Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Piecing Together the Copyright Puzzle

Copyright Symbol by Horia VarlanFiguring out copyright can be like piecing together a puzzle. You have a good idea how it’s supposed to work in the end, but all the little pieces can be confusing to piece together.

These links can help you learn more about copyright yourself and teach students about fair use and copyright. In no time, you’ll move from scattered pieces to a full picture of copyright and fair use.

Classroom Resources

Check out the Media Education Lab website for key resources and curriculum materials. The site includes links to My Pop Studio, which focuses on media literacy for girls 9–14, and Assignment Media Literacy resources for K–12 students. You’ll find songs and video clips that you can use with students or in your professional development workshops.

Copyright on the Web, from CyberBee, is a simple FAQ interactive that younger students can explore to learn more about copyright.

Older students can use the Digital Slider from the Copyright Advisory Network to test whether the works they want to use are covered by copyright. The Fair Use Evaluator, also from the Copyright Advisory Network, steps content creators through the process of creating a fair use defense.

Teaching Copyright, from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), is a collection of five lesson plans on copyright, fair use, file sharing, and remixing.

The Fair Use section of the Center for Social Media website includes teaching materials and educational resources on fair use of documentary film and online video.

The Campus Guide to Copyright Compliance from the Copyright Clearance Center provides a thorough overview of copyright, fair use, and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Copyright, from University Publishing of Washington State University, recommended by NCTE & CCCC member William Condon, includes information on everything about copyright from music to the Internet. The Public Domain Chart and Fair Use section are great classroom resources.

In addition to resources on copyright, you may want to know something about Creative Commons. For a great overview, check out “The Beauty of ‘Some Rights Reserved’: Introducing Creative Commons to Librarians, Faculty, and Students” from the November issue of the Association of College and Research Libraries publication C&RL News. The About section of the Creative Commons website offers movies, comics, and FAQs.

Issues for Discussion

If you’re ready to ask students to think critically about the complex issues that copyright law raises, you’ll find ideas on these sites. Some are meant to provide background for you, the teacher, while others are appropriate for sharing in the classroom.

The role of “fair use” in a time of CHANGE, a 2009 lecture by Lawrence Lessig, raises intriguing questions about the way copyright works for print-based texts versus video-based texts and introduces the idea of Creative Commons as an alternative. The video is 66 minutes long, so you may want to ask students to view it outside of class and save class time for discussion.

Copyright: The Elephant in the Middle of the Glee Club, from the blog Balkinization, points out the glaring problems with the instruction at William McKinley High School on the television show Glee. There’s lots of fun and songs, but also a lot of apparently teacher-sanctioned copyright violation. The article will lead to lively discussion among students who watch the Fox TV show.

The Inbox Blog post Mixing or Plagiarizing? raises questions about how print-based text was recently borrowed in a German novel that the author defends as a cultural remix. Students can read the related news articles and discuss whether the copying was fair use or a violation of the original writer's copyright.

Challenging a YouTube Video Take Down is a short, and likely memorable, introduction to the fair use in using video clips to create a new work. Classroom discussion might focus on how the principles of fair use apply in other contexts. Students might also search other sites to learn how to protest a take down on another website.

Can You Copyright Your Tweets? refutes the position that Twitter posts are too short to be protected by copyright. The post comes from the blog 95Years, recommended by @jensmyth. Check the blog for the latest controversies involving technology and social media. Because some information on the site is not appropriate for your typical classroom, the resource is best for teachers rather than students.

The xkcd comic “Steal This Comic” is a short, pointed discussion starter for the issues surrounding music copyright. Whether you agree with xkcd’s take on the issue or not, it’s an interesting way to introduce the topic.

[Creative Commons licensed Flickr photo of copyright symbol by Horia Varlan]

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Challenging the Metaphor of Scaffolding for Supporting Student Readers

In her new book Adolescent Literacy and the Teaching of Reading: Lessons for Teachers of Literature, author Deborah Appleman relies heavily on the pedagogical metaphor of scaffolding to describe the support we can offer students as they develop as readers in our literature classrooms.

Appleman notes that while “primary school teachers may not as easily question the need to explicitly model and scaffold reading processes, teachers of adolescents all too often assume that their students already possess the knowledge to become successful readers” (16-17). As a secondary English teacher, I have come to understand the need for such support, but I’m afraid that I’d never really thought too much the implications of the metaphor behind that word scaffolding. I hadn’t considered the limits—the rigidity, uniformity, and linearity—such a “building” metaphor might imply, leading to one-size-fits all, teacher-directed support in the classroom.

It’s fitting then, that it’s a paper by Anne Haas Dyson—whose work focuses largely on early literacy development—has recently challenged my understanding of scaffolding and helped me appreciate more fully the challenge and promise of supporting adolescent readers in the ways Appleman describes in her new book.

In “Weaving Possibilities: Rethinking Metaphors for Early Literacy Development,” Dyson explains that “[w]hile scaffolding is a vertical metaphor, one that represents how more skillful others support [students’] progress within one activity, weaving has a more horizontal dimension. It suggests how [students’] progress in any one activity is supported by their experiences in varied activities.”

Many of the excellent examples of scaffolding that Appleman describes benefit from being re-thought in Dyson’s terms. When Appleman describes an American literature teacher who responds to students’ interests in digital literacies by having students explore war-related blogs and complete an assignment called “The Apps They Carried” before reading a short story by Tim O’Brien, she is acknowledging the nonlinear, student-centered ways teachers can support students as readers across a variety of contexts.

When Appleman discusses a group of students reading the short story “The Boy without a Flag,” she tells of students performing a close reading of The Pledge of Allegiance, writing their own pledge, and composing collaborative poems based on the sentence frame “I am a ___ without a ___,” she’s exploring another model of support that is enhanced by metaphorical re-examination. Enacted ineffectively or without clear intention and purpose, these activities may end up seeming disconnected from the reading activity. In the carefully managed, responsive classroom Appleman depicts, these activities “allow us to see and allow space for the diverse intentions and resources of [students]” as they grow as readers and interpreters of text (Dyson).

When I first read Dyson’s critique of scaffolding, I didn’t know quite what to make of it—after all, the unchallenged term has become a staple of the teaching lexicon. But as I read each of Appleman’s cases of teachers tapping into linguistic and non-linguistic resources, school-sponsored and out-of-school literacies, and diverse life experiences of our students, its value started to make sense.

It’s not a rigid set of “before, during, and after” activities—and certainly not scripted curricula and more oppressive standardization (even that which nominally includes “scaffolding”)—that our students need. They need teachers who are supported and encouraged to learn more about their students and more about the ways to match their students’ needs with effective pedagogical practice that will give us a chance to weave success with adolescents as they face increasingly challenging text in and out of school.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Fun and Painless Summer Learning

Giraffe Photo by Jon OvingtonWhen I was in grade school, I regularly sat down with educational workbooks that Mom had picked up at the store and filled out pages and pages of worksheets. I even played teacher, assigning worksheets to my younger sisters and brother and then grading them.

I’m pretty sure that I’m the exception though. Most kids will not voluntarily spend summer vacation playing school. In fact, the families you talk with may tell you that it’s hard to find a way to sneak in summer learning without their children and teens staging a revolt.

How can you make summer learning so fun and painless that kids won’t even notice? Encourage families to tie educational projects to the things they’re already doing and the events they’re already talking about. Playing school probably isn’t going to work for most families, but reading texts and doing some research about the things kids and teens are already interested in will.

The Calendar on the ReadWriteThink site has dozens of activities that you can urge parents to try as part of their regular fun during the summer. If the family is planning any of these events, for instance, there are related calendar activities:

Remind families that the dates don’t matter as much as their connection to what they are already doing together. Ice cream was first sold commercially on June 8th for example, but families can check out the books and websites from that calendar entry whenever they take their trip.

If children and teens are already interested in specific topics, there are key dates in the calendar families can visit for more information on subjects such as dinosaurs, the moon, and railroads.

Current events are also a great lead for educational discussions. As hurricane season gears up, for example, families can visit the entry on Hurricane Katrina for resources to explore together.

Of course, there are also specific holidays that lend themselves to educational explorations. Make sure families know about the entries for Juneteenth, Flag Day, and Independence Day.

For more resources, you can also point families to the New York Times Learning Network. This free site is a great option for more information on a current or historical event, and often provides educational materials on breaking news topics. Be sure to point out the Student Challenge The Times as Your Summer Reading, a contest for students ages 13–25.

Whatever families do this summer, remind them to keep the summer learning fun and painless. The more educational activities are connected to the summer fun families already have planned, the more effective and engaging it will be. After all, students don’t have to realize they’re doing something educational for summer learning to happen!

[Creative Commons licensed Flickr photo by Jon Ovington]