Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bad times for teachers and students stealing images

As a producer of web technologies that provide teachers and learners with online content production tools I often find myself involved in a discussion around the legitimacy to use images found on the internet in students' and teachers' personal projects.

Although teachers over the globe complain that the internet facilitates plagiarism and encourages copying and pasting of text they usually don't show the same criticism when it comes to using/stealing pictures and graphical data.

It is quite common that teachers themselves consider the web as a free online clip art gallery and that they see no harm in using whatever they can find to pimp up their worksheets, slides or website pages without crediting their sources.

No wonder then, that they apply the same logic to images that students can find and copy-paste to decorate their personal printed or online work. Obviously teachers' sensitivity is different depending of the nature of the data that is used or stolen. In school, written text has a much higher status than an image. While copying and pasting graphical data is considered common practice, copying text without quotation marks and indications of the source is considered being a unscrupulous temptation to cheat and to avoid personal effort.

With TinEye by Idée Inc. now comes a search engine based on an image identification technology capable of finding images and variations of images on the internet. TinEye provides authors of visual data with an easy way to detect copies of their creations on websites even if the original version has been cropped, scaled, merged, renamed or colored.

Of course this is not the only application of TinEye but it is one that could have a major effect on schools.

My advice to teachers: Start today with using license free images (for example from Wikimedia Commons) or own creations. Don't make a difference between respecting authors of written text, of sound productions or of images, name your sources and teach your students to do the same.

(Got the hint from Slashdot)

Image source and copyright information :

"This is a faithful photographic reproduction of an original two-dimensional work of art. The original image comprising the work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason:

This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired. (...)"

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Croatian Thoughts

My recent family holidays took me to Croatia, a beautiful country which I already wanted to visit years ago, before Yugoslavia split apart. We drove through Germany and Austria before arriving in Slovenia and finally in Croatia more exactly to the Plitvice Lakes. When the Third Balkan War broke out back in 1991, the maps which were displayed during the head news on TV always made me aware of how close to the country I lived an armed conflict was taking place in Europe.

Now, driving my way through Slovenia and Croatia, I couldn't help but thinking about this tragic event and I scrutinized the landscape to detect some scars that could have been left by this war. But I noticed that in the area we drove through most oft the streets and houses were quite new. Only a few house fronts were covered with bullet holes.

While I was in Plitvice I read in one of my travel guides that it was exactly in this area of these beautiful lakes, that some of the first people had been killed in late March 1991. This "Plitvice Lakes incident" is also known in Croatian as "Plitvice Bloody Easter". This incident "contributed significantly to the worsening ethnic tensions that were to be at the heart of the subsequent Croatian War of Independence." as explained on Wikipedia ( Now I was there with my family to spend some enjoyable days and to contemplate the striking beauty of the landscape.

I read also that Slovenia, the first province of former Yugoslavia to declare it's independence and the first one to be accepted as a full member in the European Union, had been (maybe still is) opposed to the admission of Croatia in the EU because of territorial conflicts between both countries and I thought: Crazy! Political problems are being exported from one structure - Yugoslavia, and imported into an other one - the European Union. Inveterately human!

Reading "The Goddess and the Bull" by Michael Balter about the excavation of the neolithic site in Catalhüyük - I came across interesting fact that it was not agriculture that made people choose a sedentary life and that settlements hat been created long before agriculture was invented. This leads to a important question which archaeologists try to address through their exploration of the past: What made people want to live together in the first place? I liked very much how Balter linked this issue to our present and future by writing: "if we could understand a little better why we all wanted to live together, maybe we would bet better at doing it."

The language differences between the former Yugoslavian provinces and regions has also been a major issue during the conflict and remains an important element in the endeavors to gain or to construct a national identity. When years ago people were said to speak Serbo-Crotatian now they speak Serbian or Croatian which in itself is a mix of the dialects Chakavian, Kakavian and Shtokavian. In a language forum I found an interesting post with questions concerning the similarities or differences between the languages Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian and a very interesting answer which gives an indication of the complexity of the matter

Reading about the language conflicts I could recall a situation in one of the schools I work with, where a few girls tried to teach me the differences between Croatien and Bosnian or Bosniak. The words they chose as examples were very close and sometimes differed only by their intonation. The process of bringing up language differences to construct ethnic or national barriers seemed to have been triggered already. Language is never a neutral or non-political subject. Some may say that it's not the role of the school to address political issues and many teachers will avoid this kind of subject or will simply not be aware of their implications. Especially in Europe we should take this very seriously and teach young people how and why language conventions are constructed, that language barriers are as artificial as territorial barriers and that language is not only a tool to think with but also a tool to construct realities and an instrument that is used to include or exclude others.

The recent conflicts in Belgium between the French-speaking region of Wallonia and the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders is a current example which shows the deep political implications of language differences. If teachers in schools don't want to tackle such problems, who else will? Should we wait until children are grown up to discuss their histories, differences and similarities and how much the construction of their identities is linked to language?

Some Reading Milestones

  • Towards reflexive method in archaeology : the example at Çatalhöyük (edited by Ian Hodder) 2000

  • The Book of Learning and Forgetting (Frank Smith) 1998

  • Points of Viewing Children's Thinking: A Digital Ethnographer's Journey (Ricki Goldman-Segall) 1997

  • Verstehen lehren (Martin Wagenschein) 1997

  • Computer im Schreibatelier (Gérard Gretsch) 1992

  • The Boy Who Would Be a Helicopter. Uses of Storytelling in the Classroom (Vivian Gussin Paley) 1991

  • La cause des adolescents (Françoise Dolto) 1988

  • Scuola di Barbiana. Die Schülerschule. Brief an eine Lehrerin. (Edition of 1980) / read in German 1982
    Letter to Teacher by the Schoolboys of Barbiana (1970)
    Lettre à une maîtresse de'école, par les enfants de Barbiana (1968)
    Lettera à una professoressa (Original Edition) 1967

  • Vers une pédagogie institutionnelle (Aïda Vasquez, Fernand Oury) 1967

Documentary Films on Education

  • Eine Schule, die gelingt (by Reinhard Kahl) 2008

  • Les temps des enfants (Jacques Duez) 2007

  • Klassenleben (by Bernd Friedmann und Hubertus Siegert) 2006

  • Lernen - Die Entdeckung des Selbstverständlichen
    (Ein Vortrag von Manfred Spitzer) 2006

  • Die Entdeckung der frühen Jahre
    Die Initiative "McKinsey bildet" zur frühkindlichen Bildung (by Reinhard Kahl) 2006

  • Treibhäuser der Zukunft - Wie in Deutschland Schulen gelingen (by Reinhard Kahl) 2004

  • Treibhäuser der Zukunft / Incubators of the future / Les serres de l'avenir; International Edition (by Reinhard Kahl) 2004

  • Journal de classe, 1ères audaces (1), Les échappés (2), Sexe, amour et vidéo (3), L'enfant nomade (4), Remue-méninges (5) (by Wilbur Leguebe, Jacques Duez, Agnès Lejeune) 2004

  • Spitze - Schulen am Wendekreis der Pädagogik (by Reinhard Kahl) 2003

  • Journal de classe, (by Wilbur Leguebe and Agnès Lejeune; Jacques Duez) 2002

  • Etre et Avoir (by Nicolas Philibert) 2002

  • The Stolen Eye (by Jane Elliott) 2002

  • The Angry Eye (by Jane Elliott) 2001

  • A l'école de la providence (by Gérard Preszow) 2000

  • Blue-Eyed (by Jane Elliott) 1996

  • A Class Divided (by Jane Elliott) 1984

  • Eye of The Storm (with Jane Elliott) 1970

Past quotes of the day

For every problem, there is one solution which is simple, neat and wrong. Henry Louis Mencken

Traveler, there is no path. Paths are made by walking.
Antonio Machado

The best way to predict the future is to invent it. Immanuel Kant

The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them. Albert Einstein

To paraphrase a famous quotation, all that is necessary for the triumph of damaging educational policies is that good educators keep silent. Alfie Kohn

We used to have lots of questions to which there were no answers. Now, with the computer, there are lots of answers to which we haven't thought up the questions. Peter Ustinov

I had a terrible education. I attended a school for emotionally disturbed teachers. Woody Allen

A professor is someone who talks in someone else's sleep. W. H. Auden

When I was an inspector of schools I visited one classroom and looked at a boys book. He'd written, 'Yesterday, Yesterday, Yesterday, Sorrow, Sorrow, Sorrow, Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Love, Love, Love.' I said, 'That's a lovely poem.' He said, 'Those are my spelling corrections.' Gervase Phinn

Real thinking never starts until the learner fails. Roger Schank

If what is wanted is a reexamination of schooling in terms of purpose, structure and process, then testing programmes are the wrong vehicle (...) Caroline V. Gipps

Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. Albert Einstein

Act always so as to increase the number of choices. Heinz von Foerster

Another way of avoiding teaching is by relying exclusively on a textbook, workbooks, and other commercially packaged learning materials. Teaching is reduced to administering a set curriculum without giving any thought to the substance of what the students area learning or to their particular needs. H. Kohl

The right to ignore anything that doesn't make sense is a crucial element of any child's learning - and the first right children are likely to lose when they get to the controlled learning environment of school. F. Smith

Learning is the human activity which least needs manipulation by others. Most learning is not the result of instruction. It is rather the result of unhampered participation in a meaningful activity. - Ivan Illich

Too often we give our children answers to remember rather than problems to solve. - Roger Lewin

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. - Mark Twain