This week I had an experience that Ive decided I’m happy about. To keep it vague I will leave out names, but I initially thought it was a funny story. Now I think it is an affirmation. Let me share.
I sat in a workshop with my coworkers as a presenter did a fabulous job motivating us for the upcoming school year. We were given some excellent strategies to try as ways to change up the much hated (by me) “sit and get” style teaching/learning used in many classrooms. Even in our three and a half hour workshop, we sat very little for extended amounts of time, as our presenter perfectly modeled changing activities about every twenty minutes. (Just in case your curious, we were directed to do an assortment of activities, like find different people to share, move into small groups, work a puzzle, etc.) as ways to practice what the skill or purpose of the workshop was. It did make the time seem to go by rapidly. Great ideas and take-aways to use the absolute first day of school.
One of the activities included a picture book readaloud. There are MANY picture books that cover higher grade standards, and can be a way to introduce, supplement, or enhance activities to teach content standards. Far too many think picture books are for the very young, but there are many that cover heavy themed topics.
What’s wrong with this picture?
But the presenter had scanned all the pages of the book for the read aloud. In the room there were phrases and as the story was read, we were to use inference skills to decide when our phrase was appropriate, and then insert it when it was time. The pictures scanned had the text removed. When the activity began, one of my colleagues announced to the group that someone should cover my eyes. Perplexed the presenter wanted an explanation. My colleagues proceeded to tell the presenter that some copyright laws had been broken. I had already come to this conclusion myself, but wasn’t about to say a word! So the presenter came to me (yes, I felt like I had been thrown under the truck) and asked. So I quietly said the book had been scanned, meaning the format had been changed and the text removed, or edited. Both of the two actions were copyright violations. I had to make assurances that we would not pass judgment for the sake of learning. I also suggested that permission may be granted from the author if asked since it was for educational use.
Educate yourself and model it
What is reassuring about this whole incident is that the people I worked with recognized the violation, and in an indirect way credited me with teaching them about it. I had to explain to our presenter that what I had been trying to impress upon everyone is that we need to model proper use of images, sounds, videos, and any other multimedia, and their bringing it up was really an affirmation that they understand it, and hopefully are following through with their instructional practices. I tell you though, I was shocked and caught off guard that someone would call attention to the issue during the workshop. I had totally decided to sit mum. Afterall, I would never openly question someone else presenting–unless invited to. I tried to keep the response to a minimum, and the presenter sensed that, but at the very next break in activity, I was pulled aside and questioned deeper in regards to the issue.
Teachable moments come in all kinds of places
Call it a learning opportunity or a teachable moment. Kudos to my colleagues for demonstrating that something I had been saying had finally sunk in. I see daily violations in all facets of life, and oftentimes feel I’m fighting a losing battle. Some people think its ridiculous to think that copyright laws should not be broken, particularly in this day and age when the tools that are used to do it are readily available in most libraries and home offices. But I say as an educator we should model ethical use, and as a good person, we should model proper behavior and the golden rule–do unto others and you would have them do unto you.
Even the experts do it though, with repercussions
This is all funny in light of what I read yesterday about an ad that John McCain recently ran. Seems he enhanced his ad, which was an attack on Obama, with a song by Jackson Browne called “Running on Empty.” And it seems he did not have permission, so he is being sued for copyright infringement. Yet another example I’ll file away to show students when the teachable moment pops up again. The issue is modeling ethical use. Far too often we think of these laws as harmless ones to break. It sends the message that it is okay, & it undermines authority in general. THAT is the issue.
Photo by Leeks