Intellectual Property Rights In Real Life

It’s hard to teach students the rationale for proper attribution and citation when the only contexts and consequences they experience exist at school. If they copy a paper, teachers tell them it’s dishonest and unfair to the original author, but the punishment comes from us. There is no tangible victim with whom students can empathize, nor a punishment that is meaningful in the real world (many of my students do not consider grades part of the real world).

Today I got an opportunity to give my students a real-world lesson in intellectual property rights and infringement. They’ve been working on propaganda video projects for the past three weeks as part of our interwar years unit. Today they submitted them and we spent the class period watching and critiquing their efforts. I required the students to upload their videos to YouTube to eliminate problems with incompatible file formats – every year a student uses Windows Movie Maker and copies the .wlmp file instead of exporting it as an AVI or MP4 (.wlmp is the index file that simply references the media; it’s similar to an iMovie project file). Most students were able to accomplish this, but one group uploaded their work and rushed to class, only to be met with this screen when we tried to play it back:


Unauthorized user. Access denied!
Unauthorized user. Access denied!

That’s right – just like TurnItIn scans student papers for plagiarism, YouTube scans media files for copyrighted video or audio and automatically strips them out. Other students received similar warnings about copyright infringement due to background music, without their videos actually being blocked.

I explained to the class that this was a real world consequence of their plagiarism, and that this was why we teachers valued originality of words and ideas. Even when done without malicious intent, copying was considered copyright infringment (akin to plagiarism), and businesses cared about it, too. The group whose video was blocked was really disappointed that they weren’t able to showcase their hard work and get feedback from the class, and were shocked to learn that if they had infringed in the course of paid, commercial work, they or their employer might be liable for thousands of dollars in penalties. It was a meaningful consequence and a lesson that they will remember for their next project.

This wasn’t the end, though. The group was able to export their video from a laptop to a flash drive, so I played it locally from my computer towards the end of the period, bypassing YouTube’s content checking. When we watched their video, I saw that they had taken many separate clips – no more than 30 seconds each – and remixed them into an original piece that did a fairly good job as a propaganda video. Once we watched the video, I asked the students if the work did, in fact, constitute plagiarism/infringement. The class agreed that the group had created an original work without using substantial portions of any one clip. So the lesson turned into one about corporate overreach and the challenges that artists and creative minds face in the digital world. Not too bad for a 10th grade project on totalitarianism and propaganda.

The Kuwait Bucket List

My girlfriend and l will leave Kuwait at the end of this school year, and although Kuwait has a reputation for not being the most stimulating city, we’re sure there are things we’ll miss. We’ve yet to find out what they are, but in an effort to find out we’ve compiled a bucket list of goals we want to achieve before we leave Kuwait forever. So far, this includes:

  1. Camel races
  2. Dhow cruise
  3. Falaika Island
  4. Kuwaiti breakfast
  5. Outlandishly expensive burgers at Slider Station
  6. Souvenir shopping at the Iranian Souq
  7. Dinner at the Heritage Souq
  8. Tailoring at the Fabric Souq
  9. Salhiya Complex

We’ve decided not to travel for the week off that we get for the Kuwait National Day holiday, so we’ve already started to work through some of these.

Camel races

A few weeks ago we took an afternoon trip to camel races. The drive took us 30km west, past the airport and down a narrow road in a desolate stretch of desert. The road was lined by an aged wire fence buried under plastic bags and heaps of sand, and a few kilometers in it curved around Kuwait’s dumping group for discarded construction materials, making the whole thing a very post-apocalyptic experience. The camel races themselves were a kilometer or two past the dump, with an unassuming clubhouse sitting next to an 8km oval track. There’s no betting at the races, of course, but it was valuable as a cultural experience.


Outlandishly expensive burgers at Slider Station

Kuwait doesn’t have many homegrown businesses, as most residents here prefer to frequent foreign chains like Shake Shack, Johnny Rockets, and others, but when Kuwaitis do open a business they tend to be innovative and well-executed. Witness Slider Station: an industrial-chique burger joint, replete with house music, dim lighting, and a conveyor belt ala kaiten sushi. Their sliders offer tastes from Thai beef with basil to wagyu beef to cheese-stuffed mushrooms. I’d been wanting to try their 11.25KD (~35USD) monster burger for a while – you get your name on the wall if you eat the entire 1.5lbs of meat – but when I arrived I decided that if I wanted to gorge on meat I could do that at Elevation Burger, which offers a multi-patty option, up to 10 if you so choose. So I opted for their 11.25KD Wagyu beef burger with goose fat fries. Wagyu, famous for its marbled texture, is supposed to be THE prime beef, but this burger didn’t blow me away. It was good, but not enough to justify the premium over Slider Station’s other delicious options. And I’m not sure that goose fat is all that different from other fat – the fries weren’t distinct from their regular shoestrings.

Kuwaiti Breakfast

It’s not all that different from what you’d get in the Levant or Anatolia, which is to say that Kuwaiti breakfasts are composed of a delicious selection of eggs, foul and hummous, heavy cream (khaimak) with honey and jams, and an assortment of breads and pastries. I went with my Kuwaiti friend (that’s right, I really only have one) to Cafe Bazza, set just off of 2nd ring and the Gulf Road. The heavy cream really makes the meal – I will miss this.

#Gafesummit Reflections: Six Selections, from Student Showcases to Haiku

The UAE GAFE summit was held at ASD this year.
The UAE GAFE summit was held at ASD this year.

As a teacher in Kuwait, I always relish the opportunity to escape Kuwait whenever possible and spend the weekend drinking Belgian beer meet other like-minded teachers and learn practical applications of 21st century pedagogy. The selection and quality of the keynote speakers and keynotes at the UAE Google Apps for Education Summit at the American School of Dubai made this one of the best PDs I’ve done to date. A few highlights:

1) ASD Showcase

ASD hosted a showcase on the first day to highlight their students’ achievements using technology. They were predominantly examples of how technology had modified assessment: PSAs created in Final Cut Pro by the video production class, virtual posters made on Glogster by 5th graders, Lego programming with Scratch done by 4th graders, various presentations in Prezi and Google Presentations, and short history graphic novels designed using Comic Life. Other displays highlighted how technology had truly redefined instruction: a 1st grade class used Explain Everything and shared their work by miroring their displays to a projector with AirShow, while the PE classes used iPod touches to record video to peer-evaluate form and technique.

2) Chromebooks

See how many students in ASD’s showcase used tools in the cloud made me reevaluate my stance on Google’s Chromebook line. I had previously thought that they were limited to surfing the web and doing Google Docs, since there are no local apps and everything is done through the browser. But hey, it turns out that you can edit videos in the cloud using YouTube and Animoto! Chromebooks still aren’t appropriate for heavy-duty digital media, but at a $200-$250 price point they don’t need to be. For schools on a budget who want to go 1 to 1 but don’t want to do a BYOD policy, I’d tentatively recommend them – specifically Samsung’s $250 model for a 7-hour battery life or HP’s version for a 14″ screen.

3) Hapara’s Teacher Dashboard

Hapara’s third-party addon for Google Docs gives teachers a dashboard where they can see all of their students’ recent work/emails/blog posts/blog comments at a glance. It’s $4/year/student, but it makes Google Drive’s interface a lot more manageable and injects a measure of accountability into the “wildly creative” and independent nature of collaborative learning.

The ASD Showcase spanned all grade levels and content areas - even PE!
The ASD Showcase spanned all grade levels and content areas – even PE!

4) Infrastructure tour

ASD has a university-quality network setup thanks to the planning of IT Director Grant Weaver. It’s been key to the success of their 1-to-1 program, which is just about having an internet connection for every student as it for having a device for each student. The highlights for me included:

  • PFSense boxes that aggregated 11 DSL lines into a single pool of bandwidth for the campus
  • An Aruba WiFi implementation that allows them to manage number of devices connecting, allowing students and faculty one laptop and one other mobile device (the Aruba controller can tell the type of device connecting to its hotspots)
  • Linux-based print controllers running PaperCut connecting to each shared laser printer, which require users to be physically present to release their print jobs and thus cuts down on paper wastage
  • Palo Alto application-based firewalls – this allows them to, say, restrict Facebook at all times except for lunch, or limit YouTube streaming to 1Mbps instead of cutting it off completely, or block torrent downloads during the day but not overnight.

5) E-portfolios

I saw two ways of creating e-portfolios using Blogger and Google Sites. For a portfolio made for a single deadline, I’d recommend using Google Sites since it offers more control over the organization and layout of your site. Blogger is more oriented towards a chronological series of posts and makes it harder to control the layout and organization, but that same attribute means it’s good for capturing a students progress over time, such as over the three years of middle school

6) Haiku LMS

Haiku's LMS gives you more control over the layout of your online courses.
Haiku’s LMS gives you more control over the layout of your online courses.

ASD decided to use Haiku as their Learning Managment System (LMS). Its featureset is pretty similar to Moodle, but the interface seems simpler and more polished, it offers Google Apps integration, and crucially it offers much more control over the appeaance and layout of individual courses. This makes it more useful for disseminating general information about a class. At ASD, the elementary school has one course set up for each grade level that functions as a portal for parents. This implementation is slowly replacing the previous internal community portal powered by Google Sites.

Five Sessions I Wish I Could Have Attended

I couldn’t fit all the sessions into my schedule, but if I could have then I would have added a few more:

  • 20 Top Apps Workshop: this apparently was like a mini Google Slam, where 20 useful tools were demoed in about 3 minutes each.
  • Visual literacy workshop: I’d better get on board with this if I don’t want to miss out on the wave of the future. Farewell, print literacy!
  • Youtube workshops: I’ve always thought that iMovie was THE way to edit movies, but between YouTube and Animoto there are more and more ways for students to create multimedia stories. I’m assuming this is what you’d use to edit video on a Chromebook.
  • Digital Citizenship: I wish I did more in my classes to develop the children as individuals, not just as students. I attended two previous NESA conferences to get a Habits of Mind certificate, and this falls into the same vein.
  • Google Apps Mashups: Because anything I can do to make my planning and teaching workflow more like DJ Danger Mouse and Girl Talk must be a good thing. Also heard that this was a popular (and therefore overcrowded) session.

 Here’s a link to the online presentations from many of the sessions.

“You must harness the wild, unpredictable creativity of my children through authentic and collaborative assignments, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.”

I was already familiar with many of the pedagogical concepts presented in the sessions and keynotes (a wild era of creativity, the necessity of collaboration, etc etc etc) but the showcase and infrastructure impressed one thing upon me as a classroom teacher and future IT coordinator: the technology needs to be a seamless part of the learning process; it must be transparent and effortless. Asking student to open their laptops and start writing a collaborative brainstorm is vastly different from explaining the task in class, having them gather materials, taking them to a lab, and then getting them set up again. Even mobile laptop carts don’t match the seamlessness of a 1:1 program – there’s still overhead in the setup and takedown process. Next year, as the IT Coordinator of a small school, I’ll look to implement this philosophy wherever I can.