Feb 22, 2009

"How do your students respect intellectual property?"

For this week's blog, I decided to ask my colleagues the question:

"How do your students respect intellectual property?"

I had many discussions on what intellectual property is and shared ideas on ways to teach students about respecting intellectual property and following the "fair use" principle. In order to begin discussions with other teachers, I knew that I needed a clear definition of what intellectual property is. I knew this because last week, I wasn't even too sure what it entailed. Using Wikipedia, I found that intellectual property is the "legal property rights over creations of the mind, both artistic and commercial, and the corresponding fields of law" (Wikipedia). It is also defined as the "fruit of one's intellect" by Rebecca Butler in "Borrowing Media from Around the World" and she notes that there are many different categories of intellectual property including copyright, patent, trademarks, trade secrets and brand names (Butler, 2005).

I have used many sources including non-copyrighted and copyrighted material for many lessons. For instance, I have used National Geographic magazines and various websites for students to add pictures to their Science and Social Studies projects in Grade One. I have used images and animations that I have found online to add to my wikis, webpages and projects. When considering using these sources, I decided that it is fine to use what I need to since it benefits my student's learning and I respected those sites that asked for permission to use images by emailing them. However, I began to wonder last week, as we were discussing respecting intellectual property in our course, if I should have even used the National Geographic magazine and sports magazines for our recent collage projects.

What should I have done?

It seems to me that if we continue to use basic common sense, we'll be okay to use what we need to, in order to meet our outcomes and teach our children. According to the "Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Education," there are three basic rules to follow if you are unsure whether you can use somebody else's material online or in print.

3 Rules to Follow when teaching children about respecting intellectual property:

1. Will there be excessive economic harm to the owner of the material?

2. Are you acting reasonably and in good faith with the material?

3. Will using the material promote the advancement of knowledge?

Even though I follow those three basic rules, it is our job as teachers and teacher-librarians to teach students about plagiarism. The reality is that there are new norms of information sharing appearing (Code of Best Practices in Fair Use and Media Literacy Education). It is so easy to download songs from file sharing sites like limewire and to download a podcast from a website.

In "Passport to Digital Citizenship", Mike Ribble provides a "four stage framework" for teaching digital citizenship, which would work in Grade 1 to Grade 12 for teaching media literacy. This framework is a great model for teachers to use when teaching students how to be a responsible citizen on the internet. The four steps are awareness, guided practice, modeling and demonstration and feedback and analysis.

1. Awareness: Are your students aware of the copyright laws? Are your colleagues aware of the need to teach students about respecting intellectual property? Do they allow students to add music and images to their presentation projects? Do they discuss fair use and purposes of using other people's work? As I have said before, we need to use common sense when using other people's work. It is considerate and respectful to contact the person before using an image for a webpage or wiki, and there are sites that let you know whether you can use their property or not.

2. Guided Practice: When is it a good opportunity for students to practice respecting other people's work? How do you discuss fair use? I believe that it is the "teachable moment" that makes a lasting impression on the students. I keep my ears and eyes open for those moments throughout the day.

3. Modeling and Demonstration: When building a webpage, powerpoint presentation or designing a lesson, are you modeling proper and fair use of information? As teachers we need to be aware of how we are respecting other people's property as we are models for our students.

4. Reflect and Analysis: How do we find time to discuss using technology appropriately with other teachers and with our students? It is a constant challenge for teachers to find time to eat a sandwich let alone discuss appropriate use of information on the Internet, so what can we do? I have recently learned (being new on staff) that the primary teacher's get together for lunch on Monday's to discuss different things that relate to the primary grades. I think this is a great opportunity to bring in some technology discussions, including how we can teach our students about intellectual property and respecting other people's work. Our students also need time to discuss this and should be a natural part of a lesson during discussions of using different kinds of information for projects.

For me, the best part of the discussions with other teacher's this week, was how they teach their students that their work is valued and should be treated fairly. In the primary grades, I found that many teachers use the vocabulary "fair use," and "copyrighted" when using images or text from the internet and print materials for projects in the classroom. In Grade One, we often discuss the authors and illustrators, and I often use the vocabulary that the students are also authors and illustrators when they complete certain projects, in hopes that they will begin to understand that their work belongs to them and needs to be respected. I am going to continue to consider other ways to teach primary students about respecting intellectual property and will follow the guidelines that I have learned and continue to learn.

Feb 8, 2009

The Digital Divide: How relevant is it?

"It is dangerously destabilizing to have half the world on the cutting edge of technology while the other half struggles on the bare edge of survival." Bill Clinton

It is definitely unsettling to consider that 1 in 2 Americans are online while 1 in 250 Africans has internet access and that the United States and Canada have more internet users than Asia, Africa, and Latin America combined (Bridges.org). It is even more unsettling to learn that we don't need to do a comparison between continents to see a divide. We can look within our own communities and schools to discover a digital divide.

What is the digital divide?

The digital divide is defined as "the gap between individuals, households, businesses and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels with regard to both their opportunities to access information and communication technology (ICTs) and to their use of the Internet for a wide variety of activities" (OECD in Looker and Thiessen, 2003). The divide also affects members of minority ethnic or language groups, and those in more rural and remote regions (Looker and Thiessen, 2003). In other words, the digital divide is the division between those who have access to information and communication technologies and are using it effectively, and those who do not (Bridges.org).

How is the digital divide a relevant issue for teachers today?

When I compare two schools that I have recently taught in, a rural community school and an urban school, there are some clear divisions with information and communication technology within each school. In the rural school, while I had five computers in my classroom, a smartboard, access to a computer lab in the afternoons, and a "supernet" connection, the divisions technology specialist would come once in a while to fix glitches in the network and on different computers. There was also little support from a technology specialist for integrating technology. To update computer skills, teachers can take an online course or travel for a minimum of five hours to attend a workshop where the teacher has to use a lot of their own money to attend. The digital divide is seen within this rural school. In fact, rural schools are less likely than urban ones to have a well trained specialist, feed from teaching responsibilities, to coordinate ICT in the school. They are also less likely to have different types of technical training (Looker and Thiessen, 2003).

On the other hand, in the urban school, we have a teacher-librarian who seems to be constantly updating the library, a technology specialist within the division that I have seen twice already (I started work last Monday), who answers questions about technology integration, classrooms have mobile smartboards (which come with their own set of challenges), and one computer lab to share in the afternoons. There is high speed internet, but it is difficult to get into the lab more than once a week and it is difficult to get through a lesson without tripping over the smartboard cord at least three times and having to reorient the board each time. Access to professional development is much easier where I am currently located because the various school divisions around the city offer a variety of technology workshops in the evenings throughout the year.

While we had supernet in the rural school and high speed internet access in the urban one, the challenges of integrating technology effectively, especially with Web 2.0 tools, still remain. The article, "Web 2.0 in Schools: Our Digital Divide is Showing," discusses a model describing the four levels of influence that take the form of the digital divide in schools. The four levels in the model are:

1. Access - Does your school network crash? Do you have access to high speed internet? Do all students have access to a computer? How about at home?
There are times when our network crashes and part of the lesson was using the internet. Not all students in my classes have computers at home. Computer use at the school is their only opportunity to use the computer.

2. Skill - What skill level would you rate yourself at for integrating technology into your lessons? How will you continue to update your knowledge and skills? What skill level do your students come in with? Keep in mind that research shows that families with low level of parental education, and those from rural areas are less likely to have computer access at home (Looker and Thiessen, 2003). I find that I am continuously developing my technology skills and my knowledge to integrate technology with my units. It is a constant challenge for me.

3. Policy - Does your school have an acceptable use policy? Do the filters work effectively? Our school is currently developing an acceptable use policy. The filters are pretty tight. it is difficult to deliver lessons that i planned at home, because many sites are blocked. Can you believe the podcasting site is blocked?

4. Motivation - Are you motivated to learn more about technology? Are you motivated to integrate technology? Since you are currently reading this, you must be somewhat motivated, but how about your colleagues? How can you motivate them? I am motivated to learn about technology and love to gain new ideas and understanding of integrating it in the classroom. I think it is a challenge to get others on board to use technology in their classrooms, especially since I am a classroom teacher, not a teacher librarian. But I am certainly willing to try to motivate and share my ideas.

Did any of this sound familiar to you?

While reflecting on the questions that came to me while looking at the model, I wondered what some possible solutions are to bridge the gap of the digital divide in schools. I came up with a few solutions:

1. Since having a computer at home increases the likelihood that students will graduate from high school, then we need to think of ways to give students more opportunities to use the computer. Can a school fundraise to have laptops to sign out to students? Can schools and companies recycle their old computers by somehow giving their computers to those students in need?

2. Can professional development for teachers in rural areas be done online through certain sites or even through video conferencing?

3. Can teachers support and motivate each other during PLC's or other times throughout the school year?

4. Can schools celebrate what different classes are doing and showcase the use of technology in hopes of inspiring others?

Is the digital divide closing?

In "Unveiling the Digital Divide," George Sciadas claims that "in an overall sense, the digital divide is closing" since from year to year more people are using the internet and the comparison is not so much between the haves and have nots, but rather between the "haves", "have more" and "have less" groups (Sciadas, 2002). As long as we maintain the "Standards for the 21st Century Learner," and a vision for schools and libraries, I believe that we are well on our way to bridging the gap.