You, Me, & Copyright

One of the reasons I’m loving Coetail is that everything that I learn and blog about for the course, I’m bringing back to my students and sharing with them. This week’s readings were of particular interest to me as I continue to hash out my blogging unit with my 10th graders. So far, we’ve watched a rap video, shared with me by my amazing coworker Lindsay, titled “Oversharing: Think Before You Post”. The students loved it (thought it was hilarious & corny) and it taught them a few valuable tips, namely that being a member of the online community brings with it a variety of responsibilities.

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We’ve also started to explore what it means to cite our digital sources, and they are slowly (and a bit begrudgingly, I must admit) learning to give credit for all externally sourced multimedia that they include in their posts. I’ve shared the information from Jeff Utecht’s instructional Vimeo on embedding images with my students, so now they know to go to Compfight to get all of their images.

In the upcoming weeks, we’re going to look more closely at issues of copyright and what it means to “consume media critically and, ideally, to produce it” as Greg Toppo mentioned in his USA Today article on digital literacy. I love the idea of encouraging our students to move beyond “hanging out” online and getting to the “geeking out” stage of participation.

As for the conversation on copyright laws and regulations…Living in Saudi Arabia, our access to the internet is already limited – the government bans quite a large amount – and students often complain that the only way to access certain content is through illegal means. We’ll start the conversation by watching another Common Sense video about Copyright and Fair Use and discuss how we can find ways that are ethical and legal to access content within the confines of our host country. We’ll also have a Skype session with my sister-in-law who happens to work for the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) Piracy Department. She’s all over those Copyright issues! Stay tuned for a report on that conversation!

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Private Eyes…


I cannot deny it. “Private Eyes” by Hall & Oates is one of my all-time favorite songs. The tune is itself is catchy enough, but the lyrics…well, they’re practically prophetic. “Private eyes. They’re watching you. They see your every move.” Daryl Hall and John Oates may have been referring to a love affair, but in this day and age, “Private Eyes” could very well be the theme song for an Edward Snowden documentary.

But is the title true? Is the “private eye” of the internet watching us at all hours of the day, recording our every thought, word and deed?

Some would say yes, most certainly. In Daniel Newman’s article in Forbes magazine, he posits the idea that internet privacy is a thing of the past, a luxury that the general public has relinquished for the privilege of “free” social media, saying “Our Privacy Died When We Grew Obsessed With Free.”

It is true that we really have no idea how much of our own “stuff” is out there, floating around in cyberspace, just waiting to be discovered. In an article published in The Guardian, Ben Goldacre begins with the reminder that “iCloud and Google+ have your intimate photos; Transport for London knows where your travelcard has been; Yahoo holds every email you’ve ever written.” This reminded me of an “incident” from my first few months teaching at AIS-R.

When data gets creepy: the secrets we don’t realise we’re giving away”

I was on my weekly lunch duty in the cafeteria when a student came to me, clearly distraught. “Miss,” she began, “I wanted to tell you that some 10th grade boys are looking at photos of you online…you’re at the beach or something, wearing a bikini.” Wham. Sucker punch to the stomach. Here I am, first year at a new school, trying to establish my reputation as a serious IB teacher…not to mention the fact that we’re living in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, one of the most conservative countries in the world.

I panicked. Ran to my husband’s classroom where we googled both of our names. And of course, there they were. Photos of us on our honeymoon in Buzios, Brazil – big smiles, both swimming suit-clad. My heart sunk. How could this have happened and why did it have to be my students to make this discovery?!

The answer: a few years back, we decided to document our new lives as overseas teachers and create a blog, supposedly viewable by only invited friends and family. As it turned out, my husband had missed one small step in the privacy set-up, thus explaining how my 10th grade students had access. One easy click of a button solved the problem, but the damage was done. Or at least, our internet innocence was shattered.

This week, I’ll share this story (or parts of it) with my 10th graders as we continue the conversation about our digital footprints. And while we’re at it, maybe I’ll have them double-check their privacy settings.

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Digital Stock

When I first heard the term “digital footprint”, my brain immediately went to the dark side. Internet predators, google location settings, controversial comments, risque photos, embarrassing family collages, moments from my 20’s that should be lost and forever forgotten…you get the idea. In reading through this week’s articles, though, I have a new understanding of the importance of creating, maintaining and preserving that very footprint. I see it now as a powerful tool that we can use to propel us into the limelight, rather than, as what I had previously thought, a tool to seal our infamy.

Just for fun, I googled my name. I’ve done this in the past, but this time, to my delight and surprise, a whole new list of items came up. (My Coetail blog, incidentally, was at the top of the list.) Just in the past two months, my digital footprint has gone up in stock. Now, if a potential employer googled me, they would find that I have built a professional name for myself. And all this in only 6 weeks!

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This week, I begin the blogging unit for my 10th graders. Our focus is on narrative writing, and we’re going to use blogging as a means to tell our stories. The unit is planned already, but after watching Daniel Pink’s video “Two Questions”, I’ve decided I have some tweaking to do.

In Lisa Nielson’s,Teaching Kids to Manage their Digital Footprint, she suggests starting off the lesson by posing students three questions: “Who are you? What do you stand for? What are your passions and beliefs?” I love this idea and have already added it to my lesson plan. The questions not only lend themselves to the idea of creating an online profile that is meaningful and representative, but they also happen to fit perfectly with the narrative lens of our unit. Nielson goes on to write that the key idea we want our students to take away is that our digital footprints should be 100% reflective of who we are, what we believe and what we are passionate about. AND, the caveat – that this profile that we create is everlasting. No erasing, no rewinding, so no regrets.

My hope is that, through this unit, I will be able to foster a culture of responsible, proactive and thoughtful internet use and that my students will view the internet as more than just a means to endless (and often mindless) entertainment. They will also, more importantly, begin to see the potential that their own digital footprint can bring. As William Ferriter mentioned in his article,

students who see social media spaces as forums for learning begin to paint complex digital portraits of themselves by networking with like-minded peers, joining groups committed to studying topics of deep personal interest to them, and creating products that are an accurate expression of who they are and what they believe in.”

It is Ferriter’s last sentiment, that students create who they are and what they believe, that resonates with me the most. This is the idea that I will do my best to convey to my classes on Sunday morning.

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