Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Copyright for Kids: A Three Part Lesson

One of the most challenging aspects of my job is teaching copyright to elementary school kids. They honestly just don't get the idea that they can't take others' work and then claim it as their own. It's widely known that the problem lies with 20th Century teaching in a 21st Century environment: When finding information is no longer a challenge in the age of the Internet, why do we continue to assign research projects that register way-low on Bloom's taxonomy (Remember, Understand)? We need to cater our projects to the higher levels, like analyze, evaluate and create. So if I'm going to walk the walk, I need to create a project that helps students to evaluate, analyze and synthesize information and ideas about COPYRIGHT.

Here's how my three-week unit (three 45 minute periods) is progressing. It still needs work. I try to approach the idea from the back forward, i.e. I start with a high interest hook (music copyright) on day one, move to movies on day two, and then head for the hard stuff (essays and projects) on day three.

Day One: I started out using the lesson plan created by Laura Kaemming from the Cyberbee Web site, then it evolved from there. The two news articles it references became so outdated, that I decided to cut them out entirely and focus on the song comparisons. The worksheet "You Be the Judge" is the one I use to show students how to compare. Our music teacher, Sarah Cepeda, often comes to class to help us understand concepts like comparing Melody, Rhythm and Tempo. The Copyright Web site is an invaluable resource, with side-by-side audio comparisons of songs that have been convicted of copyright infringement in court.

Addendum 5/13/09: The fervor over Coldplay's Viva La Vida being sued 3x by 3 different artists for plagairism dovetails nicely with this topic. NPR's story with links is a great resource.

Day Two: I created a kind of readers' theatre/choose your own adventure play for this lesson. Students (people!) often discount how much work goes into making a movie (or CD or essay). By assigning each student a role in the "play" and having the class as a whole determine the movie's main points, they attain ownership over the process. They begin to identify with the people who work together to make a movie possible, and then to understand the consequences of choosing to steal/copy a movie.
1. We begin the class with looking at a digital moral compass, reviewing each category. Students are polled anonymously (heads down) on whether they think copying movies is "right" or "wrong" etc.
2. We open the text of the Choose Your Own Adventure "How A Movie Gets Made" on a projector so the whole class can see.
3. Assign roles for each student. When that student's role comes up, the wireless keyboard is passed to that student to fill in the blank with text of his or her own choice. Alternatively, the teacher can type what the student says in, to save time.
4. At the end, read the adventure out loud and then go back to the digital moral compass. Discuss how each student's livelihood is connected to that movie. It is their JOB, how they feed their families and pay their mortgage.
5. Poll again, now that the students have a context for what it means to copy a movie.
* Note--I try to explain to students that this is not an all or nothing proposal, that each person is allowed to decide for his or herself what is right for them, while at the same time reminding them about the laws. The idea of a "gray" area is introduced.

Day Three: Here's where it gets tough. This lesson puts the kids in the role of teacher. Here's the "hook:"
You have assigned students to combine everything they have learned about an endangered species into a story. The story should be interesting, sharing facts they have learned about their animal. You notice that one or two of the essays have facts in them that sound like they may have been copied and pasted from the internet. They certainly aren't fourth grade words! What do you do?"
Use the PowerPoint Slide to show them "What Teachers Look For" to guess if there is some cheating happening.
1. Students are each given essays and a highlighter. The essays are actual essays by fourth graders in another school. You can access the essays I used about American Alligators and Whales here...I have inserted text directly copied and pasted from the top the sites listed on a google search. Students are to highlight anything in the essay that stands out.
2. They then access three Web sites listed at the bottom of the essays (in the interest of saving time..alternatively you can have the students google search for themselves). Read the first couple of paragraphs to see if anything looks familiar on the page. Put a checkmark on your paper next to anything you find that was indeed copied.
This might be enough for your class...or you could go on either same day, or in the next class with step three:
3. Have the students open the revised template for their given animal, either Revised Alligators or Revised Whales. You can save them to a network, use Synchroneyes (or similar product) to send directly to students, or save on desktops. On the left side they will see the text the student turned in. On the right side, they can rewrite the sentence that was obviously copied. Since they are the teacher here, they are demonstating how to put facts into your own words. They would have three sentences to rewrite. They can then sign it "Mr. So and So" (they love that part) and print it out. This can be a classwork grade.

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