Copyright Convolutions: Keep Complexity Simple

Looks like I’ll have to stop avoiding, and start educating myself,  on copyright issues.  Until now, I was holding to the assumption that I could just go on without really considering this.  After all,  I don’t write papers, I don’t produce much of anything that people might be interested in  copying, and at the most, I only use images from flicker.

For the time being,  as I continue teaching digital citizenship to elementary school students,  this raises the question how I can help them understand the concept of copyright.  More to the point, how can I teach something that I don’t really understand myself?        

Here’s a potential solution.  At our last COETAIL meeting,  the suggestion was made to  keep legality out of the concept of copyright.  Yes, elementary school is not law school. There’s no need to present copyrighting as a complex legal issue (which it really is).   Elementary children already know that it’s not o.k. to copy other people’s work.  What they often don’t understand is that  there’s an owner to the material they see on-line.  They often conclude “if it’s on the internet, somebody already decided that it’s o.k. for me to use it.”   In other words, they know copying from someone else as wrong, but don’t always realize that copying from the internet is copying someone else.  In fact,  I see this confusion in the classroom all the time.

So, what are some resources to help sort this out?

1.   Creative Commons.  About page on their website gives a nice one page overview of this organization’s role in navigating  the digital age.

2. Common Craft.  I always check there, as it was one of the first resources I was introduced to when I first took an interest in Web 2.0.   They have a nice video on plagiarism,  geared mainly to older students, late middle school to high school.

3.  teachingcopyright.org.    A well thought out curriculum is available here, and I plan to use it soon with grade 5 students.

4.  Library of Congress has a site on copyright titled “Taking the Mystery Out of Copyright”  This appears most suitable for grades 5 and up.

So much ground to cover!  I am increasingly convinced that we need digital citizenship curricula in our schools, starting with 5 year olds and continuing from there .

Any counselors out there teaching digital citizenship in your school?

*Question mark image from clipart.

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About Naho Kikuchi

Elementary school counselor at The American School in Japan. Living and working in West Tokyo since 1997. Forever trying to figure out how to balance work, family and time for myself.
This entry was posted in 21st Century School, COETAIL, Guidance Lessons, Technology. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Copyright Convolutions: Keep Complexity Simple

  1. Adam Seldis says:

    Great post. I agree with what you say but think that taking the legal out of copyright is easier said than done. The problem I find is there are so many grey areas – so many ambiguities. For example you can use a certain piece of music so long as it’s for less than x seconds or if the composer has been dead for more than X years. It just gets so complex and for students in particular so much rides on understanding the basics, particularly the difference between citation and plagiarism. Students getting that wrong, even inadvertently, can potentially face such massive ramifications.

  2. Naho Kikuchi says:

    Adam,
    Thanks for your comments. I agree that there are so many gray areas with the copyright issue. How can we teach the gray to elementary school students without getting them confused?
    I am also glad that you pointed out about the music. I was not thinking about it at all when I wrote this post. (I don’t know why)
    Looking forward to learning more about this issue in our next meeting.

  3. Pingback: Over My Head with Remix | Shinjuku West

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