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3-in-One: Teach Copyright, Narration, and Have Artwork for Back to School Night

posted Jun 22, 2013, 12:52 PM by Kate Petty   [ updated Jun 22, 2013, 1:07 PM ]

Copyright is important to me as a teacher who asks her students to be online, a lot.  Most colleagues are surprised that I introduce it on Day 2 of the school year.  But why not?  One activity can accomplish a lot of check marks off my “beginning of the year checklist.”  All it takes is a self-portrait, six-word memoir, and exploration of Creative Commons.

First Day of the School Year:
Self-Portraits: Yep, we take role, assign seats, and go over a syllabus/course description all in a shortened period. Why not add one more? A self-portrait. Handout a blank piece of paper and ask students to draw a picture of themselves as homework. They look at you like you’re nuts...and then they look around and wonder if they are in the right class...and then they realize you are serious.

Second Day of the School Year:
Six-Word Memoirs: Ask students to pull out their homework and allow them 2 minutes to show-off their artwork to their friends (they will do this anyway so allowing the time will prevent exasperation on your part). Now explain that students will write an autobiography BUT the catch is they have a six-word limit. Yes, I typed that correctly. They will write a Six-Word Memoir that sums up their life. Show this 2.34 minute video from Smith Magazine to help explain the concept. The six-words will be written on their self-portrait.

This activity will be easy for some and agony for others. I like the activity because it forces students to start thinking concisely, something that is valued in my classroom throughout the year. Give them a few minutes to work on their memoirs and then explain they will need to have it, along with the next activity, ready for tomorrow.

Introduction to Creative Commons

Copyright, Fair Use, Creative Commons:
Students have been told over and over not to copy things from the internet. They’ve learned (well, some of them) that the only copying teachers care about is words, plagiarism. Students and teachers have been pilfering pictures from Google Images for projects and presentations since Google Images was invented. Understandable right? The stakes aren’t very high when using desktop software that will never see the light of the internet. However, now that students and teachers are publishing to the internet more and more each day, using copyrighted material, any of it, is serious and should be taught that way.

I explain there are two types of rules in the world, one for education (Fair Use) and one for everyone else (Copyright). We go through the rules and we do a small oral quiz using scenarios to see which category the scenario goes in.

Next, I explain that there is a place they can go to avoid the rules for Fair Use and Copyright- Anyone who has labeled their work or licensed it under Creative Commons (CC) has already given permission to use as little or as much of their work as a user would like, the user just has to provide credit to the artist. The rules for use in CC can get stricter depending on what you want to do with the work (i.e. change it, use for commercial reasons, etc), but for the basic purposes of copying/pasting the work and using it in class, out of class, or anywhere on the web, anyone (not just students) can use it with credit provided. I like this prezi to hammer the point in. I also like this Creative Commons intro video (different from the one above).

So now what? In addition to adding a 6-word memoir to their self-portraits, students must choose which CC licenses they want to link to their project and draw them in the bottom, left-hand corner of the work. They must also explain why they chose to use the symbols they selected on the back of their papers.

My students learn on Day 2 of school that they are not allowed to find any images for use in my class for the rest of the year unless they come from Creative Commons and attribute the images to the artist. Do they need to be reminded? Yes. But if I remind them everyday for about two weeks, they won’t need it again (for most).

What do you have at the end of this two-day lesson? A project that enabled creativity in art and words, a narrative lesson, savvy students in digital citizenship, and a student-created wall of papers for Back to School Night.