Friday, 7 May 2010

Do we as a global society need to rethink copyright laws? What's our role as educators in copyright usage in schools?

Do we as a global society need to rethink copyright laws? What's our role as educators in copyright usage in schools?

I'd say my initial response to the first essential question here is a no-brainer. Given that we already have so many dilemmas from 'owners' and consumers using digital technologies, we can't remain complacent and accept the 'laws' that are out there. The two examples of young people being exploited by web-posted photos: Allison Stokke, high school athlete and 'virgin', Allison Chang illustrate the problem. What's funny about these laws is that they seem antiquated. In the Ted Talks VDO on 'How creativity is being strangled by the law,' Larry Lessig eloquently points out that we're not using our collective 'common sense' when it comes to what's 'right and wrong' with copyright laws given the changing times. Are people, especially young people, the 'read-write culture' just wanting to express their creativity out of a love of what they're doing as an objective, rather than seeking commercial gain? I love the Bush & Blaire remix in Lessig's talk!
How can democratic societies guarantee freedom at the same time guaranteeing security and fairness in the Web 2.0 world? It seems as if we're moving in the right direction with the creative commons licensing, whereby informed people make informed choices before making the final click on an upload.

I'm reminded here of the 5 Ethical Domains described by Jonathan Haidt, Moral Psychologist at the University of Virginia in his book: The Happiness Hypothesis, whereby he sets out 5 universal ethical domains that seemed to be shared by humans across cultures. I made the diagram seen on this post for my Theory of Knowledge class based on these domains, since we grapple with ethical questions tied to various facets of life. 'Fairness' fits the second domain and respect for authority fits the fourth domain. Given that Haidt's research suggests that fairness is a fundamental value held by all (although political liberals hold fairness as more dear than respect for authority) and given that typically adolescents challenge the authority domain, this digital clash becomes more understandable. The youth want to rebel no matter what, and given the restrictions held by copyright laws, there's lots to get their teeth into. All seek fairness. Who would ever argue against the premise that fairness is an important value? Liberals tend to lead revolutions, so maybe the more liberal-minded will help bridge this generation gap before we educators lose more connections with young people.

And, as far as our role as educators?
We need to look for ways to embrace the younger generation, rather than widen the generation gap. There's a new definition of literacy or an extension of the literacy we've been used to, i.e. digital literacy, that we have to acknowledge. As Lessig says:

It's how our kids understand access to this culture... how they think--what they are & their relationship to themselves
So, it's that delicate balance and our responsibility as educators to achieve it with today's students. We want to avoid the 'growing extremism' that is resulting from the 'extremism' on copyright laws that lawyers must love getting their teeth into. Does the 'private solution' that Lessig talks about involve us? It does to the extent that even at a school level, we can make agreements among our inhouse experts as to acceptable use (specifically the Acceptable Use Policy like the High School one recently developed). I'd say we do still need to ensure that its' a 'practical set of guidelines' and if we need to revise it along the way to ensure that it is, that we consider it a dynamic policy, rather than a set one.

I'm a firm believer of teaching critical thinking skills and the use of reason as a fundamental key to whatever other policy or manual or set of dictates we come up with. In the end, kids have to make their own decisions. And if they believe that we truly want them to, they'll rise to the occasion. Gone are the days where we have the exclusive right to be teachers. We're all teachers in this day and age in the classroom and if we as teachers don't already know that, our students do!

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