Monday, 11 February 2013

Who owns teacher and student work?

The participatory nature of ICT is creating new issues of ownership of work in education.

Teaching has long had a ethos of sharing.  Many teachers have been happy to share what they have developed with colleagues.  And sometimes shared what wasn't really theirs, according to copyright law.  Usually that sharing has been in the form of photocopying.
Teachers developing their own material--particularly those teaching online--are raising new issues. 

Web sites now sell teacher-developed resources --take a look at  tpt (Teachers Pay Teachers) which calls itself "an open marketplace for educators" and now accepts school district purchase orders.  User ratings determine the rank of what is available.  Other sharing sites like Pinterest are used to advertise resources for sale online.
Who owns copyright?

The general belief has been that when a teacher is employed by a school board and develops an online resource it is the property of the employer.  When the teacher has been doing this with a specific contract to develop a resource or a course, there is no issue.  The teacher is delivering what they have agreed to explicitly.
However, not much of the development, at least in British Columbia, is done on that explicit contract basis.  The teacher may be developing or redeveloping materials as a course goes on--is there an assumption that this material belongs to the school district or the teacher?

And what if the teacher does it on their own time,  they use their own computer at home and post it on their own website?  
As long as the teacher creates it and makes it available, but does not use it in a course being offered as an employee, it clearly belongs to the developer.  But, some claim, if the teacher uses it in a course they are employed to teach, it now belongs to the employer, even if done entirely outside hours and on their own equipment.

One BC school district, New Westminster, in its collective agreement with teachers says it will give copyright to the teacher under an agreement that meets two conditions--the board retains rights for non-profit uses and may claim 10% of any royalties.  (see the wording in the references) 
That agreement, though, seems to be unique among school districts and for teachers in K-12 public schools.  Teachers in post-secondary institutions often have much broader claims to ownership than K-12 teachers.

Who owns student work?  Can we anticipate child labour e- sweat shops?
Until recently, that would have been a silly question.  But no more.

An article in the Washington Post reports on "A proposal by the Prince George’s County Board of Education to copyright work created by staff and students for school could mean that a picture drawn by a first-grader, a lesson plan developed by a teacher or an app created by a teen would belong to the school system, not the individual."
A school in Ohio is offering a course for writing apps for children in grades one to six using a program called "App Inventor" and the district is planning to capture revenue, according to an article in a Cincinnati paper.

Julia Hengstler, who brought these articles to my attention, raises the spectre of  how this might develop:  "How many schools running these types of app-incubator programs are reserving the proceeds for the schools without consideration for the kids who designed/drove them? Is this the technological version of child labour sweat shops?"

A culture of sharing through Creative Commons
Teachers and students being creative is a good thing.  Making everything into an "immaterial" market is not.

An alternative is to ensure that places to share without payment exist and are promoted.  Developing a culture of sharing can be done with Creative Commons licenses that rely on an ethic of working collectively for educational purposes.

1.         New Westminster Collective Agreement, Article D33 COPYRIGHT
D33.1 The ownership of and copyright to educational materials such as: teaching aids, films, outlines, notes, manuals, apparatus, which have been designed, written or constructed by teachers with materials, with funds, and/or technical or clerical assistance provided by the Board, is vested in the Board. If a teacher wishes, he/she may discuss details with the Board and an agreement will be reached to give copyrights to a teacher on the following conditions:
D33.1.1 that the Board retains the right in perpetuity and without penalty to use these strategies/materials and/or alter these strategies/materials for their use but not for the purpose of profit; and

D33.1.2 the Board may require that 10% of all royalties paid to, for or on behalf of the author, following such release of copyright by the Board to him/her, be repaid, retained or paid to the Board to defray the Board‟s costs of their development.



1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this thoughtful post, Larry.
    I think that these type of social justice issues need to be fully considered as we move farther down the path of a knowledge-based, technologically endowed society. Technology provides many affordances for learning and teaching. We need to mitigate issues that arise from the use of technology and prevent others that we anticipate arising. Technology should be a medium for fair and just treatment of all participants.