Respect and Remix, hand in hand!

When it comes to copyright, our role as educators is very clear to me: we need to teach students, from an early age, to respect other people’s work. I could not say otherwise anyway: this is one of the numerous core missions of my job as a teacher-librarian in a middle and high school. And I take it at heart!
Obviously, we also need to be role-model for young people: giving a few classes on the importance of providing citations in their projects and essays but failing to apply it ourselves in school would be detrimental to the message.
On a personal level, being new to blogging, I have been wondering if linking the text or video in my post, when I am referring to it, is “good enough”?

This exactly is what Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano says in her Copyright Flowchart: educators need to model good digital citizenship and that includes watching out for copyright, plagiarism, and intellectual property. In specific circumstances, these regulations can be amended: this is the concept of Fair use, that allows limited use of copyrighted material without having to first acquire permission. And education is one of the areas where fair use easily applies. Nonetheless, as Rosenthal Tolisano points out: let’s make sure teachers understand the concepts and implications. And don’t abuse it!

  • Copyright: the materials are protected by law when it is created
  • Creative Commons: creators choose which rights they reserve or waive
  • Public Domain: no more copyright
  • Fair Use: a doctrine in the law that allow some use of copyrighted material, based on four factors: nature – amount – purpose – effect

That project that Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano, as a school technology integrator, developed with her colleague Meryl Zeidenber, a library coordinator, is very interesting and helpful, even if there could have some nuances added. It explains to students what to pay attention to, and its flowchart can be used as a step-by-step guide when they create digital projects.

Obviously plagiarism should be avoided: as I tell my middle schoolers: if you use someone’s work without citing it, you are stealing the author ideas, products, and time. I don’t want to scare them: I want to educate and make them aware of the potential risks: nowadays, incidental copy/paste can be “easily” done, when saving some facts that end up in the essay. Or students don’t think it is important, or their previous schools never taught them these concepts. Or it is not perceived as an issue in their culture. Or they are not aware of the existing tools that can be used freely, without paying and without being illegal. During this course, I personally learned about Unsplash, and Pixabay for artistic free photographs. But you can also find free material such as images, music, logo, drawings, etc in Google if you set the right parameters: see below.

Google Search – 5/5/20

When it comes to teaching high schoolers, they need to learn not only to create a neat bibliography, but also to cite properly all the information, pictures, graph, and data they consulted during their research, and then used in their final work. Most of our students take the full International Baccalaureate Diploma, whose academic honesty criteria are strictly set. As mentioned in a previous post, we developed a 7-steps to IB research guide and we walk our students through its content at different levels through the years, to reach the whole experience by the end of grade 11, to make sure these students are fully equipped to navigate through their IB Extended Essay and Internal Assessments. These library sessions are sometimes delivered within a course but also fit in an EE half-day workshops program. Librarians have created different presentations, and with the Distance Learning due to COVID-19 pandemic, narrated versions have been added! As we always gear to improve the students learning experience, earlier in the year we offered voluntary specific mini-sessions during their breaks and lunchtimes. As I say to them: “I prefer you ask me (a lot of) questions now than to have to tell you in a few months that you need to go back to your EE and fix your citations and bibliography”.
I tell them too that using information ethically doesn’t only apply to students: adults are also bond to it and they will make use of these skills in their future professional lives. Otherwise there will be consequences, and I illustrate this with one story among quite a few others. In September 2014, the rector of the main French-speaking University of Brussels, gave a speech, on the opening day of the academic year, which turned out to have been heavily plagiarized from a number of sources, among them former French president Jacques Chirac! In his defense, he claimed that a young collaborator wrote the text -and that part was nearly as shocking to me!-, and that he now got fired. But of course, this wasn’t sufficient and he finally had to resign himself. Role-modeling in education, whether at home or at school, is imperative.

“The principle of academic honesty should be viewed positively by the entire school community and become a natural part of academic study, remaining with the IB student throughout his or her education and beyond.”

Academic honesty in the IB educational context (International Baccalaureate Organization, 2014)

Our school uses Turnitin, which will identify unoriginal content, and we are encouraging our older students to scan their essays before submitting them to teachers as we believe it shouldn’t only be used as a repression tool. IB papers are systematically checked for possible similarities before being sent away for assessment.

These constraints should not restrain the creation process. Actually, being respectful of the intellectual property of others does not mean that art and innovation are not allowed, or won’t emerge. Either the original work is cited, either the new creation falls under Fair Use. A remix is not derivative of the original work, but instead builds on it to create something new and original, and should be encouraged in all forms of creation

“Many commentators today are talking about the “age of the remix”, a practice enabled by widespread access to sophisticated computer technology whereby existing works are rearranged, combined, or remixed to create a new work. They make it sound as if remixing were a novel phenomenon, but a brief glance at human history reveals that it is in fact nothing new”.

Guilda Rostama, “Dilemma,” WIPO

Larry Lessing is a legal activist, advocating for reduced legal restrictions in technology applications, and is best known for being the co-founder of Creative Commons (CC), which provides free licenses for creators when making their work available to the public. Without CC, when a magazine article is written or a photograph taken, that work is automatically protected by copyright, which prevents others from using it freely. Creative Commons allows the creator to choose the way they want others to (re)use the work. When a creator releases their work under a CC license, members of the public know what they can and can’t do with the work. And even better: all CC licenses allow works to be used for educational purposes. This means that teachers and students can freely copy, share, and sometimes modify and remix a CC work without needing the permission of the creator. This open wide doors to creation!

“Re-examining the Remix,” video, 18:39, TED, posted by Lawrence Lessig, April 2010, accessed May 3, 2020, ttps://

In TED Talk above, Lessig speaks about what American Democrats could learn about copyright from their opposite party, the Republican, considered more conservative, but maybe not on this topic, and give an interesting perspective on Remix. The remix culture is a society that allows and encourages, by combining or editing existing materials, to produce new creative work or product. This is a desirable practice, that differs from piracy. Although happening on a much larger scale since the spread of technology and the internet, as Rotstama reminds us, there is nothing new under the sky! Along the same lines, Lessig also gives us some examples, including how Walt Disney based his first creation on existing work (Brothers Grimm…). It is appalling how the Disney Company now keeps lobbying so strongly to harden copyright laws to avoid losing its rights to the first cartoons. They did forget about their own history.

In the 2005 study Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation), it already appeared that half the American teenagers had created media content while a third of them had shared content they produced. We can easily imagine that these percentages would even be higher 15 years later. Teens are definitely involved in participatory cultures, in which they don’t act as consumers only (meaning general public), but also as contributors or producers. The study highlighted some different aspects:

  1. Affiliations: memberships in online communities centered around media such as Facebook
  2. Expressions: producing new creation forms, for example, fan videomaking
  3. Collaborative problem-solving: working in teams to develop new knowledge as the now-famous wikis
  4. Circulations: shaping the flow of media with podcasting, blogging…

Participatory culture carries benefits for young people: peer-to-peer learning, progressive view on intellectual property, diversification of cultural expression, development of skills valued in the workplace, empowered conception of citizenship. These are great! Still, let’s not forget some concerns that arise: these young people need pedagogical guidance in the process.
The report’s main goal is to shift the conversation about the digital divide from questions of technological access to:
– opportunities to participate
– development of cultural competencies
– development of social skills needed for a full involvement
In other words, moving from the tool(s) to the skills.

Therefore, schools should focus on developing new media literacy to help young people becoming MEDIA CREATORS.


Academic honesty in the IB educational context. International Baccalaureate Organization, 2014. Accessed May 6, 2020.

Jenkins, Henry. Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Edited by MacArthur Foundation. Accessed May 4, 2020.

LeClair, Tanya. Sourcing Images. Accessed May 4, 2020.

Mathewson, Adrienne. “Copyright and Fair Use for Students.” Accessed May 5, 2020.

“Re-examining the Remix.” Video, 18:39. TED. Posted by Lawrence Lessig, April 2010. Accessed May 3, 2020. ttps://

Rosenthal Tolisano, Silvia. “Copyright Flowchart: Can I Use It? Yes? No? If This… Then….” Langwitches. Last modified June 10, 2014. Accessed May 3, 2020.

Rossel. “Discours plagié: Alain Delchambre démissionne de la présidence de l’ULB.” Le Soir. Last modified October 6, 2014. Accessed May 5, 2020.

Rostama, Guilda. “Dilemma.” WIPO. Last modified March 2015. Accessed May 7, 2020.

Schlackman, Steve. “How Mickey Mouse Keeps Changing Copyright Law.” Artrepreneur. Last modified February 15, 2014. Accessed May 5, 2020.

U.S. Copyright Office. “More Information on Fair Use.” Accessed May 5, 2020.

Weber-Wulff, Debora. “Belgian Rector resigns over plagiarized speech.” Copy, Shake, and Paste, A blog about plagiarism and scientific misconduct. Entry posted October 6, 2014. Accessed May 5, 2020.

“What We Do.” Creative Commons. Accessed May 5, 2020.

Wikimedia. “Copyright.” Wikipedia. Accessed May 5, 2020.

———. “Public Domain.” Wikipedia. Accessed May 5, 2020.

———. “Remix Culture.” Wikipedia. Accessed May 7, 2020.

Course 1 Final Project: “Expand your Research Skills”

Here is the Unit Plan developed as a Library lesson for Middle School Grade 9 Social Studies – Project on Ancient Civilizations (Rome)

Photo by Christopher Czermak on Unsplash

Why did you choose this topic? These standards?

The Ancient Civilizations is one of the main project that grade 9 social studies students work on during the first semester.
These standards are the obvious ones as I will be collaborating as a Teacher-Librarian with the classroom teachers.

If you revamped a previously created learning experience, what have you changed and why? What’s been added and/or removed? Why?

The entire Social Studies Curriculum for the Middle School went through some remodeling the past couple of years and Librarians need to revisit the collaboration with this department, in the light of the 7-steps to IB level Research that we have been developed in parallel for the whole school. The goal is to expand students’ expertise as information seekers, in incremental steps, and therefore to equip the grade 9 students with all the research skills they will need before entering High School.

How was this learning experience (unit plan) different from or similar to other learning experiences (unit plans) you have designed?

First of all, I rarely designed lesson plans from scratch, but get involved in delivering the lessons, and even amending one on my own has been a new experience. If I chose this specific topic, it is because I have always valued (and enjoyed) past collaboration with the MS Social Studies department. The idea is to reinstall a closer collaboration with these colleagues, while at the same time enriching the library component within that unit, and making it more meaningful to students, more authentic while adding digital tools.

How does this learning experience (unit plan) relate to what you learned in Course 1?

Although I am not satisfied yet the result I came up with (I will review it before next September!!), I have been thinking a lot of some of the readings and conclusions of the past courses:
new brain research stating how a positive and supportive learning environment can enrich the learning, to the point of reversing the negative effects of stress some students might encounter in their lives (Edutopia)
Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy, and moving from LOTS to HOTS
– making the learning relevant to the student (Cofino)
– the idea of connectivism and the need to adapt accordingly our teaching strategies

What has influenced you the most in Course one and how is that reflected in your learning experience/unit plan?

As stated above, I know I will go back to the lesson plan to amend it before sharing it with teachers, and will definitely prepare and test some online activities to make sure to engage students in a meaningful way.

What outcomes do you hope to see when students complete this learning experience/unit?

By the end of this unit, I am hoping for students to be more effective, critical and ethical researchers and information users.

From Theory into Practice

Sometimes it is laborious to visualize what some theoretical theory really means and how it can be applied. And sometimes, it goes the other way round: you come across some theory that suddenly make sense and help you to magnify practices already in place.
This week’s readings were quite rich and, I thought, the perfect balance between theory and practice. Or theory leading to practice. Or How to Use Learning Theories to Support Students’ Learning.

As educators, we indeed have a responsibility to stay up-to-date with research in order to apply innovative learning theories to our teaching.

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

First of all, if we look at the conclusions -and implications!- of Living with New Media (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation), it is clear that being immersed in the digital age means much more than “just” being able to access serious online information and culture. Being able to participate in social and recreational activities online is essential too. Adults need to realize that a cultural shift happened and they should remain open to experimentation as this would benefit the education program, by taking advantage of moments when young people are motivated to move from friendship-driven to more interest-driven forms of new media use.

“In our work, contrary to the fear that social norms are eroding online, we did not find many youth who were engaging in behaviors that were riskier than what they did in offline contexts.”

Institutions like schools and libraries should also play an active role in granting young people access the internet when it is not feasible to do so at home, to allow their participation in common culture and sociability.
Besides other points that have been noted by researchers, this final one is significant for educators: youth are developing new forms of media literacy that are keyed to new media and youth-centered social and cultural worlds.
Peer-based learning can be very powerful, and should be perceived as such by institutions and educators (and by parents too!); formal instruction needs to evolve and adapt to today’s young people’s practices.

Introduced in 2005 by two publications**, connectivism “is a theoretical framework for understanding learning in a digital age”. It gave, and still gives, a new insight into what it means to facilitate learning nowadays.
In What Does Connectivism Mean for Education?, written in 2012, Justin Marquis explains how the education process needs to be remodeled. And that includes the teacher’s role, but also the student’s one, and technology.
The way teaching is delivered should indeed meet the learner expectations and the physical changes that technology has done to the brains (!).

** Siemens’ Connectivism: Learning as Network Creation and Downes’ An Introduction to Connective Knowledge

Connectivism is driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations. New information is continually being acquired. The ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital. The ability to recognize when new information alters the landscape based on decisions made yesterday is also critical.” (Siemens, 2005)

With Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy (Churches), we can start looking more precisely at a practical plan of action as it is a hierarchical model classifying educational learning objectives into levels of complexity and specificity.
Thinking skills and objectives are categorized and put in an ascending order, moving from the Lower Order Thinking Skills (LOTS) to the Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS)

Evaluation = Higher Order thinking Skills
Knowledge = Lower Order Thinking Skills

In 2001, Anderson and Krathwohl revised it and considered that creativity was higher within the cognitive domain than evaluation.

Through a Google search, I came across Obiageli Sneed‘s post on Integrating Technology with Bloom’s Taxonomy, and the very helpful graphic below: suddenly, you can link toolkits to the different learning stages.
Depending on the project, the ultimate learning goal you want students to achieve, and the competency already acquired, you can start at one level as they don’t all need to be followed in a sequence.

Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy is a great help for educators as it allows them to select purposefully through all the digital tools available, and make choices based on the kinds of learning experiences they want students to engage in.

Infographic Credit: Ron Carranza

Finally, Bringing the Science of Learning Into Classrooms (Edutopia) is so motivating when it explains how recent research shows that the brain is malleable and, contrary to previous belief, it continues to evolve until young adulthood.
The main consequence being that, despite toxic stress and abusive relationships, both inhibiting the learning, it is still possible to reverse the process, thanks to a trusting relationship with an adult (e.g. a teacher, a counselor…).
Isn’t that wonderful to have science confirming that with proper care and approach to learning, a student can still meet his/her full potential?
There is no such thing as an expiring date on the brain’s capacity to overcome barriers to learning. And educators can have such an impact if they are able to combine social, emotional, affective, and cognitive aspects within their teaching: the student’s brain will make more connections, and it will accelerate student learning and development.

Learning to navigate: being an active researcher

In 2020, we are surrounded by information. It is everywhere, at our fingertips, and we even carry, in our pockets, phones that give us access to a wealth of information that no one could have imagined only a decades ago. Tom Stevenson tells us that We Are Living In The Age of Information Overload and urges us to be selective: less is more, right?
But what exactly is information? Merriam-Webster’s specifies three different meanings: “(1) Knowledge obtained from investigation, study or instruction (2) News (3) Facts / Data”, while knowledge is “the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association”. Comparing both terms show us that a process is needed to access knowledge.
This is what research is. And to have a safe journey through it involves learning to navigate through that sea of information.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

As educators, our role is not anymore to feed students with pre-defined content: slowly but surely the ex-cathedra teaching model has become outdated. Nowadays learning to learn holds more validity than being able to recite facts. In 2016, Erika Andersen explained in a Harvard Business Review article that the concept of “Learning to Learn” is probably the new challenge for businesses wanting to remain competitive.

“Curiosity is what makes us try something until we can do it, or think about something until we understand it. ” (Andersen)

I enjoyed watching Diana Laufenberg TEDx Talk: How to learn? From mistakes. I could indeed relate to her personal experience as a younger student who, unlike her parents and grandparents, had access to printed encyclopedias at home: for the first time information, and therefore knowledge, was not only delivered at school by teachers who were the main keepers of knowledge. In my bedroom, I would often flick through a volume and read a couple of articles (and over the years I must have read most of them, if not all, in those thirty-something volumes!), and when I reached High School, I would look up for some background information before writing essays -my Belgian school didn’t have a library (!).
For Laufenberg, it is clear that as kids don’t have to come to school anymore to get information, the teacher’s new role – more of a mentor’s I would say – is to ask students what they can do with it, and accompany them through the process.

For teenagers, being “connected” is very natural as it has become part of their life. Parents and teachers often think that “hanging out’ with friends, and using new media is a waste of time, as the findings of the Digital Youth Project shows (Living with New Media, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation), but to teens, it is an essential part of everyday communication and part of their identity construction. Being engaged in new media practices in such a way is expanding their technology literacy.
This happens when they are “messing around’, which in this context means experimentation and exploration by looking around, searching for information online, play with gaming and/or digital media production. It requires interest-driven orientation, and usually take place within a social context that will allow sharing. At this stage, it is interesting to note that one of the goals of this three-year-long ethnographic study was to find out how practices are changing “the dynamics of youth-adult negotiations over literacy, learning and authoritative knowledge”. How should educators, in the broader meaning (parents, caregivers, teachers) adapt their teaching of the young?

Image by cev_91 from Pixabay

Digital technology, and social media, are part of our lives now, for better and, sometimes, for worse. These unlimited opportunities for communication, although asynchronous – allowing to think twice about what you are texting or posting, can sometimes slip: some children or teenagers can be confronted to harmful loss of privacy, bullying, child sexual abuse as the UNICEF report “Children in a Digital World” points out. Young people between 15 and 24 years-old represent the most connected age group with 71% worldwide being online vs. only 48% total population if all ages are included. One in three under 18 years-old are internet users, and children access the internet at an increasingly younger age.

This is the reason why teachers need to help students take ownership of their digital lives. Last year, Merve Lapus from Common Sense Media spent a few days at our school, The International School of Brussel meeting its administration, its students, parents, and faculty, and working closely with key actors, like librarians and technology integrators, to model Digital Citizenship lessons. ISB then started to pilot the Common Sense Media DC Curriculum during the 2019-20 School Year and will continue to integrate such lessons in order to help students to make smart choices online.
Another recent “hot” topic in the new media is Fake News, and we can, right now, observe an increase of false information during the COVID-19 pandemic, which “is putting [more] lives at risk” claims UN News. Internet users need to learn how to distinguish such fabricated news from legitimate ones. To help our Middle School students understand the many ways this term can be used and how to search for truth in an era of too many Fake News, last January, our school invited the Belgian journalist Tim Verheyden for a lecture on the topic followed by an interesting discussion with students.

7 Steps to IB Level Research @ The International School of Brussels

Leading students to develop a critical mind when it comes to research is indeed a crucial mission for all educators, including teacher-librarians of course! While it is very easy to do a Google search, finding reliable and academic-level information and use it ethically needs guidance and practice.