content they are looking for. If you have 30 children in your class and they all write 1 blogpost a week, by  the end of the school year you will have in excess of 1000 posts on your blog. Without tags they may as well be casting their writing into a black hole.

Much more on tagging here.

Hyperlinking

The key difference between this blogpost that you are reading on your computer and reading the same post on a piece of paper or in a book is that fact that it is digital. This means that if you really do want to read more in depth material that I’ve written on tagging you can click on the hyperlink above and be taken to that article. You are not reduced to looking up a list of references at the back of a book and heading off to the library to dig them out. Children can use hyperlinks in blogposts in all manner of ways. Whether it’s presenting research on a topic to writing a recount about a trip to a museum, the ability to change a piece of dry text into a hyperlink rich digital resource is perhaps the most important power that the internet affords us. Yet, due in large part to the Literacy Strategy which gave every genre a list of key features which teachers often learned almost by rote, whenever we write stuff on our blogs we so often do it as if we were writing in a book. This might be fine for a story (what about hyperlinking to previous/next chapters?) but is absolutely no good for non fiction.

Here’s a blogpost I wrote about this.
TWA

photo credit: ekai via photopin cc