Technology in the Special Ed Classroom

At TCEA in Austin last week, I had the opportunity to present with one of my co-workers. She is an awesome educator in general, but her love for her students is obvious in her curriculum. She works very hard to tie in all types of technology to engage the students and make her job more efficient. 

Our presentation, “Web 2.0 in the Elementary Special Education Classroom,” focused on a number of technologies and procedures she uses and the process with which we do it. We had a nice crowd of about thirty for 8:00 in the morning. Morning sessions are tough, as we all know.  Thank you for those who crawled out of bed for the early sessions. We enjoyed the discussion.

One item that was brought up was copyright. My co-worker shared her next goal was to have her students read their books and record them for classroom use. Her books on tape are wearing down, to say the least.  One guest in the audience called her on it saying it was breaking copyright policies. Our discussion with her did not seem to change her mind. She felt that since she was a librarian she was obligated to let us know we were breaking the law.  Another audience member attempted to clarify for her that no monetary damages were being had to the book publishers and that they would not have anything to sue for. Besides, who would sue little kids reading stories while learning?

So, I did what every Texas teacher should do.  After the session ended, I called ATPE and asked for legal services.  I requested a copyright attorney, and after a minute or so on hold, I had the lawyer answering all of my copyright questions:

Question: If we record our students reading library books in the classroom for current and future use, are we breaking copyright law?
Answer: Abosolutely not. It is an acceptable practice. Why would that break copyright law? (I thought I as asking the questions here.)

Question: If I post said recordings of those students reading those books onto the website for parents to download them as podcasts to hear their children, am I breaking copyright law?
Answer: Absolutely not. If you are not selling them or altering them and selling them, there is no breach of copyright law. Again, they are acceptable educational uses of content.

Thank you very much.  I feel vindicated in our actions. I have my attorney supporting my position and our legitimate use of print materials and technology in our instructional purposes. I just wish I had had the time to call the attorney during the session to alleviate any of the concerns our audience member might have had.  Her belief came from a session she had attended.  Hmmm. A lesson learned for me here is that for legal advice, trust the attorney who specializes in your field and would cover your rear in court.  I would also suggest you not say, “I read it on Scott’s blog and it must be true.” Call your own representative that SPECIALIZES in your area of concern. I hope that clears up any confusion that might have arisen in the session conversation. We felt like we were correct in our position, and our attorney supports that position. 

Isn’t it nice to have that education attorney to lean on for advice?  For those not familiar with Texas and the associations to support educators, ATPE is the largest in our state. Texas does not allow collective bargaining, so spending a lot of money to join a union really is useless.  My dues are $130 a year, and I receive all the free legal advice and assistance that I might need in a situation like this. One 800 phone call and I am on the phone with one of the in-house, education-focused attorneys.  It is a nice feeling to have for times such as these. (FULL DISCLOSURE: I served on the board of directors of ATPE for four years, but I have been a member since 1997. This has no bearing on the response from the attorney, but my praise for them is warranted from my experience and I did not want my previous leadership with them to be hidden when reading my opinion.)

With all of that being said, below is the Keynote presentation on SlideShare and the MP3 recording (I edited out the lengthy copyright discussion/debate to eliminate further confusion). If you have any comments or questions about the presentation, please feel free to leave a comment here or email me. I can pass all special ed specific questions on to my co-worker.

Thanks again for the great turnout.  We enjoyed the conversation.

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3 thoughts on “Technology in the Special Ed Classroom

  1. Scott, has your teacher tried http://www.readingresource.org/ ? This Dallas-based organization will provide her taped materials at little or no cost, analog or digital format…textbooks, literature, etc. I have a special place for R&RR as it is my non-profit home away from home…and one of the best things going for teachers. Let me know and I can help put her in touch with the agency, if needed!

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