A teacher turns students into podcasters

What started as a new media learning experience is rapidly turning into an education in copyright law.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor on

Teacher Clarence Fisher blogs about his current experiment to bring blogging, podcasting and vblogging into the classroom. After demonstrating prime samples of the media, the class jumps into podcasting in the classroom. Here's an excerpt.

Into the computer lab today and onto Audacity with an introductory assignment with the kids in my class. In 70 minutes, produce a 2 - 3 minute podcast on something you are interested in (we talked about possible topics: movies, sports, entertainment, events at school, etc., etc.). Have opening and closing music, transition between topics and have transition music or sounds. At the end, it also needed to be converted to an MP3 file.

It was a very busy class.

The content was not the issue. Although the kids did spend a fair amount of time laughing at themselves and their voices ("I don't sound like that!"), content was not a problem. Even to say they were unprepared, many of the kids did very well because they chose things they were interested in and they had some knowledge about. These are junior high kids, they have plenty to say.

These being junior-high students, they immediately ran into the old bugaboo, copyright issues. Indeed, it's interesting how the project would up being a real education in the limitations of the legal use of copyright material.

Music that is open source or licensed under Creative Commons is going to take time to find. There is plenty of it out there, but the kids will need to listen to massive amounts of it to find something they are satisfied with because they don't know any of it. ... Interestingly, these last few days have turned us towards major discussions on copyright law, what it is, and why there is a need for it. Most of the kids in my class download music freely and don't really understand how they are doing something illegal. Their view of the music business is that artists should make money from concerts, retailing merchandise, appearing on TV, the radio, in magazines, etc., but that the music needs to be free or very low cost. They have been downloading music for free since they were able, and they will not even tolerate the $1 / track that iTunes charges.

In a later post, Fisher got himself an education on copyright too.

I spent some time this weekend learning about Canadian copyright laws and podcasting. They basically say that commercial music may not be used in podcasts except for what is called Fair Comment. Fair Comment allows people to play a portion of a piece of music (usually regarded to be 10 - 15 seconds) as long as they are directly commenting on the piece of music being played.

This, of course, gets rid of all of the ideas my kids have about playing their favourite new Nickelback song as introductory music on their podcasts. ... The kids were very uninformed, and truly uncaring about copyright laws. Most of the kids freely download music at home on peer to peer services such as Limewire and just don't understand why music is, or even should be, copyrighted. They can understand the idea of intellectual property and intellectual copyright, but they don't think that music should be included. To them, the entertainment industry is about entertainment: concerts, merchandise, etc. not about copyright protected music.

So from there we moved into discussions about Creative Commons and options available for people that are alternative to copyright. This discussion is quite heavy for 13 - 14 year old kids so I'm not sure how much they understand outside of the fact that Creative Commons means they can use it for their podcast. They were also happy to hear about the Creative Commons - Wired CD project because they know some of the artists who put together this CD. Some of them felt some of this music had potential for their podcast.

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