Tag Archives: teaching

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.

Showcase: Feudalism Pyramid

ᔥ MerryFarmer

Feudalism is another one of those concepts that can be entertainingly and deliciously demonstrated in a classroom setting by having students play the roles of the different social stations in the pyramid and making candy representative of the rights and obligations due between lords and vassals. The teacher provides a running narrative of how feudalism works throughout this activity, making it a very interactive lecture.

Continue reading Showcase: Feudalism Pyramid

Showcase: iClickers

Clickers for engagementWhen planes crash, investigators sift through the wreckage to find the “black box” flight recorder. It tells them what went wrong – was there an equipment malfunction? Pilot error? Bird strikes? They use that data to try and prevent future problems.

Summative assessment, in education parlance, is like an airplane’s black box. It comes at the end of a unit, and it might be a test, essay, presentation, or something else. A teacher grading it can tell what “went wrong” with a student’s learning from the type of mistakes he makes. And he can use that information to inform future teaching. But it would be much preferable if we could prevent students from crashing and burning during tests in the first place.

That’s where formative assessment comes into play – those checks for understanding that take place throughout a unit and help a teacher correct misunderstandings and clarify important concepts before big events. iClickers are a new-ish way of generating hard data, interactively, on student understanding.
Continue reading Showcase: iClickers

Showcase: Famous Figures Facebook

Image courtesy Tina Sieber

History isn’t the most dynamic of fields. Compared to, say, an English or Science class, the content we teach rarely evolves. To make the class engaging, then, I search for new ways to make students to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate what we learn. In the “famous figures Facebook” assignment, students create a social networking profile for a historical figure.

Continue reading Showcase: Famous Figures Facebook