I don’t feel old. I don’t [think I] act old. Therefore, I’m not old. (makes complete sense!) However, I FEEL old after watching A Fair(y) Use Tale. I couldn’t follow it at all. And, that made me sad. I love Aladdin! I love Beauty and the Beast! I love Toy Story! I love Monsters Inc.! Unfortunately, I didn’t love it all mashed together– which reminds me of this trailer I saw over the weekend of a new Disney movie which is a [sort of] mashup of various children’s stories, but, I digress.
I remember the first time I thought about copyright as an educator. It was my very first year of teaching, I was so excited to even have a job! It was the week right before winter break, and everyone (both students and teachers) were ready for two blissful weeks of no school. To celebrate, my team wanted to watch The Polar Express. We couldn’t just watch the movie. How is it preparing the students for the standardized test they were expected to take at the end of the year? It wasn’t! At least that’s what we were told by those in a higher pay grade. What was our solution? Let’s read the book, compare and contrast the book to the movie, study character traits, and tie it to standards! Of course, that’s what we would have done, had we just watched the movie, but the higher ups felt nervous that we wouldn’t do it, and required that my team write up a plan. That’s fine- I’m planning anyway, I have no problem sharing a specific, more detailed plan with those who want it. The plan was then share with our building EdTech Specialist. She had a cow and told us that we weren’t allowed to show the movie because it went against copyright usage and laws. That didn’t make sense to me, I’ve watched lots of movies while I was in school. So, I started doing research. Everything I found stated that it’s okay to show a movie in school if it’s used for educational purposes, I obtained the movie legally (ie- no downloads), and I wasn’t charging people to watch the movie. Check, check, and check. As far as my team was concerned, we were good to go! And go we did, complete with PJs, popcorn, hot cocoa, graphic organizers, and talking about text!
On the flip side of that, I found that copyright rules were so much more relaxed when I first started teaching internationally. Colleagues were posting pictures of students on Facebook, faces even (gasp!) and didn’t think to ask parents for permission to do so. I’ve always been so paranoid about what I post on any social media outlet when it comes to my students. If their faces are showing, and no one has signed an acceptable use policy, their faces probably shouldn’t be showing. Thankfully, we have a pretty good department and they’ve done a tremendous job in making sure we’re up to date with important details like this.
I realize that copyright laws and copyright issues are much larger than a grade 3 team wanting to spread a little holiday spirit during a high stakes testing season. Do my students know enough about the picture they’ve just inserted into their presentation? A huge one- did my students do enough research on their topic- are these words their own, or did they copy/paste it into their documents? This is what Wesley Fryer discussed in his blog post “Understanding and Respecting Copyright A Problem for Many“. I don’t know what it is, perhaps it’s my lack of stressing the importance of this, but many of my students rarely give credit where credit is due. It’s a small step, but a hugely important one.
I definitely think copyright laws should be revisited, especially after watching Everything is a Remix, which is a favorite. I share this with everyone, even my dad. He’s a huge music buff and constantly gripes about how hip hop artists use bits of songs that aren’t theirs to begin with. Little does he know, EVERYTHING and EVERYONE is doing/does this! As a matter of fact, a few weeks ago grade 5 students were working on their final narrative pieces of writing. One student took every mentor text the teacher used to create his own narrative writing- a remix of mentor texts, which is fantastic because mentor texts are a great tool to motivate and support students, as this Edutopia article states. As Kirby Ferguson said in his Remix series “creation requires influence. Everything we make is a remix of existing creations, our lives, and the lives of others.” Students are definitely showing me that this is a true statement!