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eBooks in School Libraries Part 2: Digital Ethics


Has your school library gone digital? If so, increased student access to electronic resources raises important issues. School librarian and blogger Cathy Jo Nelson discusses how in her work with students, she regularly incorporates “teachable moments” about appropriate and ethical use of digital content. See also Part 1 of this article: What eBooks Mean for School Libraries.

padworksAt Dorman High School [in Spartanburg School District 6, Roebuck, SC], I try to find ways to work discussion of digital ethics into the collaborative lessons that happen in the library. For example, I have worked with current events classes on the topic of music piracy. I love to get into debates with the kids regarding how they access and consume music, videos, and other digital content.  It really goes hand in hand with teaching students who are working on multimedia projects about finding and using copyright-friendly content.

I am astonished each semester at how many kids don’t realize that using peer-to-peer sharing sites to get free music is the same as theft. They have a false sense that since the site itself is legitimate, the sharing of content is as well. Many share with me that their own parents participate in this misunderstood but illegal behavior. Even at the end of the music piracy unit, when we conclude with an anonymous survey, many say they will continue their practice of obtaining music for free.

As a teacher librarian, I feel it is my duty to make students aware of ethical issues, model appropriate use of digital content and provide appropriate sources for free or shared resources. That is why it was such a delight to share with students how to download eBooks from our library lending portal, Overdrive.

In this age of mash-ups and creative content, we owe it to our students to prepare them for a world where content is just as easily stolen as shared. In order to protect their own creative inspirations, they should understand and respect the ownership of content and learn to license content for their own protection as creators, producers and consumers.


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