Saturday, January 31, 2015

Learning about Copyright and Fair Use

by Brenda Snider

Many people think the purpose of copyright is to prevent others from stealing the work of individuals.  This misinterpretation threatens the advancement of knowledge and learning (Loren, 2010). The Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8, states that the purpose is to promote the progress of knowledge and learning. Those who view copyright as an asset to the economy are destroying the main purpose. It is not about making money. Copyright law was originally written to further knowledge.
“Most colleges rely on section 110 of the copyright statute (17U.S.C. section 110). The first part of this section governs performance or display of a work in the course of face-to-face teaching, and the second part covers materials transmitted in distance education. However, these sections specifically state that they only apply to nonprofit educational institutions. As a result, the educational exceptions in 17 U.S.C. § 110(1) and 17 U.S.C. § 110(2) may not be used by for-profit schools” (Carson, 2008, p. 57).
As I begin to learn more about copyright and fair use in instructional design, I am wondering if anyone is teaching copyright and fair use in their classes.  Do our students know that if they create a work, i.e. article, video, graphic, etc. for a company they are working for, they cannot use that work in their portfolios unless they obtain permission? The company they are working for owns the copyright. 
Has anyone used A Fair(y) Use Tale (Faden, n.d.) in their classes as part of an assignment on fair use, for example asking your students to analyze the video based on the four factors that judges consider when determining fair use: the purpose and character of use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount and substantiality of the portion borrowed, and the effect of the potential use on the market?
Carson, B.M. (2008). Legally speaking—Copyright and for-profit educational institutions.DLPS Faculty Publications. Paper 9. Retrieved from

Faden, E. (n.d.) A Fair(y) Use Tale. Retrieved from
Loren, L.P. (2010). The purpose of copyright. OpenSpaces Quarterly. Retrieved from

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Feedback Sandwiches and other Unhealthy Fare

Reading the first Faculty Focus article of the new year, “Is Praise Undermining Student Motivation?” caused me to rethink one of my long-held beliefs, the idea that it’s important to start a student comment by pointing out positives, then add the constructive feedback, and end on a positive and encouraging note.  Effective Commenting 101, right?  Well, apparently not.  According to Orlando,
The model is used under the belief that it keeps up the student’s spirits, but in reality it only confuses the message. The student reads only the positive at either end and ignores the real message in the middle that they need to hear in order to improve, or they recognize the dissonance between the conflicting messages and wonder how they really did. “Gee,” they say to themselves, “the beginning and the end tell me this is great, while the middle says that there are all sorts of problems, so which is it?” The feedback sandwich can even reduce respect for the instructor since students will soon learn that no matter what they hand in, the instructor will praise it along a predictable formula, making the feedback meaningless and something to be ignored.
The trick, apparently, is to praise the process rather than the product, the effort rather than the ability that went into the assignment. It’s all about seeing praise not as motivation but as a way to encourage student growth.
What do you think?  Do you use the feedback sandwich model?  How/where/when do you give feedback? What works for you and your students? 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Scoreboards and Applause: Another Role for Assessment

Assessment, as Gloria keeps reminding us, has multiple functions.  On one level it is needed to prove to ourselves and others that our students are accomplishing the goals we set for them.  On another though, as L. Dee Fink discusses in Chapter 3 of Creating Significant Learning Experiences, Revised and Updated: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses, assessment has psychological functions. As Fink puts it, students need both a scoreboard and applause.
One example of the applause side really stood out for me.  A music professor described how he uses “tribute letters” to help students focus on the skills that they already bring, rather than just explaining the skills that need to be developed. The student and the professor together write a letter, which the professor then sends, to a teacher or mentor whom the student identifies as having been instrumental in the student’s development.  Fink explains,
In addition to creating extremely good public relations between the university and the public at large, this simple device had an unusual impact on both the students and the teacher.  For the teacher, it shifted his focus from "what is not good in this student's playing that needs to be improved" to "what is good that be commended?"  This in turn resulted in a much more positive general relationship with the student. For the students, it developed a more positive view of themselves.  The more positive tone of the interaction with the professor led them to think things such as "I have a good base of learning, and from that, I can continue to build toward an even better level of performance."  This in turn created an appreciation of the people who had contributed to their own learning and - as a result of the proceeding - a more positive attitude toward continued learning.  

I wonder what effect it would have –on Lincoln’s PR and on our students' confidence—if we were to try some version of that assignment. I often have students write about a mentor but never thought of then sending out a letter of thanks to that person.  It’s something to consider.  Can you see it fitting into your coursework?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Commenting on Student Papers: To Track or Not to Track

How best to comment on student papers is a perennial problem.  An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education last month entitled “Why I Don’t Use Track Changes on Students’ Papers” by Lucy Ferris caught my eye, mostly because I found myself disagreeing with lots of Ferris’s assertions.  I thought it might be an interesting topic to start off the 2015 “Teaching Matters” discussion. 

Ferris explains why she insists that her students submit hard copies of their papers for her grading and comments.  Her arguments against using “track changes” to comment on electronic papers have some validity: 
  • She isn’t as tempted to correct small grammar and style issues, and when she does students can’t just click “accept” and make the correction without knowing why.
  • Even with minimal corrections and inserted comments, the paper ends up looking, as she put it, “like a Jackson Pollock painting of colors, squiggly lines, and call-outs, a discouraging mess for the student to untangle and sort out.”
  • It’s harder to encourage students by doing things like drawing arrows to link well-argued points and encourage students with a big “GREAT!!” circled and connected to those points.
  • Students tend to read the comment point by point and can’t spread out the paper and get an overview of the whole. 
As someone who only grades electronic submissions, however, I would argue the benefits of electronic review: the greater legibility (printed words rather than my undecipherable scribbles), the additional space (comments can go on as long as you need them to; they aren’t constrained by needing to fit into a 1” margin), and the additional speed and forgiveness (I can type a lot more quickly than I write, plus I can change my mind and revise a comment after I think about it as often happens). 

I do agree, though, that using “track changes” to cross out students’ words and insert teachers’ words is not a good practice.  We don’t want to appropriate our students’ papers or their language. I usually put my grammar or style corrections in a side comment, hoping that it seems more respectful that way, sometimes using highlighting to point out a pattern of similar grammar issues after explaining it the first time.

What do you think?  Do you require hard copy or electronic submissions from your students?  Do you use “track changes” when you grade?   If so, how?  If not, why  not? What works well for you and the students in your classes?

Friday, December 5, 2014

What We Assign

While working on a new syllabus for one of my spring classes, I took a break to read a Faculty Focus blog posting entitled “Could We Be Doing Better with our Assignments?  (Yes, if I were talking to a student I would identify this as procrastination…) One paragraph there made me stop and think.
Weimer writes:
 Most faculty, regardless of discipline, use a similar mix of assignments. We have our students write papers. In recent years, we have seen some movement away from the traditional, research-based, term paper. Today’s papers are shorter and more frequent, but they are still papers. We give multiple-choice or short-answer exams, which students take individually, usually within a designated time period and without access to resources or expertise. We use quizzes, assign homework problems, and maybe some sort of group project in an upper division or capstone course, but that’s about it. And we recycle assignments, using pretty much the same ones every time we teach the course and in every course we teach.
I realized that while I spend time rethinking topics for assignments, or dates for assignments, or weights for assignments, or directions for assignments, or rubrics for assignments, I really don't spend much quality time rethinking the mix and type of assignments per se. 

Help?  What kind of assignment–other than the traditional papers, homework questions, quizzes, individual timed exams, and group projects—do you assign in your courses?  What made you think of it?  How does it work?  I would love to learn some new tricks to spice up my old assignment categories.  Please share your ideas in this last Teaching Matters blog before the holiday break.