I’ve spent the last two days in a conference. The keynote speakers spoke well about their areas of expertise and had well designed presentations using visuals creatively to support their messages. But I did not see one photo credit. While I could tell some photos were probably their own, many were not. This got me thinking, are the adults in the lives of our students providing the models and support needed in this changing landscape of copyright usage?
Part of being a responsible citizen is not taking from others. Students learn this value from a very young age. They follow their parents around the shops, watching them make purchases and making payments for the things they buy – a range of products: books, food, petrol. They might start to see their parents also shopping online including digital books and music. This is where it starts to merge into digital citizenship because it is now a digital platform; however, the idea is the same. We should purchase the things that others make and we want.
Generally, kids easily internalize this aspect of being a responsible citizen. But now the lines are blurry as online content is very accessible. It may not be obvious that at the other end there was a creator and therefore a owner to the product (image, ideas, words). Therefore I believe we have an important job to do from the moment kids walk into our classrooms and school to model authentically how we go about using, or if needed, purchasing content, products, services, and ideas. It should be as transparent as a child walking into the supermarket with a parent, selecting some items and making the purchase. However, it’s clear from the length of the flowchart created by the folks of LangWitches about the use of material that it is not that simple.
Students need to be armed with the right type and amount of information so they continue to be innovative and creative and not too heavily restricted. To help balance the copyright dilemma I like to reflect on the words of Austin Kleon in his talk ‘Steal Like an Artist’ and his book titled Steal Like an Artist. I think it provides a balancing perspective to the Copyright issue.
A feature of elementary teaching is to look at the work of others for inspiration and ideas. In art lessons, kids have been studying Eric Carle and his art work and stories for years and subsequently creating their own Eric Carle inspired pieces. Similarly, students in my class get inspired to write poetry from reading the works of others, mimicking their style. Students enjoy creating their own poem based on the work of Margaret Wise Brown’s book titled The Important Book. We are always sure to give credit to the author letting others know our work has been inspired by hers.
I was also encouraged to read the website ‘Teaching Copyright’ which advocates for teaching about copyright issues in a balanced way. To only present one side is doing a disservice to students. Just as we arm ourselves with information to make decisions about using content, we too must help students.
“This misinformation is harmful, because it discourages kids and teens from following their natural inclination to be innovative and inquisitive. The innovators, artists and voters of tomorrow need to know that copyright law restricts many activities but also permits many others” state the folks from the Teaching Copyright website. I agree that the need accurate and balanced information that will allow them to work confidently when using and creating content.