Instructional Media or “What’s an Overhead?”

Creative Commons vs. House of Commons

May 16th, 2010 · 2 Comments

Just when Canadians thought the Guergis-Jaffer affair was yesterday’s news and all was quiet on “The Hill” (in Canada, that’s a reference to Parliament Hill in Ottawa and the aforementioned “affair” is a little government scandal that has monopolized the news here), the Government has quietly turned up the heat on the copyright issue, in a little noticed, “let’s not let the public get alarmed” sort of way. According to a reliable source, the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper plans to introduce a new copyright law, which will mirror that of the United States, contrary to the mainstream point of view that was collected during public consultations held  by the government last year.
Michael Geist, Professor of Law at the University of Ottawa, holds the position of Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law. Not coincidentally, Geist is the Co-Director of Creative Commons Canada. In a recent Blog Post, Geist warns Canadians about the impending introduction of a new Copyright bill. Just how the bill will look when it is introduced remains to be seen, but judging by Geist’s warning, Canadians need to be alarmed at the way it is playing out. He claims that the two Ministers involved (the younger, progressive, iPod generation Minister of Canadian Heritage, Mr. Moore, vs. neo-conservative, “takes his marching orders from the Prime Minister’s Office” kind of guy, the Minister of Industry, Mr. Clement), could not reach agreement and that the Prime Minster has given the order that a new bill, with more restrictive, US style DMCA provisions, and less “fair use” provisions will be on the order paper. Canadians are all too familiar with this Prime Minister’s habit of taking, in the past,  his own marching orders from the former Bush government and its big business, right-winged Republican agenda. As shown in this video , where Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Stephen Harper, before he was Prime Minister, read almost identical speeches in their respective Parliaments, it’s not a stretch that Harper will do so again (This speech was about invading Iraq, to the benefit of the Military-Industrial Complex, but I digress!). Despite the fact that the video was produced by the opposition Liberals and is, therefore, somewhat biased, there are few plausible explanations other than the speech was supplied by the Bush administration. Both Parliamentarians are strong allies of the Republican party in the USA. What’s not clear, is why Stephen Harper has chosen to fashion the new Canadian Law after the US DMCA, disregarding the clear messages delivered by the Canadian public during the consultations about the need for clear, progressive, “fair use” provisions.

This preamble is critical to understanding the background to the point I am now about to make concerning Creative Commons. Why would Canadians, Americans, citizens of the world, for that matter, let their individual governments decide how the information they create, post and share freely be controlled arbitrarily by anyone else other than the person who created it? Copyright laws tend to be black and white- either you can copy it or you can’t, with little wiggle room in the middle. They tend to favour, I think, publishing companies and big music companies rather than artists. The use of Creative Commons allows the creator to freely choose what purposes and the conditions under which their own creations can be used by others, as opposed to a Government deciding to protect the interests of those who did not create it.

In a way, licensing your own work, a photo on Flicker, a video on Youtube, a Blog post on Blogger circumvents the power of special interests who see copyright as an authority to be used to control the free flow of information. That is why I have chosen to use Creative Commons Canada License 2.5 the “Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Canada” license. This allows for the free sharing and remixing of this Blog, as long as attribution to me is given.

There is a powerful message delivered when we encourage students to put Creative Commons licenses on their own Blogs, Voicethreads, Glogsters and other online creations. We have taught by example when they see the license on our Blog. They will see the value of their own digital citizenry when they check the origins, ownership and licenses associated with the information they consume from the Internet when being creative, and in demanding that others respect their license, they will understand that acting with integrity means reciprocating.

So, I am all for holding the power to distribute my work and bypassing the Government of Canada, who have acted too slowly on the copyright issue, more worried about their tenuous hold on power rather than the speed at which technology is changing in this country and around the world. Branding our creations, albeit insignificant ones like this Blog, send a message to governments everywhere: What’s mine is mine and I have the right to tell the world what they can do with it.

And by the way, please share this Blog freely with your friends and colleagues. Just tell them I wrote it.

UPDATE- it appears as though the government ministers battling it out over the new copyright law for Canada may be in role reversal. Moore, the younger, iPod generation government Minister who oversees Canadian Heritage is in favour of more extreme and restrictive copyright provisions and Clement, the older, and more neo-conservative, Minister of Industry, has taken a less restrictive, more “fair use” approach. Could be an interesting battle when the Bill hits the floor of the House of Commons, as early as next week.

Tags: Internet Tools

Global Education Starts Here

December 2nd, 2008 · 1 Comment

A visiting author once described my classroom as “The United Nations,” which was a rather clever but complementary way to recognize the many languages spoken by my students. At last count, over 10 languages are spoken. In addition to our official languages of English and French, native speakers of Arabic, Hindi, Bengali, Urdu, Turkish, Italian, Mandarin, Tamil, Punjabi, and Spanish are represented. In addition, some 60 different cultures are represented in our school, a new school built about 7 years ago in a middle-class suburb of Toronto, Canada.

Surprisingly, racial problems are few and far between, making the United Nations moniker even more “apropos.” Students are given the opportunities to communicate one with another and frequently celebrate differences and similarities.

Many students have lived or at least traveled to other parts of the world. Events in countries far and near are often openly discussed. Even at Grade 7, students spent considerable time initiating discussions about the recent federal election, the Presidential election in America, the current events in India, Thailand and Canada (in case it hasn’t yet hit the media south of the border, the minority government led by the Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper may be replaced with a controversial coalition government led by the rejected centrist Liberal Party, propped up by the social-democractic New Democratic Party and the separatist Parti Québécois after a vote of non-confidence in Parliament). But I digress.

My students have a broad world-view because they are the world. They represent it. So does our teaching staff. Cultures, countries and religions represented by my colleagues include: India, Mauritius, Singapore, Vietnam, Greece, Portugal, Guatemala, French-Canadian, Aboriginal, Hindu, Christian, Sikh, and Jewish.

Our school does not begin and end at the schoolyard gate. We raised $14,000 in support of victims of the Tsunami in 2004. On two occasions we have raised over $10,000 and sent a small contingent of students and teachers to Honduras in Central America to build schools in poverty stricken, remote areas. Our Green Team worked tirelessly for three years to protect the wetland adjacent to our school that was slated for development.

It is natural then, that our students have been involved in global and environmental education. They actively are “the change we wish to see in the world”. (Gandhi)

Each year, classes are challenged to complete a project together around a theme. This year’s project has as its focus, the environment, a response to our theme for the year: “We are all connected.” Last year’s goal was to raise money for Honduras. After the class saw the series of “Where the Hell is Matt?” videos, in which a young traveler danced around the world, they decided that they wanted to create a video to educate the world about an environmental issue. They chose the problem of bottled water, a significant producer of energy and environmental waste. They have researched the problem and have written a series of fact sheets and slogans that can be used by classes, friends and family around the world. People have been invited to send a short video clip of their group announcing, in their local language, an important fact or message about the problems related to bottled water. The class will be editing, adding music and fact titles. The emails have been sent out. We have our first video clip sent from Australia, with a Thai class filming this week. The class hopes the video will “go viral” on Youtube.

Global education, it seems, is alive and well at Ruth Thompson Middle School, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.


**Adendum- I took an official language count and we totalled 14. Some were languages I had never heard of. 

Tags: Uncategorized