Copyright is a word that often causes many a teacher to groan inwardly and breathe deeply when attempting to explain it to students. It is a topic that one needs an advanced law degree and the backing of a team of highly trained lawyers to navigate. At some point it is a topic that is going to arise with our students no matter what age they are. The remix culture has changed and challenged traditional copyright laws adding to the difficulties of attribution and right of ownership. So what’s a teacher to do? How do we teach our students about copyright even when not all countries are following copyright law? The best answer is to model responsible and appropriate action for our students even in countries where copyright law is openly disregarded. By demonstrating to our students due diligence in recognizing creative right we are showing our students the importance of acknowledging the creative process and honouring the creator’s contributions. Sounds easy doesn’t it? But what about that work sheet you just created, you know the cut and paste one for the sorting activity you are doing with your Kindergarten students, that doesn’t count……does it? Hmm…. this is again where we enter into murky water. Those pictures I used, is it really important to show copyright? I mean I created the sorting activity … technically, right? Besides they are just cutting out the pictures and sorting them, is it really important to acknowledge that I didn’t actually draw or take the pictures myself? In the past I always justified to myself the use of pictures I have taken off the internet by the facts that I was using them for educational purposes, and I wasn’t making any money from their use; two perfectly reasonable and sound justifications, right? For the most part these are true and justifiable but there are always exceptions and it is better to be safe rather than sorry. Besides I have always felt a little twinge of guilt when using work that is not my own because I don’t have enough of an understanding of copyright as it is such a huge topic and most of it isn’t really clear until tested. So I am careful to use photos that have creative commons agreements, I will often use my own photos and I make sure to include credit whenever possible, even on a worksheet.
My students will sometimes ask “what does this writing mean?” They are always surprised when I tell them that I didn’t draw or take the picture being used so I am giving the original creator a thank you for letting me use their work. Young students understand the concept of saying Thank you and this starts to build their understanding of creative use and copyright. I am setting the example and demonstrating the importance of acknowledging others work as a result I have had some very enlightening discussions about recognizing other people’s work and saying Thank you with my Kindergarten students. Hopefully, this is beginning to set my young students up as responsible, enlightened Digital citizens.