Communicate 1.1.2 Laws of Communication Quest



FERPA (which applies to schools that receive federal funding) has two major  purposes:  to protect the private educational information of students and to allow parents access to a child’s educational records..  Just the way HIPPA protects our private medical information, FERPA protects students’ personal education information.  It is a bit like this:  what happens in the school setting between students, teachers and administrators stays with these stakeholders.  In the early days of email and other digital communication tools, we were rather blase about how we communicated, thinking nothing about putting a student’s grades and notes of progress in an email and sending it on.  Then we started to realize that email is not all that protected in some situations.  A simple example is if a family shares an email account, and a sister or brother can read emails intended for the student or the student’s parents.

Student information that is personal according to FERPA:  don’t say it, don’t text it, don’t email it, and don’t talk even to another teacher who is not involved in the situation with a given student.  FERPA may look like another string of regulations that just hinder us from moving forward with our work, but these regulations protect critical constitutional rights of students and parents.

How far do these restrictions go?  Well, there is some doubt as to whether it is appropriate to put a student’s name in the subject line of a school-housed email.  I follow the policy that it is not worth taking a chance.  Can you leave a voicemail message on a family phone with personal info about a student.  I would wait and talk directly to the parent about the concerns.  There is no more posting of grades on a bulletin board, not even if by Social Security number.

For virtual teachers, some of these things we did in the past in ground schools just don’t exist in the same way.  Still, teachers always need to be mindful of what they write in emails.  If an email contains anything you have a second thought about, click on draft, let it sit awhile, reread, and decide if it is appropriate to send.

Copyright laws, like FERPA, are intended to protect the rights of individuals.  If you know an item is copyrighted and you want to use it, be careful about citing it correctly.  Teach your students that.  It is best to think that most things on the Internet are copyrighted.  Make sure you follow the restrictions.  If you can employ Fair Use, answer these question:

*Why are you using it?  Is it for educational or commercial reasons?

*What is the nature of the copyrighted work?

*What amount of the work are you using in reference to the work as a whole?

*Will your use of this have an effect on the financial value of the work?

One location for determining whether an item is copyrighted is the following:


How do we discourage our students from plagiarism and misuse of copyrighted material.  First, information should be in our syllabi.  Teachers should include this information in their introductory sessions at the beginning of new classes.  A cute and funny PPT or video could be used to capture the students’ attention.  Then the importance of following copyright laws could be stated,

How can teachers know if students are following the regulations?  I have had a rather phenomenal success even in French and Spanish by Googling a portion of the assignment.  Turnitin is a website to investigate, as is: should all encourage ourselves and our students to make use of  Creative Commons Licenses.  This resource provides a wealth of items that fall under less rigorous rules than the conventional copyright.  We must lead by example.

The owner of a copyright may create a derivative of the original and copyright it.  The owner of the copyright may not necessarily be the original creator.  Copyrights crated on or after January 1978 extend for the life of the creator plus seventy years.  Copyright laws are not always interpreted exactly the same way by jurists.  It is better to err on the side of the exclusion of an item if we are not sure.


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