Using the Blog to Enhance Learning: Practical Applications

A large number of students today come to higher education with understandings and expectations of technology aligned with Web 2.0. Over eighty percent of Americans, ages 18–24 use social networking sites. (Smith, Rainie & Zickuhr, 2011) And surveys have shown that spending time on social networking is not always what we would think. And as it turns out, a study soon be published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, found that students who “frequently shared links on Facebook or checked the site to see what friends were up to tend to have higher grades.” (Ruiz, October 21, 2011)

Many colleges and universities are requiring laptops of all students, some universities even providing pre-loaded laptops. Students expect to utilize these laptops and Web 2.0 skills in their courses. (Orr, Sherony, & Steinhaus, 2008) Studies have shown that blogs have educational value in the classroom. (Churchill, 2011) About one in ten internet users contribute to a blog; one in three internet users read blogs. (Lenhart, Purcell, Smith, & Zickuhr, 2010 ) Therefore, a weblog is a viable social networking tool to introduce into the pedagogy of a course.

Blogs, or web logs, are useful to enhance teaching with a generation of students who are already using the internet and social networking. Blogs are usually free and easy to use. (Some blogs, such as WordPress, will remove the advertisements for a small fee.) There are no sophisticated skills required to set up a blog. In fact, most students are already familiar with blogs. Due to ease of use, even older students that initially have difficulties with the blog soon overcome these issues. (Churchhill, 2011) Blogs work well with other Web 2.0 skills and can include graphics, video, and hyperlinks. Most can accommodate RSS feeds, Flickr, Twitter, and uTube, among others. Therefore, blogs may be used in many constructivist activities and is useful in almost any classroom.

For educators, blogs require a minimum effort to create and maintain. The anytime- anywhere nature of the blog makes it easy for teachers to give fast feedback and display information for students to read before coming to class. An educator may store handouts on his/her blog and post reminders of upcoming assignments. The weblog is also useful for tracking participation. It not only is a forum for the shy to speak up, but also a system of giving everyone a chance to contribute. Opening and keeping track of student’s blogs is streamlined by using a RSS feed to directly collect the posts into a wiki or aggregator. In addition, each student’s weblog may be grouped together into a mini “blogosphere” by connecting the blogs with hyperlinks.

When appropriately managed by the educator or other facilitator, the blog supports teaching and student centered learning. A blog is a convenient tool for students to journal their learning processes. Because the blogs are archived, the postings are easily reviewed for progress as well as represent knowledge learned. Plus, the web based nature of the blog makes them easily accessible to peers for commentary. Over time, blog authors may form networks of conversations in the blogosphere and further learn from each other.

One of the most effective ways of achieving content goals and developing creative thinking skills is to find ways to engage students outside of the classroom. The blog may be used by students to discuss assignments, review peer work, and share results. A report by Daniel Churchill (2011)stated that students felt that the aspects of blogging that contributed most to their learning was the assessing and reading of other student’s blogs. Bloggers find that the environment in a blog creates a sense of community. A student publishes their writing in a blog for all the public to see. The blog fosters a sense of pride and gives a student a sense of worth as the blog is a platform for the blogger to have their opinions recognized.

A blog enhances the use of constructivist teaching philosophies by supplementing traditional activities with student involvement with the course material. Without the time constraints of the classroom, blogs give the student more time to improve their writing and reflect on the task given. Peer pressure is removed and students more reticent can speak up within the blog.

Utilizing blogs in the classroom is beneficial to teachers as well as students. By reading blogs, an instructor can see what students know and fill in the gaps. (Paulus, Payne, & Jahns, 2009) A problem of the classroom is focusing too much time on the mechanics and precious time on the conceptual understanding of the material. Students profess a lack of knowledge or preparedness as a reason for not participating in the classroom. (Mandernach, 2006) While reading can be effective in preparing students for class prior to the discussion, it is hard to enforce. Therefore, a large amount of class time is spent reviewing basic concepts rather than deeper discussion and critique. A blog can help shift the basic concepts out of class using a social adaptation of just-in-time teaching developed by Jude Higdon and Chad Topez (2009).

Just-in-time teaching utilizing blogs works like this. Every student has a blog and the instructor has a single digital location like a wiki or a RSS reader where the posts are aggregated. The evening before every class, students post on their blog the answer to the two questions below. The questions are not changed with content of the class and are not discipline specific.

[1.] What is the most difficult part of the material we will discuss in tomorrow’s class?

[2.] What is the most interesting part of the material or how does the material connect to something you have learned…?
(Higdon & Topaz, 2009)

The day of the class the educator reads the answers to the questions and adjusts class time to address the areas identified by the students as problem areas. The rest of the class is spent on higher learning. If the assignment is graded, students will likely do the assignment and supplying a rubric is helpful to obtain useful responses. (Higdon & Topaz, 2009) It should only take a few minutes to go over the posts; however, if the class is large and a teaching assistant is unavailable, it is possible to sample the responses as long as the students are unaware the posts are not being graded.

Another framework in which blogs can contribute to learning is the What, So What, and What Now technique developed by Gregory Gifford. (2010). This system uses blogs by requiring students to ask these three questions to enhance reflection and critical thinking.

What?   The student address the facts without judgement or interpretation.

So What? Students interpret meanings, describe emotions, state the impact and why they came to that conclusion.

Now What?   The student considers the big picture and the broader implications.

This study showed that bloggers using this method of reflection more consistently meet the objectives of the assignment than students that were simply given questions provided by the instructor. (Gifford, 2010)

There are some drawbacks to blogging in course work. Unless the instructor plays a key role, the blog may be superfluous. Students participate better when they are graded and are provided detailed requirements and expectations from the blogs. (Churchill, 2011) It may take practice for students to understand how to think critically. For high quality discussions, the instructor needs to be present to model the dialogue between the students and to provide feedback. (Churchill, 2011)

Some students may have privacy concerns using a blog. They may be uncomfortable with their thought in a forum where anyone can read them. Some may feel that their thoughts are silly, or not good enough. (Churchill, 2011) If this is an issue, the blog may be made private so that a user has to log in in order for the post to be accessed.

Used correctly, social networking does not need to be a distraction to learning. Rather than discouraging student from using a technology that they engage with daily, the instructor can leverage this technology to deepen comprehension, reinforce retention, and create a broader virtual classroom.

Reference

Churchill, D. (2011). Web 2.0 in education: A study of the explorative use of blogs with a postgraduate class. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 48(2) 149-158. Routledge

Gifford, G.T. (2010, Winter) A modern technology in the leadership classroom: Using blogs for critical thinking development. Journal of Leadership Education, 9(1).

Higdon, J. & Topaz, C. (2009, Spring) Blogs and wikis as instructional tools: A social software adaptation of just-in-time teaching. College Teaching, 57(2). Washington, DC: Heldref Publications.

Lenhart A., Purcell, K., Smith, A. & Zickuhr, K. (Feb 3, 2010) Social Media and Young Adults. Pew Internet. Retrieved from: http://pewinternet.org/topics/Blogs.aspx

Mandernach, B.J. (2006). Thinking critically about critical thinking: Integrating online tools to promote critical thinking. Insight 1.

Orr, C., Sherony, B., & Steinhaus, C. (2008, June). Student perceptions of the value of a university laptop program. College Teaching Methods & Styles Journal.vol 4,(6).

Paulus, T. M., Payne, R. L., & Jahna, L. (2009, Spring). “Am I making sense here?” What blogging reveals about undergraduate student understanding. Journal of Interactive Online Learning Vol 8(1) ISSN: 1541:4914

Ruiz, R.R. (October 21, 2011) Facebook’s impact on student grades. The New York Times.
Retrieved from: http://thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/21/fbook-grades/

Smith, A., Rainie, L., & Zickuhr, K. (Jul 19, 2011) College students and technology. Pew Internet Retrieved from
http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/College-students-and-technology/Report.aspx

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education

Reproduced in its entirety (with permission) from: http://centerforsocialmedia.org/fair-use/related-materials/codes/code-best-practices-fair-use-media-literacy-education

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for
Media Literacy Education

GENERAL POINTS ABOUT PRINCIPLES

Through its five principles, this code of best practices identifies five sets of current practices in the use of copyrighted materials in media literacy education to which the doctrine of fair use clearly applies. These practices are associated with K–12 education, higher education, and in classes given by nonprofit organizations. When students or educators use copyrighted materials in their own creative work outside of an educational context, they can rely on fair use guidelines created by other creator groups, including documentary filmmakers and online video producers.

These principles apply to all forms of media. Depending on the instructional goal, educators may use materials designed for entertainment and for persuasive or advocacy purposes. They may use print, images, Web sites, moving-image media, and sound media—in both analog and digital forms. In all cases, a digital copy is the same as a hard copy in terms of fair use. Veteran teachers may keep clippings from newspapers in manila file folders to use for media literacy education; younger ones may store their materials as digital files. Functionally, their practices are identical.

The principles apply in institutional settings and to non-school-based programs. Media literacy education may occur in university classrooms, in elementary schools, in computer labs in community technology centers, or in after-school and summer camp programs run by religious groups or nonprofit organizations. In addition to their fair use rights, teachers in conventional schools enjoy the benefit of limited educational exemptions under Section 110(1) and (2) of the Copyright Act. Educators in community-based organizations may not be covered by these exemptions, but they still can claim the right to use copyrighted materials under the doctrine of fair use.

The principles concern the unlicensed fair use of copyrighted materials for education, not the way those materials were acquired. When a user’s copy was obtained illegally or in bad faith, that fact may affect fair use analysis. Otherwise, of course, where a use is fair, it is irrelevant whether the source of the content in question was a recorded over-the-air broadcast, a teacher’s personal copy of a newspaper or a DVD, or a rented or borrowed piece of media. Label5s on commercial media products proclaiming that they are “licensed for home [or private or educational or noncommercial] use only” do not affect in any way the educator’s ability to make fair use of the contents—in fact, such legends have no legal effect whatsoever. (If a teacher is using materials subject to a license agreement negotiated by the school or school system, however, she may be bound by the terms of that license.)

The principles are all subject to a “rule of proportionality.” Educators’ and students’ fair use rights extend to the portions of copyrighted works that they need to accomplish their educational goals—and sometimes even to small or short works in their entirety. By the same token, the fairness of a use depends, in part, on whether the user took more than was needed to accomplish his or her legitimate purpose. That said, there are no numerical rules of thumb that can be relied upon in making this determination.

PRINCIPLES

ONE: EMPLOYING COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL IN MEDIA LITERACY LESSONS

DESCRIPTION: Educators use television news, advertising, movies, still images, newspaper and magazine articles, Web sites, video games, and other copyrighted material to build critical-thinking and communication skills. Common instructional activities include comparison-contrast analysis, deconstruction (close analysis) of the form and content of a message, illustration of key points, and examination of the historical, economic, political, or social contexts in which a particular message was produced and is received.

PRINCIPLE: Under fair use, educators using the concepts and techniques of media literacy can choose illustrative material from the full range of copyrighted sources and make them available to learners, in class, in workshops, in informal mentoring and teaching settings, and on school-related Web sites.

LIMITATIONS: Educators should choose material that is germane to the project or topic, using only what is necessary for the educational goal or purpose for which it is being made. In some cases, this will mean using a clip or excerpt; in other cases, the whole work is needed. Whenever possible, educators should provide proper attribution and model citation practices that are appropriate to the form and context of use. Where illustrative material is made available in digital formats, educators should provide reasonable protection against third-party access and downloads.

TWO: EMPLOYING COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL IN PREPARING CURRICULUM MATERIALS

DESCRIPTION: Teachers use copyrighted materials in the creation of lesson plans, materials, tool kits, and curricula in order to apply the principles of media literacy education and use digital technologies effectively in an educational context. These materials often include clips, copies or examples of copyrighted work along with a description of instructional practices, assignments, and assessment criteria. These materials may include samples of contemporary mass media and popular culture as well as older media texts that provide historical or cultural context.

PRINCIPLE: Under fair use, educators using the concepts and techniques of media literacy can integrate copyrighted material into curriculum materials, including books, workbooks, podcasts, DVD compilations, videos, Web sites, and other materials designed for learning.

LIMITATIONS: Wherever possible, educators should provide attribution for quoted material, and of course they should use only what is necessary for the educational goal or purpose. The materials should meet professional standards for curriculum development, with clearly stated educational objectives, a description of instructional practices, assignments, and assessment criteria.

THREE: SHARING MEDIA LITERACY CURRICULUM MATERIALS

DESCRIPTION: Media literacy curriculum materials always include copyrighted content from mass media and popular culture. Informal sharing of these materials occurs at educational conferences and through professional development programs, as well by electronic means. Media literacy curriculum materials are also developed commercially in collaboration with publishers or nonprofit organizations.

PRINCIPLE: Educators using concepts and techniques of media literacy should be able to share effective examples of teaching about media and meaning with one another, including lessons and resource materials. If curriculum developers are making sound decisions on fair use when they create their materials, then their work should be able to be seen, used, and even purchased by anyone—since fair use applies to commercial materials as well as those produced outside the marketplace model.

LIMITATIONS: In materials they wish to share, curriculum developers should be especially careful to choose illustrations from copyrighted media that are necessary to meet the educational objectives of the lesson, using only what furthers the educational goal or purpose for which it is being made. Often this may mean using a small portion, clip or excerpt, rather than an entire work, although sometimes it may be permissible to use more—or even all. Curriculum developers should not rely on fair use when using copyrighted third-party images or texts to promote their materials. For promotional purposes, the permissions process is appropriate. In addition, if a teacher or a school has specifically agreed to a license, then (of course) its terms are likely to be binding—even if they impinge on what would otherwise be considered fair use. And, of course, illustrative material should be properly attributed wherever possible.

FOUR:STUDENT USE OF COPYRIGHTED MATERIALS IN THEIR OWN ACADEMIC AND CREATIVE WORK

DESCRIPTION: Students strengthen media literacy skills by creating messages and using such symbolic forms as language, images, sound, music, and digital media to express and share meaning. In learning to use video editing software and in creating remix videos, students learn how juxtaposition reshapes meaning. Students include excerpts from copyrighted material in their own creative work for many purposes, including for comment and criticism, for illustration, to stimulate public discussion, or in incidental or accidental ways (for example, when they make a video capturing a scene from everyday life where copyrighted music is playing).

PRINCIPLE: Because media literacy education cannot thrive unless learners themselves have the opportunity to learn about how media functions at the most practical level, educators using concepts and techniques of media literacy should be free to enable learners to incorporate, modify, and re-present existing media objects in their own classroom work. Media production can foster and deepen awareness of the constructed nature of all media, one of the key concepts of media literacy. The basis for fair use here is embedded in good pedagogy.

LIMITATIONS: Students’ use of copyrighted material should not be a substitute for creative effort. Students should be able to understand and demonstrate, in a manner appropriate to their developmental level, how their use of a copyrighted work repurposes or transforms the original. For example, students may use copyrighted music for a variety of purposes, but cannot rely on fair use when their goal is simply to establish a mood or convey an emotional tone, or when they employ popular songs simply to exploit their appeal and popularity. Again, material that is incorporated under fair use should be properly attributed wherever possible. Students should be encouraged to make their own careful assessments of fair use and should be reminded that attribution, in itself, does not convert an infringing use into a fair one.

FIVE: DEVELOPING AUDIENCES FOR STUDENT WORK

DESCRIPTION: Students who are expected to behave responsibly as media creators and who are encouraged to reach other people outside the classroom with their work learn most deeply. Although some student media productions are simply learning exercises designed to develop knowledge and skills, media literacy educators often design assignments so that students have the opportunity to distribute their work.

PRINCIPLE: Educators should work with learners to make a reasoned decision about distribution that reflects sound pedagogy and ethical values. In some cases, widespread distribution of students’ work (via the Internet, for example) is appropriate. If student work that incorporates, modifies, and re-presents existing media content meets the transformativeness standard, it can be distributed to wide audiences under the doctrine of fair use.

LIMITATIONS: Educators and learners in media literacy often make uses of copyrighted works outside the marketplace, for instance in the classroom, a conference, or within a school-wide or district-wide festival. When sharing is confined to a delimited network, such uses are more likely to receive special consideration under the fair use doctrine.

Especially in situations where students wish to share their work more broadly (by distributing it to the public, for example, or including it as part of a personal portfolio), educators should take the opportunity to model the real-world permissions process, with explicit emphasis not only on how that process works, but also on how it affects media making. In particular, educators should explore with students the distinction between material that should be licensed, material that is in the public domain or otherwise openly available, and copyrighted material that is subject to fair use. The ethical obligation to provide proper attribution also should be examined. And students should be encouraged to understand how their distribution of a work raises other ethical and social issues, including the privacy of the subjects involved in the media production.

CONCLUSION

Most “copyright education” that educators and learners have encountered has been shaped by the concerns of commercial copyright holders, whose understandable concern about large-scale copyright piracy has caused them to equate any unlicensed use of copyrighted material with stealing. The situation has been compounded by the—again understandable—risk-aversion of school system administrators and lawyers. So-called fair use guidelines that institutional stakeholders have negotiated with some copyright holders have had similar results, intensifying fear and creating confusion among educators. These approaches have not responded directly to the actual needs of educators and learners, nor have they fully expressed or recognized the legal rights that educators and learners have.

This code of best practices, by contrast, is shaped by educators for educators and the learners they serve, with the help of legal advisors. As an important first step in reclaiming their fair use rights, educators should employ this document to inform their own practices in the classroom and beyond. The next step is for educators to communicate their own learning about copyright and fair use to others, both through practice and through education. Learners mastering the concepts and techniques of media literacy need to learn about the important rights that all new creators, including themselves, have under copyright to use existing materials. Educators also need to share their knowledge and practice with critically important institutional allies and colleagues, such as librarians and school administrators.

Educators need to be leaders, not followers, in establishing best practices in fair use.

COMMON MYTHS ABOUT FAIR USE

MYTH: FAIR USE IS TOO UNCLEAR AND COMPLICATED FOR ME; IT’S BETTER LEFT TO LAWYERS AND ADMINISTRATORS.

TRUTH: The fair use provision of the Copyright Act is written broadly—not narrowly—because it is designed to apply to a wide range of creative works and the people who use them. Fair use is a part of the law that belongs to everyone—especially to working educators. Educators know best what they need to use of existing copyrighted culture to construct their own lessons and materials. Only members of the actual community can decide what’s really needed. Once they know, they can tell their lawyers and administrators.

MYTH: EDUCATORS CAN RELY ON “RULES OF THUMB” FOR FAIR USE GUIDANCE.

TRUTH: Despite longstanding myths, there are no cut-and-dried rules (such as 10 percent of the work being quoted, or 400 words of text, or two bars of music, or 10 seconds of video). Fair use is situational, and context is critical. Because it is a tool to balance the rights of users with the rights of owners, educators need to apply reason to reach a decision. The principles and limitations above are designed to guide your reasoning and to help you guide the reasoning of others.

MYTH: SCHOOL SYSTEM RULES ARE THE LAST WORD OF FAIR USE BY EDUCATORS.

TRUTH: If your school system’s rules let you do everything you need to do, you certainly don’t need this code. But if you need to exercise your fair use rights to get your work done well, in ways that your system’s rules don’t foresee, that’s a different story. In that case, the code may help you to change the rules! Many school policies are based on so-called negotiated fair use guidelines, as discussed above. In their implementation of those guidelines, systems tend to confuse a limited “safe harbor” zone of absolute security with the entire range of possibility that fair use makes available.

MYTH: FAIR USE IS JUST FOR CRITIQUES, COMMENTARIES, OR PARODIES.

TRUTH: Transformativeness, a key value in fair use law, can involve modifying material or putting material in a new context, or both. Fair use applies to a wide variety of purposes, not just critical ones. Using an appropriate excerpt from copyrighted material to illustrate a key idea in the course of teaching is likely to be a fair use, for example. Indeed, the Copyright Act itself makes it clear that educational uses will often be considered fair because they add important pedagogical value to referenced media objects.

MYTH: IF I’M NOT MAKING ANY MONEY OFF IT, IT’S FAIR USE. (AND IF I AM MAKING MONEY OFF IT, IT’S NOT.)

TRUTH: “Noncommercial use” can be a plus in fair use analysis, but its scope is hard to define. If educators or learners want to share their work only with a class (or another defined, closed group) they are in a favorable position. However, some more public uses may be unfair even if no money is exchanged. So if work is going to be shared widely, it is good to be able to rely on transformativeness. As the cases show, a transformative new work can be highly commercial in intent and effect and qualify under the fair use doctrine.

MYTH: FAIR USE IS ONLY A DEFENSE, NOT A RIGHT.

TRUTH: In court, doctrines like self-defense or freedom of speech or fair use aren’t considered until after the plaintiff has proved that there may have been assault or defamation or copyright infringement. Procedurally, that makes these doctrines “affirmative defenses.” But in the real world, people are entitled to protect themselves from harm and to speak their minds; likewise, we acknowledge the right of fair use, which is specifically provided by law to people who make reasonable but unauthorized use of copyrighted works.

MYTH: EMPLOYING FAIR USE IS TOO MUCH TROUBLE; I DON’T WANT TO FILL OUT ANY FORMS.

TRUTH: Users who claim fair use simply use copyrighted works after making an assessment of the particular situation—there’s nothing formal or official to “do” to claim fair use. You do not have to ask permission or alert the copyright holder when considering a use of materials that is protected by fair use. But, if you choose, you may inquire about permissions and still claim fair use if your request is refused or ignored. In some cases, courts have found that asking permission and then being rejected has actually enhanced fair use claims.

MYTH: FAIR USE COULD GET ME SUED.

TRUTH: That’s very, very unlikely. We don’t know of any lawsuit actually brought by an American media company against an educator over the use of media in the educational process. Before even considering a lawsuit, a copyright owner typically will take the cheap and easy step of sending a “cease and desist” letter, sometimes leading the recipient to think that she is being sued rather than just threatened. An aggressive tone does not necessarily mean that the claims are legitimate or that a lawsuit will be filed.

SIGNATORIES

Action Coalition for Media Education
A member-supported, independent, nonprofit educational coalition of educators, students, health professionals, journalists, media makers, parents, activists, and other citizens

Media Education Foundation
Produces and distributes films, study guides, and other teaching materials that examine the impact of media on society

National Association for Media Literacy Education
Formerly Alliance for a Media Literate America, a national membership organization dedicated to advancing the practice of media literacy education in the United States

National Council of Teachers of English
A 60,000-member international organization devoted to improving the teaching and learning of English and the language arts at all levels of education

Visual Communication Studies Division of the International Communication Association
A division examining visual representation in all its forms, within an academic association for scholars interested in the study of communication with more than 3,500 members in 65 countries

LEGAL ADVISORY BOARD

Jamie B. Bischoff
Ballard Spahr Andrews and Ingersoll LLP
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Robert W. Clarida
Cowan, Liebowitz, and Latman, P.C.
New York, New York

Kenneth D. Crews
Copyright Advisory Office
Columbia University
New York, New York

Michael J. Madison
University of Pittsburgh
School of Law
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Jennifer Urban
Intellectual Property and Technology Law Clinic
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA

Funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, with additional support from the Ford Foundation through the Future of Public Media Project.

Feel free to reproduce this work in its entirety. For excerpts and quotations, depend upon fair use.

FUNDER
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

ADDITIONAL SUPPORT FROM
The Ford Foundation through the Future of Public
Media Project
centerforsocialmedia.org/medialiteracy

Fair Use and Education, A Fifth Grade Scenario

The scenario we were supposed to write about concerned a teacher who was using materials on Africa for her fifth grade social studies class. In a nutshell from the teacher’s perspective we were supposed to write a memo explaining why we felt we could use the materials or why we used some materials we shouldn’t have used. I couldn’t find a reason why the teacher did anything wrong. Below is the paper I wrote.

Re: Copyright Issues and Fair Use
Ms. Wright, 6 grade
Small Town Elementary, Ohio
October 10, 2011

A recent incident over the fair use of copyrighted material, highlights possible misunderstandings at Small Town Elementary School. This memorandum is submitted to help clarify the issue of fair use. There seems to be some question of copyright violations concerning some videos and photographs I have been using for my sixth grade history curriculum on Africa. I have used some videos of programs I copied from the Discovery Channel, PBS, and others. I showed a video I rented from the video store, and I copied some photographs from a National Geographic compact disk I personally own. The school librarian believes that I am violating copyright law. And although I am not a lawyer, I spent some time on the internet researching fair use. Retrieved from the government website, (http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html) fair use is stated as follows:

107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair Use 40
Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include —
(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Also, from the government web site:
It is not necessary to obtain permission if you show the movie in the course of “face-to-face teaching activities” in a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction, if the copy of the movie being performed is a lawful copy. 17 U.S.C. § 110(1). This exemption encompasses instructional activities relating to a wide variety of subjects, but it does not include performances for recreation or entertainment purposes , even if there is cultural value or intellectual appeal. (http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-fairuse.html#movies)

Although I copied the documentaries with my VCR, I believe I did so legally under sections 106 and 106A. I showed The Ghost and the Darkness in it’s entirety, however, I provided the movie for instruction rather than entertainment. There appears to be no direct reference within the fair use law that specifies any time restrictions or limitations to how I may use a video for educational purposes. What I understand from my research is that in most cases, utilizing media in the classroom will not have copyright implications as the content in question is covered by exemptions for educators in Sections 110.1 and 110.2 of the Copyright Act.

The U.S. copyright laws concerning fair use are written to allow broad interpretation. Additional guidelines have been created by various institutions, but these informal agreements are guidelines and best practices and are not law. As I continued researching fair use I found guidance that excelled the quoted stature and have no apparent legal grounds. I found some fair use guidance on the University of Standford’s website. The web page, http://fairuse.stanford.edu/Copyright_and_Fair_Use_Overview/chapter7/7-b.html, list rules as to how long a broadcast video tape may be viewed etc. However, no references are given for these rules. (There is an ad for the book, however; click it to purchase.)

On the other hand, according to the website from the Center for Social Media at the American University, “The various negotiated agreements that have emerged since passage of the Copyright Act of 1976 have never had the force of law, and in fact, the guidelines bear little relationship to the actual doctrine of fair use.”  (http://centerforsocialmedia.org/) Although this quote specifically refers to media literacy education, it is reasonable to infer that using media, as is, also falls under this scope.

Those who try to limit fair use forget that the reason we have fair use in the first place is so that our students may have the benefit of the copyrighted material. There is an unwarranted fear and confusion about copyright and fair use laws which hinders the quality of teaching in this school. Misinformation about fair use squelches learning and limits the use of interesting learning tools. Other than close my classroom doors and hide what I fear is infringement, or comply with imagined fabricated rules that exceed the spirit and letter of the law, I would like to clear this misunderstanding up so that I do not limit the effectiveness of my teaching.

As there is so much confusion and misinformation concerning copyright law, many groups have developed best practices to follow concerning copyright. For example, documentary film makers have their own code. A group from the Center of Social Media at American University developed a code of best practices by educators with the help of legal advisors; the intent of the code is to guide educators concerning fair use in the classroom. The code was reviewed by a committee of legal scholars and lawyers expert in copyright and fair use. Although the code is not law, I believe that this code is congruent with the spirit of fair use and applies to my use of copyrighted materials.
According to the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Education,

The principles concern the unlicensed fair use of copyrighted materials for education, not the way those materials were acquired. When a user’s copy was obtained illegally or in bad faith, that fact may affect fair use analysis. Otherwise, of course, where a use is fair, it is irrelevant whether the source of the content in question was a recorded over-the-air broadcast, a teacher’s personal copy of a newspaper or a DVD, or a rented or borrowed piece of media. Labels on commercial media products proclaiming that they are “licensed for home [or private or educational or noncommercial] use only” do not affect in any way the educator’s ability to make fair use of the contents—in fact, such legends have no legal effect whatsoever…..Educators’ and students’ fair use rights extend to the portions of copyrighted works that they need to accomplish their educational goals—and sometimes even to small or short works in their entirety. By the same token, the fairness of a use depends, in part, on whether the user took more than was needed to accomplish his or her legitimate purpose. That said, there are no numerical rules of thumb that can be relied upon in making this determination.
(http://centerforsocialmedia.org/fair-use/related-materials/codes/code-best-practices-fair-use-media-literacy-education)

The above statement, reviewed by a legal advisory board, makes it clear that the materials I am using in the classroom fall under fair use. I will, however, remain diligent to remain complaint with copyright laws.

If educators want to make a difference in our student’s learning, we need to incorporate hands-on active learning tools, rich with interesting content, applicable to today’s media saturated students. In order to get their attention, we must change how we teach, and if that means that we are bold with fair use laws, so be it.

Ms. Wright

To view the entire Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education please visit: http://centerforsocialmedia.org/fair-use/related-materials/codes/code-best-practices-fair-use-media-literacy-education

Technolgoy Debate

I learned from the technology debate in my Computer Applications Class that teachers from this course are very passionate about technology in the classroom. Our debate was over an ambitious teacher, Kristen, who received a technology grant and now needed to get other teachers excited about using technology in the classroom. In this debate, you will choose a side and make arguments for and against the widespread implementation of technology in the classroom. Should the other teachers join Kristen in implementing widespread use of technology in their classroom?

I was on the con side. Normally I would appreciate being on the con side of technology but I felt that Kristen should have got the teachers on board before she applied for the grant. The sad thing is that most of those teachers who think it is a waste of their time won’t even hear what Kristen has to say.

Plenty of hot debating in this issue. I didn’t respond as much as I might have if I were a teacher in K-12. However I did read what everyone had to say. I did perceive that people were often uncomfortable with the side they were on and were apologetic for their hot disputes.

I don’t know how you could have improved this discussion other than let people choose sides. However, everyone in this class probably would have been “pro” and then there would not have been a debate.

I copied some articles. I’m weird. I love reading the journals.

More Research Concept Maps

According to Jonassen, D., Howland, J., & Marra, R., “Building models using different computer-based modeling tools is perhaps the most conceptually engaging classroom activity possible that has the greatest potential for engaging and encouraging conceptual change processes.” (2011, Kindle Location 4564). The assumption is that if the student can’t model it, they don’t know it. Modeling may be created using concept mapping, spreadsheets, and databases, among others. “When using computers as Mindtools to model phenomena, students are teaching the computer, rather than the computer teaching the student.” (Jonassen, et al., 2001, Kindle Location 4593) Students cannot use concept mapping without deep thinking about the content. In other words, the user has to think harder about the content than how to use the computer to render the content.

Concept Mapping  and other Mindtools (Jonassen, 2006) help students comprehend and remember what they are learning. Should the model be of systems and how they are integrated together, then it helps the student understand how the information is tied together. In addition, if the students compare their concept maps with other students they can see how others represent the same ideas, for deeper thinking.

Working together on concept maps are also useful because this gives the learners a reason to reflect on knowledge  in association with ideas presented by the others in the group.

A concept map is composed of nodes (or concepts and ideas) that are connected by links which are propositions or relationships. In software programs the nodes are represented by blocks and the links are represented by lines. According to Jonassen, et al., (2001) the ability to describe the links is the most important intellectual requirement and that concept mapping software without this ability is not useful. “The more exact and descriptive these links are, the better the map is.” (Jonassen, et al., 2001) For this reason, Jonassen, et al do not think that adding graphics, etc. is prudent. It’s easy to get carried away with the graphics and give less importance to the links.

Jonassen, David H.; Howland, Jane L.; Marra, Rose M. (2011). Meaningful learning with technology, 4th Edition. Allyn & Bacon. Kindle Edition.

Jonassen, David H. (2006). Modeling with technology: Mindtools for conceptual change. Columbus, OH: Merrill/Prentice-Hall.

Making the Web Accessible

This week we are studying accessibility. I had no idea how little I knew.

As I was looking through the resources, I realized that before the college can provide accessible online courses, colleges have to train the designers to make the information accessible in the first place! My background is publishing; I made thousands of pdfs for a MAJOR book publisher and not ONCE was I asked to make it accessible. I didn’t know anything about pdf accessibility! And I can tell you, I know A LOT about pdfs. And guess what? I watched the Adobe video on how to make an accessible pdf and it is easy to do! Not only that, but it is even easier to make the files accessible in the native authoring program, i.e. InDesign. I have put together entire textbooks with InDesign. And guess what? I didn’t know there were accessibility features. I’m saying all of this to make a point. Most things that show up in a web course has to be created elsewhere first. Accessibility is hidden in the files, where the average user doesn’t see them. But these hidden instructions mean something to screen readers.

I think that when someone is designing a poster, or a math book, the person isn’t thinking that one day that material may be on the web. Sometimes we must think of where our product might end before we even begin. Accessibility is one of those times.

I realize I am probably the only person in the class who uses InDesign rather than Word. So I went to the Microsoft website and found this video about how to make Word documents accessible.

Video: Find and fix accessibility issues in Word 2010

Excuse me while I change some of the colors in my web site….