Friday, September 28, 2007

Getting Copyright Right
Appropriate use and the Web: a primer for teachers

For years, you've recycled that same cartoon on your handouts. You've copied that same poem onto enough pieces of paper to fill a file cabinet. You've distributed that pie chart or bar graph so many times, you could draw it from memory. You've projected that same image of the solar system so many times, you can still see it when you close your eyes.

You may not even remember where you got those materials in the first place.

But now that we're moving towards putting those materials on the web, it's time to find out.

Edline and other publishing opportunities raise the spectre of copyright violation in ways that are new for most teachers. Fair use laws may allow us to use many found materials in our classrooms, but putting stuff up on the web is publishing. And republishing copyrighted materials without the legal right to do so can be a liability issue -- for you and for the district.

College campuses this year are full of students being "busted" for downloading music illegally. As these college students are learning the hard way, technology makes many things possible, but possible and right are two entirely different things.

What does this all mean for us?

  • That same cartoon you thought you were perfectly safe using on your handouts probably can't be put on your edline page. It MAY not have been yours to stick on your quiz, either.

  • That same image you use so effectively in the classroom to help students understand the surface of the moon may not be available for you to use on the web.

  • That song your students downloaded at home may not legal to play in class, even as part of a project presentation.

Fair use laws are complicated and ever-changing. But the basic parameters of appropriate use for teachers are pretty easy to stick to:

1. Don't assume. For all materials, it is your legal responsibility to check for copyright information before you use something. Many websites will have copyright information listed on the home page, or at the bottom of a page, but if you can't find any copyright information, most legal experts will tell you to assume that the material is copyrighted, and to select a different image, poem, chart or other material instead.

2. Photographs are generally copyrighted, though they may not say so on the photo itself. This copyright generally does not allow us to repost those pictures on the web. It almost always does NOT allow you to modify or crop the picture in any way (note that edline "degrades" the quality of some images automatically, which counts as a modification by copyright standards).

Some photo websites such as Flickr default uploaded pictures to a fair use option so that, as long as you properly attribute where you got the photo, you can use it to do almost anything except sell a product, but it's still YOUR responsibility as the "re-publisher" to make sure.

3. On the other hand, most (but not all) clip art is available for your own use, even on the web, as long as your use is not a commercial one. But here, too, you need to be careful -- just because it looks like clip art doesn't mean some artist has not made it available under copyright.

4. Text generally falls under "fair use" for educational purposes ONLY when you are using a small portion of the overall text, and only for educational purposes. It's almost never considered appropriate to copy a whole poem, or more than a paragraph or so of an original text, in the classroom or on the web.

5. Your own rights and intellectual property matter, too. The moment you put your curricular materials "out there", other people can find them, and use them, as if they were their own. We'll go into this more deeply in a later blog post, but in the meantime, if you are not interested in freely sharing your curricular materials with the world, I'd keep the long essays and curriculum write-ups on paper or email.

Not sure if a particular image, poem, or "block" of text is "safe" for use on edline? Concerned that you've been breaking the law for years without realizing it? Have questions about fair use laws as they apply to your use of teaching materials? Mary Ellen and myself are happy to help you check out the legal status of a particular document or image before you put it "out there" -- feel free to email us at any time!

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Of Stuff and Spaces:
What’s new in the information center!

What’s new in the WMS Information Center? More than you think! Since last Spring, in order to provide the best possible support for you and your students, we’ve added new tools and new spaces to the total package of information center resources, and developed what we hope will be a much more effective and easy-to-use management approach to supporting you in your use of instructional technology and information literacy tools and technologies this year. Here’s the breakdown:

1. The tools of the trade

Loanable resources this year have improved, both in quantity and in their flexibility.

In the next few weeks, we’ll be purchasing a new data projector with money donated by the PTO for this purpose – one or two more and we’ll be able to redistribute these projectors out to teams. In the meantime, we’ve added some smaller components to our existing projector set-ups which will make a big difference in how you can use them: a 25 foot long projector cable, so you no longer have to rearrange your entire room to project from the computer in the corner; wireless mice and keyboards, so you or your students can present from the best spot for a given presentation, regardless of projector or computer location; a splitter cable, so you can see your computer monitor while you project, instead of having to read off the screen.

And remember: projectors are great for video projection, but their ability to bring a computer image to the big screen means that anything one person can do with the computer is something the class can share and participate in.

Digital cameras remain a powerful tool for archiving, and for capturing the moments of our classes and our time together. A larger storage stick will now allow you to take the camera on field trips without running out of “film”. Our service in lending out cameras will now include moving your pictures to the network folder of your choice when you return the camera, so you’ll have your images right away. All this, plus a commitment to using and providing you with rechargeable batteries allows you to forget about the technology and focus on the task at hand.

Our new digital video camera is a great resource for recording and archiving class projects and team experiences – no longer must we grade in-class presentation on the fly! But video cameras have high potential as instructional tools, too. Teachers of languages and communication have long used video as a means for students to see their own presentation – an easy in-class turn-around, since our camera will plug directly into your classroom TV set. Students who can see themselves from outside are given a powerful opportunity to correct their use of language, their style, and their presentation skills.

(Don’t forget our more traditional in-house resources, too! The library remains ready to handle your lamination, large-format printing, and A/V cart needs!)

2. More space, better technology

Our shared resource spaces, too, have grown and stretched:

The addition of the new workroom at the end of the Information Center hallway allows us to spread out book-cart and poster projects which typically have utilized the library space into a more intimate environment, where it is that much easier to keep your class on task. In turn, this leaves more opportunity for research projects to be fitted into the library calendar.

Thanks to our IT staff, Lab 1 computers have been upgraded to Windows XP and a newer version of MS Office, which means your Publisher projects can now be taught in either lab. These machines also received more memory over the summer, which makes them best able to support projects which use several types of software at once.

Lab 2 remains as powerful as ever. We’ve replaced the old chalkboards with white boards and a pull-down screen for projection, to better support teaching in the lab. And don’t forget our color laser printer – it will even print overhead projection sheets!

3. One-stop shopping

In light of these new possibilities and resources, the WMS Information center staff has worked hard over the past few weeks to centralize our resources, consolidate our calendar and loan systems, and separate out resource lending from the support we offer teachers and students as they use and plan for using these resources, all in an attempt to create as smooth and transparent method of resource management as possible.

From now on, all information center resources and spaces will be managed directly through the library. Lorry will be your "go to" person to loan out, maintain, and (at your request) set up projectors and other portable resources; she will also manage booking for all four of our information center spaces (the library, Labs 1 and 2, and the workroom). It is our hope that this new "one stop" management approach will make it easier to maintain and track equipment, while making it that much easier for you to plan for resource use in your classes.

Consolidating our resource management in this way also frees up our Information Specialist to better support your needs as a teacher and a confident tool-user. Let us know if you’d like support or co-instruction for you or your students, and we’ll make sure you get what you need, both in the planning stages and in your classroom. If you’re planning a visit to the library or lab computers, we can help you best prepare the space, your network folders, and any special links or other classroom resources you might need. If you’re interested in learning how to use the projector or camera, a lab space, a software package or web-based tool, stop by or email Mr. F, and we can set up a training session.

And, as always, whether you’re looking to spice up an upcoming unit or just thinking ahead about projects to come, consider asking for some time during a shared planning period to explore how to best match your style, your curriculum, and the various tools of our ever-growing "teaching with technology" toolbox!

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