Learning the Differences

What I really like about Wikis is that they are collaborative and they are a “shared content” environment, which I think we do a rotten job of teaching kids about. In fact, I recently floored one of our best history teachers by discussing it in light of his upcoming “full court press” with kids about plagiarism.

My concern with Wikis is that they need to be balanced with blogs. Not because one is better than the other, but because blogs are personal and owned by the writer like a self-publication. Kids should know the exact difference between the two in terms of ongoing ownership of their original content.

Here’s what really concerns me. Most users don’t read the fine print on public bulletin boards, of which many have this clause in their user agreements:

USE OF MATERIAL SUPPLIED BY YOU:

For information regarding use of personal information you supply or communicate to the Website, please see our Privacy Policy. Except as expressly provided otherwise in the Privacy Policy, you agree that by posting messages, uploading files, inputting data, or engaging in any other form of communication with or through the Website, you grant us a royalty-free, perpetual, non-exclusive, unrestricted, worldwide license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, translate, enhance, transmit, distribute, publicly perform, display, or sublicense any such communication (including your identity and information about you) in any medium (now in existence or hereinafter developed) and for any purpose, including commercial purposes, and to authorize others to do so.

Source: the bulletin board user agreement of our local newspaper.

I guess this bothers me, since it means that users release all rights to their content in perpetuity for any use. I shudder to think of all the photos being posted that could become part of clip art collections, re-publication, etc. The user agreement at MySpace is far more user-friendly by comparison.

Anyway, before kids get too excited by Wikis and other “free” online publishing options, I think we need to help them understand what they are offering and giving up, if these are really the rules.

Okay, that’s the end of my dark secret for the day…

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