Monthly Archives: May 2009

A Word About Copyright

Bound by Law

Bound by Law

Whenever I talk to teachers about using materials gleaned from the internet or about student products (especially multimedia creations) the conversation invariably turns to copyright. Is is okay to use cartoons from a web site in our lessons? Can students use pictures they find on the web to create their own comics?

The copyright law is complex and the fair use guidelines are just that – guidelines. It’s difficult for educators to know what they can and cannot do when it comes to using other’s intellectual property. A teacher’s occasional use of excerpts or images from published works in classroom lessons is probably fair use. Republishing someone else’s work on the school web site or in a newsletter that goes home to parents probably is not. While I’m not an expert on copyright, I usually give teachers one piece of advice – try to set a good example for your students.

When students ask me about using images from the web or music from their CDs in their projects, I first encourage them to create their own instead. I’m often amazed at what students can do when we set the bar high and challenge them. If they cannot produce original images or music, they should be taught how to search for Creative Commons licensed media.

Recently I was searching for resources for helping teachers answer copyright questions and I came across, of all things, a comic book about copyright! Bound by Law is a publication from Duke ‘s Center for the Study of the Public Domain. It’s an engaging comic that looks at copyright, public domain, and fair use through the eyes of a young documentary film maker. This is another example of how a comic book becomes an effective teaching tool. It takes a complex concept and presents it clearly and simply in a visual format that middle or high school students will appreciate. This comic has a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-Alike license. It’s offered for free in several digital formats or you can buy a print copy from Amazon.


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Just Me and a Few of My Friends

Promoting Literacy with Cartoons, Comics, and Graphic Novels

Promoting Literacy with Cartoons, Comics, and Graphic Novels

Last night I presented my first ever webinar. It was the final session of our MLTI online conference Pictures Sounds Numbers Words and, I must admit, I was a bit apprehensive at first. Although I have attended many webinars, I had never conducted one and I really didn’t know what to expect.

I was fortunate to have a few factors in my favor that made this a really enjoyable experience. My session was the last of a four-day event so I was able to attend several others first and get a real feel for environment. I had a pretty good idea of what would work for me and what wouldn’t and I had plenty of time to practice.

We promoted the conference through our various social networking sites so by the time I had tweeted it and written about it on Facebook, most of my colleagues and friends were aware of it. As the session was starting and I scanned down the list of attendees, I saw that they were mostly members of my huge MLTI network. It was like having a conversation with a group of old friends.

Of course, another factor that made it easy was the great content. I was able to talk for an hour about something I really believed in – that comics have a place in a well-rounded literacy program. As I watched the chat room fill with great ideas from the participants, it hit me. We’re finally allowing students to talk in class! Although we all know that learning is social, and discussion is powerful, teachers still ask students to be silent and give their full attention while the teacher is talking. It just seems too distracting to allow side conversations but in this webinar, the side conversations made the content so much richer.

If you’re interested in watching me and my friends talk about comics and literacy, check out the recording of this session and, while you’re there, drop in on some of the others.

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