It just doesn’t feel like stealing!

What is our obligation as educators?

I have just finished reading all the assigned articles for our blog post in which we are to address our obligation as teachers.   There is a lot to digest from using i-tunes to invasion of privacy discussed in the article “Understanding and respecting copyright a problem for many” by Wesley Fryer regarding the Alison Stokke situation to Doug Johnson’s article titled “The Subversive View of Copyright” to the math site, Sladder which can help or hinder students depending on how you look at it, and the last article discussing how complicated copyright laws are in relation to software.

Image from Flickr by Nisha A

Each article address a different aspect of copyright, however, many of them boil down to the idea that when you use an image or music clip obtained from the web or upload pictures of friends it just doesn’t feel like stealing or invading someone’s privacy or that you are doing something that is that bad.  As an educator and parent when my students or children need images for school it is obvious that they really don’t feel like they are stealing even when they forget to site the source.  It is clear to students that stealing an i-pod, DVD or usb stick from someone is wrong.  I think there is a small part of us that thinks “well if you don’t want me to use your image, don’t put it on the web”, just like “if you don’t want someone to steal your i-pod, don’t leave it lying around”.  But of course this is a simpleton view and it is wonderful that we have this shared community so as educators we all need to do a better job of following the copyright and fair use guidelines as best we can and making our students better aware of it.

At school I think that it is important for students to be able to use music, images and video in their work, especially for projects they are creating so educators should encourage the following:

i)     Try to use music you already own or have created
ii)     Explore creative commons sites to find what you need first before looking elsewhere;
iii)   Always site you sources and give attribution;
iv)  Keep in mind Fair Use policies.  How much of something can you use and in what context?

Reflecting on sites like Sladder, which offers online help with math, I believe that how one approaches the site depends on whether it is as a vehicle to promote learning or understanding or as a way to cheat.  I think it is important as an educator to make sure the students understand the difference.  If the students are unable or unwilling to do their math homework and use this as a way to quickly get their homework done, then the truth will come out during their next quiz or test, so what is the point of cheating?  However, if they are not in a position to get help from friends and want to check if they have done a math problem correctly or understand how to do it, then this could be great for some kids.  If textbooks provided the answers to all the questions, then this would solve the problem, and some textbooks do.  The one currently being used in 6th grade has the answers but not how they are solved, so my 6th grader can immediately see if he as answered them correctly and is on the right track.

Lastly, I found the articles discussing Alison Stokke and Alison Chang really disturbing. A picture was taken at a dress up event with me in the background, which was then posted by a friend on their Facebook account.  I found out later that a friend of this person had commented on me in the picture. I was really not comfortable with this!   I did not want my picture up but as I was not the main subject of the picture could only un-tag my name.  From that experience I have untagged my name from any pictures I do not approve of and have tried to subtly make it known that I am not OK with people posting photos of me taken at a party without my permission.  I think that students today have a different sense of privacy and a lack of understanding of what it means to respect others right to privacy.  This is not just students, I think this is a generational thing.  Friends of mine in their 20’s and 30’s have a very different view of privacy than I.  People post things on Facebook that would never occur to me to make public.  I think that students really need to think about what photos they post and quite frankly get their friends permission to post their photo.  Like the situation with the play Frozen, it is amazing to me that an Australian company used a picture, albeit from Creative Commons in a nationwide ad campaign without getting permission first.  I would hazard a guess that the person(s) responsible was from a younger generation than I.  Many of our students are going to work in big corporations, we owe it to them to teach them to respect the privacy of others, believe in attribution and be aware of and abide by copyright as much as possible.

I think at AES we do a pretty good job of making sure that students cite all their sources.  I know, as a librarian I need to do more with Creative Commons and making sure the students are aware of it and other sites like it.  However, I do think there is room to discuss privacy issues and making sure the kids reflect what images they post of themselves and their friends and respect their peers right to privacy.   Even though it doesn’t feel like stealing we all need to be more conscious of what we are using and posting of ourselves and others.

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