copyright and active learning

April 12, 2011 at 10:57 am Leave a comment

Last week’s topic was copyright, and I’m pretty pleased with how the lesson went.

I’ve been reading Jane Vella’s Taking Learning to Task (on the recommendation of “Adults and Library Instruction: The Four ‘I’s in Instruction,” a chapter in one of those Library Instruction books I’ve mentioned before), which is how to teach using active learning, or the 4 Is (Inductive work, Input, Implementation, and Integration).

Basically, the premise is something all teacher ed students learn in our education classes; that students have a certain amount of preexisting knowledge about any topic, and in order to teach them effectively you have to draw on this knowledge and then “scaffold” the learning process in order for students to reach the understanding you want them to. Vella and Fernando Menendez’s 4 Is model starts by connecting the new material with the students’ preexisting knowledge, then an activity that encourages students to interact with the new material, then an activity that gets students to implement their new knowledge somehow, and then an activity that integrates this newfound knowledge into their lives. (So it’s a circle, really, with the student and his/her life as both the starting and ending point.)

My lesson on copyright wasn’t as true to these active learning precepts as I would have liked (all four stages are supposed to be an activity–this is active versus passive learning, after all), but it still seemed to work out well.

Inductive work: I started by asking the class what they thought copyright is, and we discussed it a bit in terms of plagiarism as well (since we’d covered that in an earlier class.

Input: A 3.5-page reading from their textbook, during which I asked them to keep in mind two questions: “Can you copyright an idea?” and “What’s the difference between fair use and public domain?” We then discussed the answers to these questions as a class, as well as the deeper issues behind them (WHY can’t you copyright an idea? Fair use items are still copyrighted, but ones in the public domain are not. etc.)

A short video, recommended by Sarah Houghton-Jan, that explains the basics of copyright in a much more entertaining way than I ever could. (My students were totally baffled on why I asked them to take notes on this. It was a revelation when I said it might help them study for the final exam. Obviously I’ll need to take some of the suggestions from this ProfHacker post on encouraging effective note-taking next semester!)

An interactive PowerPoint based on a resource recommended by one of these Library Instruction books I’ve mentioned before: 10 Big Myths About Copyright Explained. (By interactive, I mean I introduced the myth, asked for ideas why it is false, and tried to encourage discussion by using real-world examples they’d be familiar with.) This allowed for more interaction with the students, and they really got into discussing derivative works (why Pride and Prejudice and Zombies doesn’t violate copyright, for example, but a Twilight and Mr. Darcy would, and “Weird Al” Yankovic’s albums are okay because they’re parody but Beyonce’s modified cover of Des’ree’s “I’m Kissing You” is not) and whether authors/artists should be okay with unauthorized reuse of their work because it’s free advertising (the creator gets to decide whether s/he wants free advertising, and sometimes they don’t, such as when J.K. Rowling shut down a Harry-Potter-themed Hindu festival in India–but is okay with Harry Potter partyware licensed through Warner Brothers).

Implementation: I asked my students to visit The Copyright Website (another resource recommended by the Library Instruction book Teaching Information Literacy Concepts: Activities and Frameworks from the Field (number 6 in the series). This Web site is a great resource of case studies of recent copyright infringement cases, and is organized by media type (movies, music, software, etc.), so there’s a wide variety of options to choose from. I asked my students to pick one case to look at with a partner, and after reviewing it to write a 200-word paper summarizing the facts of the case, why it was considered a copyright infringement, and whether (and why) the student thought it was indeed a copyright infringement.

This last activity was wildly successful–both classes spent about 40 minutes on it, which is much longer than I expected, and a good deal of that time was spent comparing notes with their classmates on their respective cases and looking closely at the details of the cases to see if they really were copyright infringements. I heard lots of “I can’t believe Beyonce did that!” and “I won’t be buying any more of her albums!” And judging by the papers they turned in, there was some good critical thinking that went on. Yay!

Integration: This was the weakest of my four; they have a new paper to work on, and part of it involves describing the information literacy process, including the “ethical use of information”–i.e., what we went over in class that night.

Overall I’m quite pleased. Only two weeks of class left, which will be spent working on this paper and reviewing for/taking this exam, so no new material to present. (Though I’m working on a fun way to prep for the exam this week!) I’m looking forward to doing this all over next semester–which starts a week and a half after this one ends–having learned from my mistakes this first go-around and implementing the great activities I’ve stumbled across in the Library Instruction books.


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

small steps towards better library instruction creating better PowerPoints: notes on Bozarthzone! Where’s the Power? What’s Your Point?

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