Monday, April 13, 2009

High School Students and Copyright

In my time as an IT teacher I have seen many examples of students (and staff) infringing copyright. These infringements fall into three main groups. Piracy (software, movies or music), stealing ideas (in written work), stealing media (for Powerpoints etc.). I some ideas that I have been trying with students to help combat this, not sure if it is having a widespread impact but a few students have listened and changed their behaviour so it is working a little bit.

1) make students and staff aware that they are doing the wrong thing. Some students do not realise that getting copies of their favourite songs from a torrent site or their friends computer is actually against the law. When they are aware of this some of them change their behaviour.
2) set a good example. Many student have trouble believing that I don't use torrents for my music, however some are encouraged that it is possible to obey the law and have a good music collection. This also applies for software. If we use pirate software in our school computers how can we expect honesty from our students.
3) promote open source. By using and encouraging the use of open source software (eg open office, audacity, gimp) we are allowing students the opportunity to get software they want without braking the law.

Stealing Ideas
1) acknowledge all your sources. Teachers are permitted to copy and use a portion of a text etc. for educational purposes. By siting the source of this material we show students the habit of referencing. As part of a copyright audit in a school it must be done, so why not do it all the time.
2) teach an information literacy system eg PLUS Model or ISP form the NSW Department of Education and Training
3) don't write copy and paste assignments, If the students are required to think about a deep question, or are asked to create a non text artefact for their assignment then they will have to analyse the content and create their own meaning.

Stealing Media
1) Insist on Attribution, always reference the sources of your images in presentations is important not only so you can discourage copyright infringement but also so you can find the images again.
2) Set a good example, if you are making a presentation use only material that you have permission to use.
3) Use Creative Commons resources. These are resources that are available for the world to share, provided they attribute the author. I have published photos on Flickr with CC and one of them is now on a tourist website. Creative commons are a way for students to use images that they have permission to use. For more details see Smartcopying Australia

Well that is what I do, if you have any further ideas please post them in the comments for all to see.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Safety on the internet

Dr danah boyd has posted a blog about her involvement in writing a report for Internet Safety Technical Task Force. One of the points that she raises is that "The kids who are in trouble offline are more likely to be in trouble online and offline psychosocial factors contribute to online risks". My observations of teen behaviour with my students reflect this, the students who have the most "inappropriate" material on their myspace pages are most likely to be the ones who are seeking assistance from school counsellors about troubles or fronting the administration over poor in school behaviour. This leads to the question what are we as the community, and more particularly parents and teachers to do?
My first thought is we must listen. Often risky behaviour is a cry for attention, so we need to be listening to our children and students before they get to this stage. During the last six years there have been a number of students whom I have wanted to go to the parents and tell them this. I have suggested that my principal write a newsletter article about this but he suggests newsletters are for positive things. Secondly once we as teachers and parents are listening we need to be honest and open in our talking with young people, explain why we are asking that they do/do-not do things, admit we don't have all the answers.
For many years I have been reading about "middle-schooling" a concept that blends the relationship development of primary school with the broad and deep understanding of high school by putting students in-front of only a few specialist teachers, even sharing some subject areas. I personally think that this could lead to a better social and learning environment and have volunteered to be involved in this at my school, however the way that time-tabling is done at my school it is not something that I have been able to do yet. Perhaps next year.
In the mean time I will do my best to listen to the students I have and talk openly with them, especially my year nine IT class where online issues are a major theme.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Is this a job that will have a long-term effect?

Holidays are a good time for reflecting on what we do. Over the past week I have been doing a bit of contemplating education and Doug Johnson's question in his blog about time really got me thinking.
Do I as a teacher have a long term effect on my students? It is obvious from reading biographies and histories that teachers can have an influence on their pupils eg Helen Keller. In my own life there were three key teachers who enthused me, Thanks Mrs Seaman, Mr Shepherd and Mr Lovell. Talking to other teachers at a training day from Julia Atkin many teachers sited a good teacher as one of the reasons they got into teaching.
Having only taught for six years it is hard to determine the long term influence of what I have done but a number of my students who i have stayed in contact with on mySpace have said that I have assisted them. One in-particular (when I was having a week teaching despair last year) has sited my continual encouragement in year eleven and twelve chemistry as the reason she was able to get into and do the university course she has just completed. Come to think of it perhaps the fact that I am a mySpace "Friend" to over 100 current and ex students shows that I have an influence over them. I think the key is to ensure that that influence is a positive one that encourages exploration of knowledge, creativity and safe behaviour.