Until being approached by an old friend to write for this blog, I was unaware of CLA Licensing and its impact on the education sector. In my so far short career in teaching, I had never formally been introduced to it, and as far as I recall I wasn't made aware of it in any professional training capacity. Whenever I needed to use something, whether it was some text, an image, or an activity, I just went ahead and incorporated it into my lesson planning, and made enough copies as I needed to teach my classes.
Only being at the stage of NQT +1, I have only been working in the teaching profession for two years, with the start of this year being my second as a qualified teacher. This means I can remember most of my PGCE training, and I can state that the issue of copyright was one that was not mentioned, or if it was then it was not dwelt upon for too long. Whether this omission was just on the behalf of my course's provider, or a wider issue throughout teacher training, I cannot say. However, unlike sitting down at home to watch a DVD, I was given no clear warning signs of the implications of copyright theft, and no concise guidelines of good practice with regards to teaching and copyright.
I have spent my entire teaching career using images, sources, and text whenever I needed it, on the basis that it would enhance my lesson (either aesthetically or functionally). The types of material I have used varies from historical sources, such as primary accounts and images, through to historians' interpretations and more modern representations and portrayals of past events and historical figures. My copying was not due to any illusions of rebelling against the system, or personal ambitions of being a low-key master criminal, but instead it was borne out of sheer ignorance of the legal guidelines, and admittedly, a reluctance to research them in any detail. Copyright has never been at the forefront of my mind when trawling through the Internet and searching for the perfect clipart to symbolise historical figures, or an ideal source for my pupils to study a particular event. When making lessons, the aim is to create something functional, enjoyable, and accessible for pupils, and therefore I never stopped to think about whether my resources would be breaching copyright law. I had been working under the assumption that I would be covered, either by the Local Teaching Authority or even just the flimsy moral argument that I needed that text/image to further the development of my students' understanding of History. As it turns out, I was covered by the CLA Education Licence, but this was completely unknown to me, and I was neither aware of what this Licence meant for creators, or how it could help me better utilise my resources.
This is not to state that I am ignorant and unaware of ownership within teaching itself. Teachers are funny creatures, and some can be rather possessive over their work. This can lead to a refusal to share lessons and resources with their colleagues, or even going so far as to delete all their contributed work from shared-areas when leaving a school. A quick peek on the TES website would highlight this point, where there exists a marketplace for teachers to buy and sell their content to peers. Teachers clearly place immense value on the resources that they themselves have created, but don't always see the resources widely available on the Internet with the same distinction.
Moving into a private school at the start of this academic year, I have become much more aware of copyright issues around education. This is mostly due to the school being an independent entity, and therefore needing to organise and subscribe to software and resources that are normally covered by a Local Education Authority. Furthermore, due to the vast budget the school boasts, the sheer quantity and quality of subscriptions available has really brought this issue into focus for me. I now have legal access to a variety of different video libraries, newspapers, and educational journals. I can see the implication of copyright law every time I need to log on with a secure account to see the latest educational review or blog update. Only through this blatant interaction was the issue of copyright thrust into my attention.
If it weren't for the coincidence of my friend's request for this blog, alongside the introduction to a private school, I would have happily (and ignorantly) gone on swiping whatever resources and images I could in the name of education. But because of those experiences, I've come to realise that all the resources that we find on the Internet are created by an individual or a team of creators, who place great value in their work, the same as I might place in an activity I have specially put together for the classroom. If I'm using somebody else's work, isn't it right that they should receive fair payment, or at the very least, acknowledgement for it? Being educated and guided through copyright during my teacher training would have given me clarity about the moral and ethical issues surrounding using someone's work, as well as the knowledge of how I could be making the most of resources fairly under the terms of a licence I didn't know I was covered by.
About the Author
Christopher Blackmore is a History Teacher still in the early stages of his teaching career. After completing his PGCE at UCL IoE, and then progressing through his NQT at an all-girls comprehensive school in South London, Christopher has just started teaching at a private school in Surrey as an NQT+1.