As Royan Lee points out, there’s every reason to have a conversation with students about SOPA and PIPA in almost any classroom right now. (If last Wednesday wasn’t a teachable moment, I don’t know what was.) For most older kids, the debate strikes at the heart of their practices online, and even for younger kids, the larger themes are well worth the mention in general terms. My guess, however, is that a very small percentage of students have had a chance to learn and think about those proposals in the presence of peers and teachers.
Why? For one, I wonder how many teachers could lead a cogent discussion about them. The whole world of online interactions and knowledge sharing is not something most teachers yet participate in. But as Royan points out, in order to have a really meaningful conversation about SOPA and PIPA, students need to have a larger context other than the pirating of copyrighted music and films. He writes:
Do you know what made it a lot easier to have a discussion about SOPA and PIPA in my class? The fact that my students post regularly to the internet, comment on one another’s work, receive comments from the far reaches of the globe, remix work, share links, and honour CC licensed work.
I asked the students how they would feel if their ability to do all of things was restricted, or even taken away, without debate or a tribunal of some variety. The room went silent for a minute which felt like an hour, but we proceeded to have a rich discussion about democracy without ever mentioning the word itself.
I know they still care much more about whether the next Eminem song will get on their iPods, but at least we were speaking about something we really know, not just have heard of.
And Royan can do that because he really know this through his own practice as well. Those conversations in his class would have been far less relevant without that.