Saturday, March 20, 2010

Search Strategies - More than "Just Google It"

Every year, I ask my 6th grade students to respond to the following prompt in their Tech journals: "Describe your strategies for researching using the Internet." Without fail, at least 80% of them will respond with something like, "I type a word into Google and then click on the first website listed" or "I go straight to Wikipedia."

So, I think it time to teach Internet search strategies a little more explicitly. (Even the New York Times recently posted a lesson plan for dealing with Internet searching skills.)

These are the search strategies I start with for my students when they begin their projects:
  1. Take note of the domain names types (.gov & .edu tend to have most "reliable" info)
  2. Check the "About Us" to see if the site seems reliable. Sometimes "Contact Us" or "FAQs" or that site's own blog can also provide valuable hints to a page's reliability.
  3. Try searching or (ex: Twitter NOTE: There is no space between the "-" and the domain name type.
  4. Try putting your search item in quotes. (ex: "history of Mt. Vesuvius" instead of just history of Mt. Vesuvius)
  5. Try subtracting or add words (for example type 'Tiger -Woods' to search for info on the animal.) NOTE: There is no space between the "-" and word you are subtracting.
  6. Try clicking on the little superscript numbers in Wikipedia articles to find out the source that is used. Or, just scroll down to the bottom of the Wikipedia article and look over all of the sources used.
  7. Try searching popular news, tech, or science sites - (Newsweek, Time, New York Times, SFGate, Gizmodo, TechCrunch, CrunchBase, USGS, National Geographic, etc. (ex: "Foursquare +Chicago Tribune")
  8. Use other media as sources for information, such as videos (TED talks, YouTube interviews) or podcasts (KQED, NPR)
Still need more help? Try these links: Using Search Engines, Develping a Search Strategy, and 10 Simple Google Search Tricks (NY Times)
And, don't forget when you are searching to cite the websites you use!

Friday, March 05, 2010

Using Images in the Classroom: Copyright, Fair Use and Creative Commons

As a Technology teacher, I feel obligated to model good intellectual property habits for my students. The problem is, I am not completely clear on the rules myself! I am very thankful for the nonprofit Creative Commons site for helping me start to make sense of it all.

As teachers, we often claim "fair use." The Fair Use doctrine generally allows for the copying of protected material (texts, sounds, images, etc.) for a limited and “transformative” purpose, like criticizing, commenting, parodying, news reporting, teaching the copyrighted work. Under the US copyright laws, fair use “is not an infringement of copyright.” When determining Fair Use, judges typically consider four factors. Read more....

However, I am trying to teach my students to forgo their typical Google Image search or pop song soundtrack and really start to think about intellectual property rights. I am no longer hiding behind the approaches: "well, we're not publishing it, so no one will notice" or "it's only a problem if you get caught."

Here is what I know so far:

Copyright - [MOST RESTRICTIVE] Creative work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and "fixed in a tangible form." All sorts of creative work are protected including images, songs, and written work. People do not need to register with the Copyright Office to benefit from copyright protection, but the will need to if they ever plan on bringing suit against someone for copyright infringement. If a student wants to use copyrighted material in their presentation or website, they really need to contact the creator for permission. (My students do NOT like this rule.) I tell students that if the rights are not specified, assume it is copyrighted.

Public Domain - [NO RESTRICTIONS] "When a work is in the public domain, it is free for use by anyone for any purpose without restriction under copyright law. Public domain is the purest form of open/free, since no one owns owns or controls the material in any way." Mostly, this includes resources that are government work (USGS, NASA) or very old. Cornell University has an updated table of copyright term and public domain rules.

Creative Commons - [SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE] This is a way to modify your copyright to allow for sharing, remixing or distribution of your work. There are many "levels" of creative commons licensing. On this page, lists them starting with the most accommodating license type through the most restrictive license type.

There are six major licenses of the Creative Commons:
  • Attribution (CC-BY)
  • Attribution Share Alike (CC-BY-SA)
  • Attribution No Derivatives (CC-BY-ND)
  • Attribution Non-Commercial (CC-BY-NC)
  • Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike (CC-BY-NC-SA)
  • Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives (CC-BY-NC-ND)
Generally, the licenses address different requirements for attribution , share-alike commercial use, and allowing derivative works (can you modify it).

There are four major conditions of the Creative Commons: Attribution (BY), requiring attribution to the original author (giving the author credit); Share Alike (SA), allowing derivative works under the same or a similar license (how you will license any work you create from it); Non-Commercial (NC), requiring the work is not used for commercial purposes (you can't make money from it; and No Derivative Works (ND), allowing only the original work, without derivatives (you can't change it).
Additional options include the CC0 option, or "No Right Reserved." For software, Creative Commons offers three licenses: the BSD License, the CC GNU LGPL license, and the CC GNU GPL. (I'm still learning about those three....)
I encourage my students to start at the following sites to find CC or public domain images:

I know I have a lot left to learn, but at least I am encouraging my students to become aware of intellectual property rights and make it less likely that they will become "uninformed and unintentional plagiarists."