Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Grade 4 technology class was today. It was the first class of a new quarter. The students were asked what they would like to learn about regarding technology. We threw out some ideas. We soon agreed that we'd like to learn a bit about graphics though this didn't quite follow the curriculum.

Games are a key component of class. There's an effort to have many games in the computer lab that encourage critical thinking and avoid the (usually) mindless "shoot-em up" games. One game the students play is called "Same GNOME" by Callum McKenzie. It's a critical thinking game where the goal is to remove objects from the screen in a collective way leaving as few objects remaining as possible, thus increasing the score. The game uses graphical themes for objects, such as colored balls and planets. We decided to learn how to edit those graphical themes to customize the game.

A student then asked a question which illustrates a pervasive defaulting view in regard to the world of copyright. He is concerned about creating new themes and editing existing themes. He asks -
"What if they find out?"
By "they", he was referring to the creators of the game. He assumed that we were learning to do something that "they" would have to grant us permission to do beforehand. Of course, no matter the licensing of the Same GNOME graphics, the class would be able to do this under "fair use" for educational purposes. In fact, one is told how to edit themes under the help menu. However, the question itself was rather telling.

We spoke about Same GNOME - released under the GNU GPL. I mentioned that we would simply be editing the graphics in class and not try to pass them off under our names to deceive people. After we talked a little about free software and the motives often found in those who create it, I ask the class what they think "they" will do if they "find out."

A young lady responds -
"Nothing. They'll just be happy."


Anonymous AlanHorkan said...

they will also tell others how strange it is to be described as they

here is what they, I mean Callum Mckenzie had to say

Anonymous Anonymous said...

strange that your students are so surprised.

most games companies build construction kits into their games. they need the tools to create the game in the first place and adding the option to customise the game counts as an extra feature increasing the value of the game.

Blogger Gnuosphere said...

Anonymous says:

"strange that your students are so surprised."

Not really. What you describe below is true but not necessarily understood by most children 10 years of age and younger. Another factor is their conditioning. Arriving at this school, the technology curriculum included a set of "skills" students were to be proficient in. By grade 4, students were to have mastered the concept of "obey[ing] copyright law." Not question or investigate copyright law, but "obey."

So considering what I've inherited, I find such apprehension to be, unfortunately, not surprising at all.


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