Monday, February 25, 2013

Teachers and Copyright

I'm occasionally part of a twitterchat on Saturday mornings (#rechat -- "Rethinking and re-imagining education" -- @johntspencer moderates...if you're a teacher on Twitter, you should follow him. Smart guy, and he'll challenge you to think about your teaching practice.)

This past Saturday, our chat centered on teaching digital citizenship. Several fellow chatters suggested that we need to stop differentiating between digital citizenship and "real life" citizenship. The implicit here is that digital life is part of "real life" and the rules should be the same. That is, your online rules should be the same as your offline rules.

I basically agree with this; people should be courteous, honest, kind, polite, helpful, and respectful whether they are online or offline. I want my students to be people of integrity no matter the venue! That said, I still think we need to teach students how to have good manners--both online and offline. And further, we need to model this for our students as well.

Think of the different places students might interact: in their neighborhoods, in the classroom, on the playground, at a church function, any of these places, we want them to treat others well, and be civil, decent people. We want them to know how to be good, and then also to choose to be good, right? In most of these situations, students can and will learn proper behavior through modeling from adults, while some specific instructions occasionally for what situational etiquette might be required. For example, "elbows off the table" might be something that has to be told explicitly at first, since that might not be the sort of thing that students pick up on naturally. But if you tell kids to keep their elbows off the table, and then sit with your elbows on the table, your modeling probably has a more powerful voice than your words.

This true online too--there are some rules that must be taught explicitly. For example, "cite your source" is probably one that students will need to be taught outright. We should expect our students to give credit for the work of others, and to cite their sources properly.

But that said...

Do you cite your sources?

When you grab an image or videoclip online, do you provide the source to your students? If you find a great bulletin board idea on Pinterest, do you cite the source? That perfect worksheet or activity or reading that you find online, do you give credit to the person who created it?

I'm pointing the finger at myself here too, of course. I don't do this perfectly--though I'd say I'm working on it.

I think this is definitely a case where our actions speak louder than words. If we want our students to learn to respect copyright, we better be modeling this ourselves! Yes, teachers do have some rights when it comes to copyright and fair use, but how well do you understand this complex body of legal code? And how about Creative Commons licensing? Do you know your rights to use and reuse resources in your classroom practice?

I was surprised by this website I came across when I was researching further into this. Some of the things I thought I knew are (apparently) not entirely true. Check your own knowledge--you might be surprised too!

A couple more copyright and fair use resources you might want to check out:
And finally, a really great little video explaining the basics of copyright and fair use, using clips from Disney films, no less... (Thanks to Doug Fisher at the University of South Carolina for sharing, and Stephen Ransom for mentioning it in our twitterchat.)


  1. Love the points you brought up here and I appreciate your participation in the chat. If you ever want to moderate one, let me know.

    1. Thanks for the feedback, John. I've really enjoyed our chats; always thought-provoking. I'll think about moderating sometime. I'll be in touch. Peace.

  2. Thanks for the nudge to cite! I will be sharing this with our teachers....and citing you. I, too, am guilty of not taking the time to cite when I use resources for teacher inservices.