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.

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