copyright teaching kids

The right stuff: Teaching kids about copyright


How to help kids learn about copyright by finding and using other people's creative works legally and ethically.

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I have shown students a variety of ways to find Creative Commons-licensed photos using Flickr and Google Image Search. With these tools, students had to create the attributions for each image they used. While I’m glad I took the time to show them how to attribute, I wasn’t happy with how much time was devoted to copying, pasting, and formatting all the needed information for attribution.

Fortunately for all of us, the folks from Storyboard That have created an amazing tool for kids to use: Photos for Class. This website uses a filtering system and searches Flickr images for photos that are safe for students to use. In their FAQ, they do claim that some inappropriate images could slip through, but they argue that “if you compare a search using Photos for Class vs. Google images (even with SafeSearch on), the amount of inappropriate content is greatly reduced.”

What I love about this tool is that once kids find an image that will work for their writing, presentation, website, or whatever, they can download it with the proper attribution already present in a watermark. Kids don’t have to spend the time crafting the attribution; it’s done perfectly for them. This saves time for kids to refine their ability to use keywords to get the exact images they need.

Be aware that students may grow worried they cannot find exactly what they want right away. For instance, if some of my students want to use images of Marvel characters for a particular presentation, but can’t find what they want in Photos for Class, I use this as a learning opportunity. I challenge students to think about the purpose of the visual aid. I ask them to think about the idea that they are trying to convey. We come up with different keyword searches. Often kids happen upon a much stronger visual aid because they use images more as metaphors rather than literal representations of ideas.

Model, Model, Model

When you use images in your lessons, make sure you go with images that you have the permission to use. Ensure that the correct attribution is visible. Draw students’ attention to the fact that you’re a good digital citizen. Perhaps most important, throughout the year point out that you struggled to find the right image but were happy to do the right thing.

At times, this process will be hard because it takes a little more time to find an image that we have permission to use. Acknowledge this fact with your students. If students take the easy route and use copyrighted material, ask them to replace the image with a Creative Commons-licensed image. Never lose sight of the goal. This is about more than images in schoolwork. This is about citizenship and doing the right thing.

Learn more about copyright in this video from Common Sense Education:

 [Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Common Sense Education.]

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