Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Who's Down With O.P.P: Intellectual Property and the Educator.

Authors Note:
The topic of intellectual property is a broad and complex topic. To properly address a person's right to access AND use intellectual property, I will be creating a two-part blog this week.

What is Intellectual Property?

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, "intellectual property refers to creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce". As educators, the intellectual property that we deal with everyday would include: music, videos, images, articles, teaching resources, website content and lesson plans. Please refer to Rebecca Butler's, Intellectual Property Defined for a concise explanation of the categories of intellectual property.
To protect the rights of the creator, laws have been put in place to restrict the use of such works.

What Does It Mean for Educators?

As educators, we need to access resources for our students that lay beyond the realm of our own intellectual property. It may be images for a slide show on ancient civilizations or a video on extreme climates or an article from a weekly newspaper for current events. Not only are we accessing these resources for our own purposes, we are also the torch-bearers to pass along this information for our students use and show our students how to access these resources as well.
BUT, are educators obtaining and using these resources in a law-abiding manner?

In our district social responsibility has been a focus for a few years now. Our schools and classrooms have been a venue for conversations around helping others and becoming socially responsible citizens. Although the focus has mainly been on treating the emotional and physical well being of others, I see an area of further expansion into teaching our children how to protect and respect the rights of others and their own intellectual property. Educators already know and readily accept that they are looked upon as role models and must demonstrate socially responsible behaviour, but what about modeling responsible digital citizenship?

Mike Ribble's article, Passport to Digital Citizenship states that, "adults need to be positive role models of digital citizenship so students can follow their example." According to the National Educational Technology Standards, teachers need to "promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility".

OK, So I've Been a Naughty Teacher. How Can I Reform My Wayward Habits?

* Familiarize yourself with the types of intellectual property and how each category is protected. Start with Rebecca Butler's article, Intellectual Property Defined.

* Rather than giving the same old lecture on plagiarism, enable the students to cite their sources properly with a lesson on quick and easy bibliographies.

* Focus on what you CAN do rather than what you CAN'T do. There are many resources that can be found in Public Domain that can be used for FREE! Also, Creative Commons is a new alternative to copyrighting your work. It allows for more flexible sharing, copying, and remixing of other's work.

* Read Mike Ribble's article, Passport to Digital Citizenship and create lessons to teach the Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship.

* Promote conversation! In the staff room, in the classroom. Find out what your students and colleagues believe about intellectual property and how it affects their world.

* Provide authentic opportunities for students to learn about their rights to use
O.P.P. (other people's property). Students can create their own works and apply a Creative Commons license to their work. Students could also create mash-ups or collages on Flickr by finding works protected under specific licensing. Why not contact an author or artist and ask permission to use their intellectual property on your school's website?

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