Video Clips in the Classroom: Just “Do a Little Research” to Tame Your Fear of Copyright Infringement

For this post I decided to give my “Tech and Feeling” series a rest and discuss copyright issues about using video clips in class lectures, such as for a slide presentation. I am taking this detour because when I discuss using video clips from professionally produced DVDs with instructors and grad students, immediately their fear of copyright infringement comes up. And their fear is almost always their reason for not learning how to manipulate videos for the classroom. I completely understand that fear, because the legal language and the fuzziness of the laws can be daunting. Add to that the massive amounts of resources, especially on the Web, and the threat of prosecution for breaking laws you do not quite understand in the first place, and that fear can become paralyzing. However, with a little effort, getting the right information about copyright for educational purposes is a breeze.

Now, since I am in no way a legal expert, in this post I am not going to give any specific advice except the very basic “do a little research,” which applies to almost any pedagogical tools we want to use. To help ease the common and understandable fear many of you may feel about this, here I am taking some of the “search” out of research by giving you some links to other sites that provide solid, useful guidelines that will make you feel comfortably safe with your “fair use decisions.”

I believe a little humor break is in order now to help you decompress a bit before diving in, so here is a nifty video mash-up I found in The Stanford School of Law’s Center for the Internet and Society Web site. The short description in the site reads: Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University created this humorous, yet informative, review of copyright principles delivered through the words of the very folks we can thank for nearly endless copyright terms. Please make certain to read the FBI Warning at the very beginning, after the title sequence. It is enlightening, elegantly witty.
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How Do You Feel About Technology: External Influences

When I initially thought about this next section, I knew I wanted to write about the personal aspects of feelings about technology. As it turned out, as with a lot of writing, once I started to type the words, those same words I was certain I controlled took over and shaped the essay, taking my thoughts and making more sense of them than I ever could. The result is an exploration of the external influences that fuel our individual fear of technology. Those external influences also fuel broader, mainstream perceptions and expectations about technology. All those influences shape, often furtively, how we feel about and deal with technology in our professional personas.

On two recent channel surfing occasions, I noticed something very odd. Well, odd to me. The first time I was watching the commercials to see what was coming next. One of the ads was about a local news show, how it is so cutting edge yet highly focused on the local issues important TO YOU. Among the many jittery shots (does anyone just hold a video camera still anymore?), there was a fleeting, if fidgety glimpse of the station’s two late night anchors, seriously discussing some highly relevant topic, while one of them was holding and pointing to one of the new tablets (now, y’all know I ain’t talking about aspirin). Now, I, the viewer, could not see if the contraption was on, but that was not the point. That anchor was cutting edge, holding a powerful talisman, a cornucopian information source. I was immediately convinced that what the commercial was saying was indeed true. The other time I stopped to rest my eyes on two hosts of one of the many entertainment news shows. Both were sitting with, need I say it, a new tablet in front them, one for each. The tablets were closed, that is, the covers were hiding the displays. Still, there was immediately no doubt in my mind that, because they had such powerful technology at their disposal, those two individuals were capable of nothing but the truth, which I was suddenly convinced they revealed objectively and in detailed depth.

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Something to Start Thinking About: Feelings and Technology

A big part of my job is to teach teachers how to teach with tech. (Yes, I intended to write it this way. This is actually how I think of my job; it is my “elevator speech” description of what I do.) One of the questions I am often asked is “Should I use this tool?” This usually results in discussions of the concrete steps involved, often becoming a dialogue about pedagogical applications for any given tool. However, I find that “Should I?” question is fraught with barely stealthed anxiety, so as part of my response I try to get my clients to answer my unasked, broad question, “How do you feel about using this technology?”

I rarely broach the question as boldly as I have here, but I try to take the conversation to a “feeling” place. After all, teaching, good, solid, inspirational teaching (teach=inspire, no?), is propelled by feeling: a love for the subject, the satisfaction that results from exchanging knowledge, and the exhilaration of knowing that, no matter how prepared a teacher may be, whether in a one-on-one tutoring session or a lecture before 500+ students, there is always a chance the unforeseen will grace teachers and their students with a creative, fertile teaching moment that enriches everyone involved.

All teachers, because they take on the authoritative role of oracle, are vulnerable, because their knowledge, and therefore their legitimacy, can always be instantly challenged, undermined, usurped.
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