At the Web2Showcase the other week, Mike Seyfang wanted to show an online clip from our national broadcaster but the permissions clearance didn't come through in time for his part of the presentation. That led to a short discussion about the fact that the law cannot keep up with technology any more - the remix culture is constantly breeching the old protocols of Intellectual Property and the media habits of students today constantly break the preconceptions of how we access, consume and manipulate digital media. P2P networks, Creative Commons licensing, social networking are all big threats to the current laws of who owns what. The music companies are certainly having to rethink the way their product is distributed - witness iTunes cards being sold in service stations and disgruntled artists offering their music for free. This hasn't happened overnight as veteran US rap group Public Enemy flagged back in 1999. Their front man, Chuck D also recently weighed into the DRM debate - I suppose it is no surprise that a master of re-mix would have something to say! (Incidentally, Public Enemy's Fear Of A Black Planet is one of my all time favourite albums...)
So, it is also no surprise that education is also struggling to keep pace with the changes. Rachel @ Bard Wired expresses her frustrations in a recent post that is typical of keen Web 2.0 advocates in schools today:
It's a real tricky question - emerging technologies (such as the many that are now blocked) have huge potential to extend and amplify learning opportunities for our kids (& teachers) yet how do we balance this with providing a safe learning environment (filtered school networks)??
Schools do have the ability to unblock sites but who decides in a school and how do they decide without resorting to the knee-jerk reactions to block (or allow) without fully understanding the benefits & issues around Web 2.0 in the classroom.
As usual, in the comments section, Artichoke is right on the money:
...- the stuff we valorise ICTs for at conferences - the interconnectivity for knowledge building - is just the stuff we do not let happen in schools - ...
The two lagging worlds of education and law collide in the classroom far too often. As an example, I want my kids to observe IP protocol by using only public domain and CC images in their presentations and workforms but the best resource for these images is in Flickr, locked away and made inaccessible by the default filtering system. Fair use isn't enough when students need the option to publish their learning to the widest possible audience. I don't know what the solution is. As a teacher of young students, I still think that some form of filtering is useful but surely in this age of amazing digital technology, an intelligent filtering system that builds up and allows educationally valid requests should be possible. Throwing all of Web 2.0 into the category of Hosted Web Pages and using a universal block on that category is just putting everything into the "too hard" basket. The reality is that everytime a wall is put up, our smart tech savvy students will find a way around, under or through the block. Finding the chinks in the armour or the loopholes in the legislation is something that is part of the human experience - even young primary kids know that if they want to download games and movies at school, stowing it away in a subfolder on the network and labelling it Novel Report is enough to fool most of the adults in charge of their education!
So, both the legislators and educators of Australia need to get their virtual rollerblades on because technology tools are not likely to slow down anytime soon and wait for either party to catch up. We must engage now and make informed decisions about how to manage technology for the benefit of learners and be wary of being sold lockdown solutions that make schools irrelevant to the networked world our students are part of today.