IP Education, IP Education, IP Education
OHIM’s recent Study on IP Education in school curricula (Intellectual Property and Education in Europe) made for interesting reading. Among other things, the authors of the Report stressed that embedding meaningful intellectual property education in schools requires up-to-date resources that appeal to pupils and are tailored to different age groups and developmental stages. That is, innovative, age-appropriate educational resources are crucial if teachers are to be empowered to bring intellectual property alive in their classrooms, whether in the context of the Arts, ICT or STEM education, or, more generally, in programmes concerning innovation, entrepreneurship and citizenship.
In light of that Report, it is worth reflecting on the UK Intellectual Property Office’s new education site, launched under the Cracking Ideas brand on 2 November 2015. Does it evidence the kind of good practice in intellectual property education that OHIM calls for?, and how does one sensibly measure these things?
The new portal is fronted by those stop motion stalwarts, Wallace and Gromit, and brings together all of the IPO’s education materials under one roof, as well as other resources developed by various sector-specific organisations. A more engaging set of materials than the IPO’s previous Think Kit initiative, Cracking Ideas features an annual design competition, an Ideas Gallery (don’t keep your great ideas a secret, share them!), and a suite of teaching resources for ages 4 to 18+ addressing the national curriculum across all Key Stages(KSs). Some of the general explanations of the core intellectual property rights may lack nuance [there's always a trade-off between painting the big picture and supplying the subtle detail and this Kat would never expect nuance in a project like this] but, in effect, this information simply provides a backdrop to the main emphasis of the lesson plans: encouraging children to engage in creative and innovative thinking and activity. Smart design and developing innovative solutions to real-world problems are the order of the day. And that is to be welcomed. Children should always be encouraged to appreciate their creative potential, and intellectual property education should always be concerned with helping children understand what they can do, not what they can’t [quite right, says Merpel: we leave that task till they grow up and then delegate it to the IP professions ...].
In that regard, it is notable that Cracking Ideas eschews the heavy-handed didacticism that has marked some industry-sponsored education campaigns of the past. Think about high profile anti-piracy efforts such as Home Taping is Killing Music [here] or You Wouldn’t Steal a Car ['Piracy it's a Crime, here, launched in 2007, a year in which over 184,000 car thefts were recorded in the United Kingdom ...]. It is now widely believed that as an educational strategy, and an attempt to influence consumer behaviour, these have failed. It is better, surely, to engage positively, sincerely and creatively with media consumers of all ages, and Cracking Ideas, for the most part, succeeds in this regard. For example, KS1 teachers are invited to explain that ‘people have new ideas and also develop existing ideas’, and children are encouraged to ‘generate ideas by drawing on their own and other people’s experiences’; similarly, KS4 students are asked to research the debate on music downloads and develop an opinion about how to resolve the matter ‘without musicians losing out’ (note: not music publishers or producers but ‘musicians’). The materials aren’t overtly directive on these issues. There is space for discussion and debate, and for a difference of opinion on the relationship between intellectual property and creative and innovative endeavour.
There are occasional slips however. Among the various resources gathered together under the Cracking Ideas umbrella, one can still find reductive messages that smack of negative campaigning (‘Just as it’s wrong to steal a pen, a mobile phone, a car … It’s wrong to steal an idea. / Taking someone’s work and using it as your own is theft’). For the most part, though, the ambition and tone is positive with an emphasis on the value and importance of appreciating and realising creative potential.
But how do we get teachers to make use of these resources, and how does one meaningfully measure the success or not of the material? What are the appropriate methods or metrics? At Copyright User we have developed a suite of educational tools for KS3 and beyond, and we are mindful of the challenges of both developing engaging material for teachers and students and of tracking the effectiveness and impact of our efforts. We are in the process of designing a methodology for encouraging and evaluating the use of our resources, including surveys, teacher and student-facing focus groups, and road-testing new materials within classrooms. Also, the suite of materials that we produced for A-level Media Studies students is specifically geared towards an optional component of ‘Contemporary Media Regulation’ on the Media Studies curriculum, and we hope to track the uptake and use of our resource within the Critical Perspectives in Media exam. But if any readers have suggestions about inventive ways to measure the effectiveness of these and other initiatives we would certainly welcome your input. You can contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
We would also welcome your thoughts and feedback on two new education tools that we have recently introduced to the Copyright User platform. First is Copyright Bites, a series of short videos with accompanying text that aim to provide a springboard for exploring the relationship between copyright and the public domain, and between copyright policy and creativity. Second is the award-winning film, The Game is On! The Adventure of the Girl with the Light Blue Hair [here]. Drawing inspiration from well-known copyright and public domain works, as well as recent copyright litigation, the resource provides a platform for exploring key principles and ideas underpinning copyright law and creativity, and the limits of lawful appropriation and re-use. The film comes accompanied by 12 Case Files, supplementary educational materials providing points of discussion about copyright for use in the classroom.
Our call for feedback and critique isn’t entirely self-serving. Indeed, it brings us back to Cracking Ideas. We believe the IPO’s new website is a welcome development in intellectual property education, with an appropriately positive emphasis and ethos. But we’re also particularly pleased that Cracking Ideas has chosen to direct users to Copyright User if they are interested to ‘Find out more about how copyright law works’ (see the links at the bottom of this page). In continuing to enhance and improve Copyright User we like to think that, in some small way, we’re also helping to improve Cracking Ideas as well as the quality of intellectual property education materials that are freely available for use in schools throughout the country. So, thanks in advance. Testify!