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Making a living in a post DRM world

It is always with great trepidation that I venture into the shark-filled waters of Digital Rights Management commentary. (Warm up your keyboards, Stephen, Tom, and Peter!) I am still unconvinced that the inability to control one's creative work is in the best interest of either the producer or the consumer, but I am doing my very best to be open-minded about the issue.

Kevin Kelly's latest post in his Technium blog  "Better Than Free" (via Stephen's Lighthouse) attempts to answer the question that bothers me as well:

"...the previous round of wealth in this economy was built on selling precious copies, so the free flow of free copies tends to undermine the established order. If reproductions of our best efforts are free, how can we keep going? To put it simply, how does one make money selling free copies?"

Kelly suggests eight "generatives" that are better than free:

  1. Immediacy
  2. Personalization
  3. Interpretation
  4. Authenticity
  5. Accessibility
  6. Embodiment
  7. Patronage
  8. Findability

He details how each of these qualities can be used to generate revenue. For example Personalization:

"A generic version of a concert recording may be free, but if you want a copy that has been tweaked to sound perfect in your particular living room -- as if it were performed in your room -- you may be willing to pay a lot. The free copy of a book can be custom edited by the publishers to reflect your own previous reading background. A free movie you buy may be cut to reflect the rating you desire (no violence, dirty language okay). Aspirin is free, but aspirin tailored to your DNA is very expensive. As many have noted, personalization requires an ongoing conversation between the creator and consumer, artist and fan, producer and user. It is deeply generative because it is iterative and time consuming. You can't copy the personalization that a relationship represents. Marketers call that "stickiness" because it means both sides of the relationship are stuck (invested) in this generative asset, and will be reluctant to switch and start over."

Stephen Downes made some similar observations in his blog post, "Economics in a DRM-Free World" a couple months ago. John Perry Barlow in The Economy of Ideas (Wired, Mar 1994) and Ester Dyson in Intellectual Value (Wired, July 1995) were to my knowledge among the first writers addressing the "when everything can be duplicated" issue and its impact on livelihoods.

My sense/hope is that DRM is a short-term stop-gap measure in the longer economic/cultural/legal picture and that variety of sensible economic models will replace selling large volumes of one's creative work.

Figuring out these models, however, will be a learning experience for our students (and for many of us!)


Oh, I worry about the patronage model that both Kelly and Downes mention. This is from Bill Bryson's book, Shakespeare: The World as Stage in a footnote on James Stow, author of the "great and stately" book Survey of London:

A tailor by profession, Stow spent a lifetime and endured decades of poverty to to put together his great history. He was seventy-three when it was published. His payment was 3 [pounds] in cash and forty copies of his own book. When James I was asked to provide some charitable patronage for the old man, he merely send him two letters giving him permission to beg. Stow actually did so, setting up alms bowls in the streets of the City, though without much effect. p. 48

I hope I get a good corner.

beggar_seated_on_bank_282x470.jpg Rembrandt. Beggar seated on a bank, 1630. Etching; 116 x 70; only state. © Trustees of The British Museum.


Student Guide to Cyberbullying


The misuse of technology including, but not limited to, teasing, intimidation, defaming, threatening, or terrorizing another student, teacher, administrator, volunteer, contractor, or other employee of the school district by sending or posting e-mail messages, instant messages, text messages, digital pictures or images, or Web site posting, including blogs, also may constitute an act of bullying regardless of whether such acts are committed on or off school district property and/or with or without the use of school district resources. from ISD77 school board policy 542 BULLYING PROHIBITION

I've been asked to write a guide to cyberbullying for students by our elementary principals' group. Our short guide to plagiarism, Cheating and how to avoid it has proven to be useful and will serve as model for this guide.


Before I start reinventing the wheel, can you, Blue Skunk readers, point me to any existing guides on cyberbulling written for students that you think are good?

I have Nancy WIllard's excellent "Appendix J" from her book Cyberbulling and Cyberthreats and I will use it as a resource, but it's 9 pages long and I am looking for something about 3 pages in length.

I will happily share whatever I wind up writing. Thanks!



Life long abilities, behaviors and attitudes

What was once educationally significant, but difficult to measure, has been replaced by what is insignificant and easy to measure. So now we test how well we have taught what we do not value. ~Art Costa (via Lisa Linn's e-mail sig)

Call them what you will - dispositions, habits of mind, conceptual skills, life-long learning behaviors, high EQ traits - the educational spotlight is turning to abilities that are incredibly important and very tough to quantify. You can hardly turn around without bumping into a set of these things:

Daniel Pink's "Conceptual Skills" in A Whole New Mind...

1. Not just function, but also DESIGN
2. Not just argument, but also STORY.
3. Not just focus, but also SYMPHONY.
4. Not just logic, but also EMPATHY.
5. Not just seriousness, but also PLAY.
6. Not just accumulation, but also MEANING.

Costa and Kallick's Habits of Mind... (These are my personal favorites.)

  • Persisting
  • Thinking and communicating with clarity and precision
  • Managing impulsivity
  • Gathering data through all senses
  • Listening with understanding and empathy
  • Creating, imagining, innovating
  • Thinking flexibly
  • Responding with wonderment and awe
  • Thinking about thinking (metacognition)
  • Taking responsible risks
  • Striving for accuracy
  • Finding humor
  • Questioning and posing problems
  • Thinking interdependently
  • Applying past knowledge to new situations
  • Remaining open to continuous learning


Partnership for 21st Century Skills's Life and Career Skills

  • Flexibility & Adaptability
    • Adapting to varied roles and responsibilities
    • Working effectively in a climate of ambiguity and changing priorities
  • Initiative & Self-Direction
    • Monitoring one’s own understanding and learning needs
    • Going beyond basic mastery of skills and/or curriculum to explore and expand one’s own learning and opportunities to gain expertise
    • Demonstrating initiative to advance skill levels towards a professional level
    • Defining, prioritizing and completing tasks without direct oversight
    • Utilizing time efficiently and managing workload
    • Demonstrating commitment to learning as a lifelong process
  • Social & Cross-Cultural Skills
    • Working appropriately and productively with others
    • Leveraging the collective intelligence of groups when appropriate
    • Bridging cultural differences and using differing perspectives to increase innovation and the quality of work
  • Productivity & Accountability
    • Setting and meeting high standards and goals for delivering quality work on time
    • Demonstrating diligence and a positive work ethic (e.g., being punctual and reliable)
  • Leadership & Responsibility
    • Using interpersonal and problem-solving skills to influence and guide others toward a goal
    • Leveraging strengths of others to accomplish a common goal
    • Demonstrating integrity and ethical behavior
    • Acting responsibly with the interests of the larger community in mind

AASL's Standards for the 21st Century Learner has long sets of:

    • Dispositions
    • Responsibilities
    • Self-Assessment Strategies

 The new NETS standards call for students who, among other things,

  • create original works as a means of personal or group expression.
  • identify trends and forecast possibilities
  • develop cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with learners of other cultures
  • plan and manage activities to develop a solution or complete a project
  • use multiple processes and diverse perspectives to explore alternative solutions
  • exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and
  • demonstrate personal responsibility for lifelong learning.
  • exhibit leadership for digital citizenship. 

 I don't think E.D. Hirsch and his cultural literacy fans would approve of any of this.

Gail Dickinson writes in the AASL Blog: (Read the whole post. It is really good.)

The [new AASL] standards are different. Yes, they are, and are meant to be. They reflect the future, not the past. They also more completely cover the work that school librarians do in schools, not just a narrowly focused information skills approach but are a more global direction....

And goes on to speculate about implementation... 

First, implementation has to start with beliefs.We need to talk deeply about our beliefs, why we have them, what they look like in action and who else in the school community shares those beliefs.

Second, we need to wipe the slate clean of old references and begin to delve into curriculum again, both to write the learning curriculum for the school, and to integrate standards into the curriculum from other subject areas.

Third, then, we need to re-think our instruction, both in the sense of formal teaching opportunities, informal instruction, and in the way that we teach indirectly, such as our arrangement of the library, our establishment of policies and procedures, and our work in our many roles as school librarians.

Fourth, we need to assess what we do. This includes making use of the range of assessments and indicators that prove our value in the education of each student, and it also means having a logistically feasible and instructionally sound way of informing each student and parent of learning progress.

Whoa! Go, Gail!

Gail's observations apply not just to librarians, of course, but to every educator who thinks these life-long behaviors, attitudes and abilities - these post HOTS - are important. Isn't this a fascinating time to be in education? Just how do we teach and evaluate an attitude?

Whenever I see the Habits of Mind list, I can't help up ask myself how many of these "habits" I personally have. How many I use. How many the educators I work with display.

And are we expecting students to have abilities the adults in their lives do not have themselves? Perhaps we are still evolving as a species. One can hope.