Friday, September 28, 2012

Copyright Done Right

Image Credit:
Okay, so I highly doubt (although I have no conclusive evidence either way) that the penguin has it right.

However, as educators, we at times take an all-or-nothing approach to adhering to copyright.  Some of us are so afraid of copyright laws (and killing kittens) that we stifle not only our own creativity but that of our students. On the other hand, some of us work under the assumption that what we "borrow" is considered "fair use" when used under the education umbrella.  The problem with this is remaining at polar ends of the copyright spectrum causes us to lose out on a host of valuable learning opportunities for our students as developing digital citizens. So, let's figure out what we can do.

Difference Between Copyright and Fair Use

Copyright. The laws aim to protect the Constitutional right of citizens by "securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive rights to their respective writings and discoveries."  The laws were relatively straight forward until the inclusion of the Fair Use Doctrine.

Fair Use. When we use a certain amount of an original work for purposes other than profit, that could be considered "fair use."  For example, if I wanted to quote a scholar in research or some type of publication (like this blog), I long as I gave that scholar credit and there is no profit potential.  Likewise, if students took a piece of original work and completely transformed that work to make it substantially different than the original, that could be considered "fair use."

What about using music as soundtracks? The answer would be a murky no. This is not considered "fair use" because it neither drastically transforms the original nor does it eliminate the potential for profit in the end product. 

No one I know intends to break copyright laws. It is, however, imperative that when we encourage and instruct our students in integrating technologies into project-based lessons that we also take the time to incorporate copyright awareness.  We can avoid a lot of potential hassles with these options:
  1. Instruct students so they have a complete understanding of copyright law and how fair use works.
  2. Direct students (and yourself) to public domain, or Creative Commons, media sites
  3. Share finished work widely and wildly because everything is either an original student work or it contains fragments of copyright-free media.
Creative Commons.  This organization helps creators of all forms of media share and collaborate on their works while protecting their rights as creators. Those using Creative Commons (this includes teachers and students) can license their work and decide how it will be shared.  When we use Creative Commons, we know that creators have already given permission to use their work.

One thing is certain: Don't completely elminate the use of music or images in student work. While it may seem the safe route, it doesn't teach our students the responsibilities that accompany living in a digital world. And who knows?  We may actually save some kittens in the process.

Click here for my growing collection of Copyright-Free Media on my Resources to Share Page. Share your comments to add to the resource!

Yours in Tech,

Friday, September 21, 2012

e-Rate and CIPA 411: What Schools Need to Do

e-Rate and CIPA. Not terms that the average classroom teacher would be overly concerned with or knowledgeable about.  I know when I was in the classroom, I knew only what was shared with me regarding my responsibilities as an educator with my students on the Internet.  I should have known more. I should have done more. Hence, the reason for this breakdown for educators.

What does this all mean for schools? What do we need to do to ensure our students are receiving the proper instruction regarding Internet Safety? I've looked high and low, and there isn't a canned, one-size-fits-all Internet Safety Curriculum out there...nor should there be. That's up to schools and their Tech. Coaches or Technology/Curriculum Directors.

Let's break it down:

1. What is e-Rate?
The e-Rate program provides discounts on certain services and products that are essential for classrooms to receive voice, video and data communications.  The amount of the discounts varies, depending on the poverty level and location of the school. Discounts range between 20% and 90%, based on students eligible for free and reduced lunches.  In early 2001, the FCC issued rules implementing CIPA and updated those rules in 2011.

2.  What is CIPA?
CIPA, or the Children's Internet Protection Act, was enacted by Congress in 2000 to protect children from accessing obscene or harmful content while on the Internet.  CIPA imposes requirements for schools and libraries that receive e-Rate discounts for Internet access or internal connections.

3.  What does my school need to do to receive this funding?
In general, elementary and secondary schools are eligible to receive discounts. This includes many private and religious schools as well. 

Schools must certify that they have an Internet safety policy that includes protection measures for students using technology.  These protection measures must block or filter access Internet images that are: (a) obscene; (b) child pornography; or, (c) harmful to minors (on computers that are accessed by minors).
Schools subject to CIPA have two additional requirements:
  1. Internet Safety policies must include monitoring online activities of minors, and
  2. Schools must provide for educating minors about appropriate online behavior, including interacting with others on social networking sites and in chat rooms, and cyberbullying awareness and response.

4.  How does that get done?
Schools need to determine how they will meet e-Rate regulations.  As of July 1, 2012, schools receiving e-Rate funding must somehow provide internet safety instruction. 

Technology Integration Coaches, or Curriculum Directors for those schools with no Tech. Coach, can curate materials and resources for teachers to integrate into existing lessons that require Internet use.  It doesn't necessarily have to add more to our already-bursting-at-the-seams curricula, but it is our responsibility to find ways to educate and protect our students from potentially harmful choices and teach them to be positive, digitally literate cyber citizens.

For more information about CIPA and e-Rate legislation:
e-Rate Simplified

Friday, September 7, 2012

OER - Unwrapping the Potential

Open Education Resources. Free. Online. Accessible anywhere you can access the Internet.

With the adoption of Common Core State Standards, Teacher Effectiveness Evaluations and Standards-Based Report Cards, fellow educators are scrambling to align already-existent curricula.  Along the alignment journey, gaps and overlaps occur.  This may leave some frantically attempting to create new lessons, new activities, new assessments...and, quite frankly, there is no need.

Why reinvent the wheel?  
I've begun curating a "meager beginning" of the mind-numbing supply of free OERs out there on the web.  This wealth of resources can aide educators in finding lesson plans, media and project-based lessons, just for starters...all designed to positively impact student learning. Several of these OERs are already aligned to the Common Core. They range across all grade-levels, all subject areas, all modes of instruction (small group, partner, independent study and whole group).  This is nowhere near a complete grouping, but it's a start.

Start unwrapping. 
How can these already-in-place learning tools enhance your classroom?  How can they simplify your life as an educator?  The potential is limitless.

I would love to learn of other sites out there that contain OERs to add to this webmix. Please add to the conversation in the comments below and share the webmix with your colleagues!