Stealing and The War of 1812

Post date: Jan 15, 2015 12:12:34 AM

I hate copyright law.

I think the idea that an idea can be owned is silly. Please understand, I'm not a hippie. I'm not a communist. I'm not even liberal. I am a classically trained market economist with a degree to prove it. I have no problem with private ownership of capital whatsoever. I just think owning an idea is really odd. I hate that I can't share the 2 minute video clips I use with my lecture notes for fear of PRISON. I hate that I even hesitated to share today's lesson because it has ideas that aren't mine. Nothing changes though if we don't fight it.

So, here's a post on how I use the ideas of others as the starting point to create most of what I do and why I think that's how we should all work.

When I'm creating something new I start with a simple Google search.

"War of 1812 activities"

"War of 1812 8th grade"

"James madison primary source"


One of those searches recently, "War of 1812 simulation" I think, sent me to and a sweet lesson.

Using their lesson and materials I ended up creating my own presentation and an accompanying sheet for my students. I used (stole) their videos and made what I think is a much better package - at least for my students. I hope you'll use (steal) what I've created and make it even better for your kids.

The lesson consists of 9 animated videos of historical characters discussing their positions on the War of 1812. The animations are somewhat rudimentary but are far better than anything I could do. The voice-work, in particular, is very well done. Even if I could make them myself the amount of time saved by using this pre-existing stuff is nearly immeasurable. This lab would not have happened if I had to make all the parts myself. I took each video and downloaded them. I ran them through a video editor to get them into the format I wanted and then put them into my PowerPoint. I don't know if the NPS has a copyright on these videos but if this was a private video of any sort I technically violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act just by downloading them and using them in another form.

Oh well. After introducing the president of James Madison yesterday it seemed like a perfect lesson for today and it absolutely was. We watched the opening intro clip from James Madison and then I showed students the map with the 8 pins (my greatest contribution to the lab I'd argue... although I did steal the map... and the pins.). I let them as a class decide where to go first. Did it matter? Not in the slightest but I gave them ownership of the lab just by adding that tiny bit of choice. I could have done them in order or just had the website up the screen but my method was more interactive and better for my students.

The students used the worksheet I created during each video interview. I knew it would guide the discussion the way I wanted it to. Again, I could have just used it as presented on the website but I'm the choreographer of my classroom and I want to make sure the experience is everything it could be. They then took a minute to share their answer with their shoulder partner. (Which, as an aside, is something every secondary teacher should do waaaaay more of - myself included. That's another topic for another day...) I then randomly chose a student to share their answer with the class. Then onto the next video.

The pair discussions were great. The class shares were great. The opportunities for discussion about bias and perspective were great.

And it all could have stopped right there.

I, however, built on what I had stolen by adding more (stolen) parts to the lab. I added a comparison of the US and Royal navies at the time using pictures I stole from someone else and information I stole from yet another someone. I then took a section of an activity from EdSITEment and reformatted it as I needed it for part 3 of the lab. All together I made what I feel are very significant changes to each piece I stole. Aside from the 9 videos almost nothing resembles its original form. I have a more complete, more appropriate lesson for my kids. I don't think we should hesitate to do that and then also be free to share what we've created - even if not every piece was our own.

After the initial Google search I usually hit a few specific spots for more. If you're looking to give copyright law a thumb to the eyes start in any of these wonderful places and then share what you find!

EdSITEment -

Gilder Lehrman Institute -

Share My Lesson -

Better Lesson -

and so many on Twitter using the hastag #sschat

Steal and share!