Covid-19 accelerated the adoption of educational practices on the internet as never before. The lawyer Patricia Díaz is a teacher coordinating the Academic Unit in Educational Technology of the Education Training Council of the ANEP and brings to light some issues little discussed among public actors.
In this interview with Chrome Note that online teaching is not a simple transposition of what happens in a face-to-face classroom to a virtual one, that it is necessary to adjust the rules to reality in terms of copyright and image rights.
That is why he urges that universities and teacher training centers incorporate open education policies that respect these rights and that allow materials to be used even of those teachers who have died.
In your Twitter account you point out that “online education is not a mere transposition from the face-to-face classroom to the virtual classroom.” How would you explain it?
Knowledge and basic literacy with distance education techniques are needed. The teacher is physically absent. His physical presence brings many things that we take for granted. And in the design of online courses, one has to make up for this lack of physical presence with a design of basic information, a guide, about what is going to happen. There must also be an emotional containment that is missing. For that we have to create a particular design thought in which the physical teacher is not there.
What distance education techniques are you referring to?
There are several models that involve how to run a virtual classroom that take into account even the emotional aspect. All this in order to give the student the opportunity to have interaction instances planned in advance. And, in addition, to be able to have control of how long that interaction takes for the teacher and the student. You have to re-plan everything from scratch.
Is it proven that the student and the teacher require higher levels of concentration in the virtual world?
The mechanisms that operate in a face-to-face classroom and in a virtual classroom are totally different. We are prepared to listen to another in a field. From school we learn that. And we learn it from a neurological point of view. Doing all that trajectory within a virtual classroom totally changes the paradigm. For example, in the conditions on basic digital literacy, which is not being in social networks, but having a deep reading comprehension. That is very important. It is not a matter of concentration. I know that a student who can learn a lot and go at a barbaric pace in a classroom does not have to have the conditions to go at the same pace or have the same success in the virtual classroom.
You think of students with disability problems. Who is thinking today, in times of a pandemic, of generating accessible materials? They already had a barrier and today that population was totally forgotten. Because it needs prior training in digital skills and the teachers themselves.
What can be done to modify this? How to attack this issue?
My great concern is that we have an abrupt change that comes with a large backlog in terms of policy and legal matters. In terms of policies, one is what are the rules created for a teacher and the other is: are teachers paid to create materials? Teachers had to work twice as hard creating content and they were not created from scratch. They were a remix of what exists. It is impossible to create quality content from scratch.
With this changed the concept that existed until now of copyright?
In virtuality it is necessary to change practices. Those practices of generating a remix of exercises, recommended readings and new work guidelines. The teacher was dedicated to remixing and they have no idea of copyright. This does not happen in the face-to-face classroom: firstly, because there is no need to supply the physical presence of the teacher with materials that explain and put into practice what they want to teach. And, second, because if there is a copy or use of materials in a physical classroom, it occurs in an intimate act in a classroom and does not transcend.
The point is that now teachers are remixing and publishing it on the internet. That remains. A teacher can like it and takes it. Although they are in many cases in portals with username and password, sometimes teachers work on blogs.
This is going to hold. More than anything at the university level. At the level of presence of the school, today I consider that it cannot be replaced. But at the university it will be the students themselves who demand more virtuality and flexibility in their schedules from teachers. This has been shown to work quite well. The point is that the policies of the institutes are not understanding where it is going.
Does this imply new bills? What is being discussed regarding copyright?
We have two distinct topics: one is copyright law and what are legal educational practices and which are illegal. Today we do not have any exception related to education except the performance and representation of theater plays in schools such as the end of the year parties in a school. Always in the presence. We have no exceptions for copyright.
The other issue is politics. In other words, it is from whom it is what I believe. They hire me to give a virtual course and there has to be an extra payment for the creation and design of a virtual classroom. Whose content is that created? When the teacher leaves, is the content taken or is there a policy that ensures that if the course is created by a public university, it is from the university? It should be published with a free license. That is efficiency because if you are not throwing money away. Because otherwise, you are causing teachers to invent gunpowder every time they start to devise the course. If they have 10 courses devised from the university to take inputs and exercises, recommended readings, videos of other colleagues to elaborate their design, it can be shared. The idea is that sharing is more important than ever.
But does that teacher who created get some money for what he created?
I make a clarification: today the teacher in the framework of the pandemic are designing custom courses. Today the content design can be based on content that is in free license or in a remix, which is what happens. Teachers do not have the concept of what is free or they do not care. I have received fragments of books and I use exercises prepared by the teacher herself. He is not going to write textbooks: the point is that he cannot copy a single page.
¿Do you ask that exceptions be made?
Exactly. Attention: there is a bill that wants to solve this issue of exceptions for when there are no free licenses or open policies in the institutions. They are necessary because teachers cannot be alone remixing free things. It is impossible. Teachers look for what they find and it suits them. You have to put a framework of limits to that. Copyright has to be. The limit cannot be that I cannot use texts. So you can’t hyperlink videos or embed. That the law is written in 20th century terms is not correct. It is good that the initiative to discuss it has come out. How good it is being treated! In this context it is more necessary than ever. The issue is that the text today, as it is, comes to solve issues of education in the twentieth century. We must expand the scope and make it clear that some content that is available on the internet can be used.
Would all these changes imply that a material recorded by a teacher can be used?
It is a double issue. Institutions have to favor open education policies with teachers. As to who owns those materials and who can recreate those materials is not a matter of law. That is a matter of policy of the educational institution. It must be defined up to which cases it is mandatory that a content created by a teacher be published with a creative commons license (which can be reused by anyone). That is not going to happen with a legal change. It is a proposal that we have been making for years.
The rights of the image also have to be considered. If I record a video of my class, the institution has to make it clear how to regulate that the materials circulate efficiently, but that the right of self-image is respected and that it is paid for what it does. We have to talk about these things.
What happens if a teacher dies?
If the teacher dies, and the institution has an open education policy related to publications, and the teacher was paid for the videos, dictate it. It can be taken by another teacher. The open access policy should be in place before you are hired, not after.
Is there an open access policy?
It exists but based on repositories. There are spaces in which teachers, when they want and in some cases they are obliged when creating material financed by the university, must leave it in (the portal) Colibrí. But there is nothing related to the courses.
What happens outside?
At MIT (Instituto Tecnológico de Machassussets) since 2001 it has been financially incentivizing teachers to publish on Open Courseware. A culture has been generated for other teachers to take them away. That initiative revolutionized education in Africa. In 2008, there was no way to generate quality content and they took these resources from MIT and even built specific careers based on these resources. Why? Because they were published freely.
We have publication policies for books, magazines or publications. Nothing says in the Udelar and Teacher Training that a course is mandatory to share it.