Last week (which was bonkers by the way) I worked with our eighth grades using Glogster. We spent a whole day in the library tech center, learning how to use Glogster and then starting to play around with it. The assignment is awesome: the kids are creating posters about one key character in Lord of the Flies. The concept is that after the boys are rescued, the ship captain is creating posters to try to reach out to the boys’ families, either to try to reconnect the survivors with their parents or to memorialize the lives of those boys who died on the island. I can’t take any credit for the assignment; it was created by our two eighth grade English teachers.
So Glogs, as you know if you’ve ever made one, are super fun to use. You’re not really thinking about the fact that you’re working, but you are. You’ve got one page to prove your point, so you have to take all that you know about a topic and boil it down into a few key points, images, and pieces of media. But it looks great and is easy to use, so it’s learning disguised as a game, almost.
As part of the lesson, we had to talk about a few things besides the mechanics of actually using Glogster. The first was using a Creative Commons search to find images; the second was using Jamendo to find music.
The most fascinating conversation developed from this. The students had never really talked before about how using media for a project needs to be treated the same way as using written quotes and ideas. I first asked the students how they cited text in their papers. Then I asked how they treated other people’s ideas that had been rewritten in their own words. They all totally got that both need to be cited, and why. I told them that there was a name for someone else’s idea: intellectual property. While the concept wasn’t foreign, the exact phrase was.
So, I said, the same concept applies to non-written stuff like photos and music and videos. I asked them how many of them had photos online, and the majority of them do, through Facebook. I gave them this scenario: I am doing a presentation in California on the state of Connecticut independent school students, and I decide that I am going to download a bunch of their Facebook photos and put them in my presentation. Is that OK with them?
No! So creepy!
So then I say: what if I asked you if it was OK, and if it was, I gave you credit for the photo?
Yes, they said. That’s OK.
So: that’s the whole concept behind citing images. And the nice thing about images that have a Creative Commons license is that the creators have already given us that permission. We don’t need to ask. We just need to give them credit! Pretty nice.
Moving on to music, I showed them Jamendo and explained the concept behind it. This led to a fabulous discussion of why it’s wrong to rip music from CDs and distribute them, or use music from iTunes in their entirety for digital projects. But what about mix CDs, they asked. Technically yes, I said, though certainly this is a gray area since I’ve made mix CDs! Some people would argue that it is not piracy, but some people may disagree. Some areas–file sharing, selling copied CDs, distributing music to a big group of people–were black-and-white examples of piracy for the students.
We didn’t fully resolve that conversation, but it was a great one to have.
All in all, I think what struck me the post about these classes was that out of a simple project–using Glogster to replace a traditional posted assignment–we ended up having a long conversation about intellectual property, copyright, piracy, and sharing. And though I would like to say that that was my intention, the truth is that this snuck up on me.
Which is why I love my job.