Respecting the Remix

As we begin COETAIL 13 – Course 2, we kick off with a week of respecting the remix. In other words, understanding that we’re all inspired by others and that copying is a true and well a good thing, as long as we make it our own and give credit where we were inspired from.

This aligns nicely with the ISTE for Educators Citizen standard indicator 3c.

Kirby Ferguson’s, “Everything is a Remix Remastered“, was by far the most entertaining and well-crafted resource of the week. I loved his cinema style, humour (the “I’m sorry about Colonialism” genre), detail to a variety of media, and his use of persuasive repetition in threes to get his message across…

Copy. Transform. Create.

Ferguson’s message reminded me of one of my favourite John Spencer videos about, “Why Consuming is Necessary for  Creating“, where Spencer elucidates a similar persuasive three combo – Critical consumption of media (i.e. knowledge gathering; “geeking out”); finding one’s Inspiration; followed by the Creative work.

The Wisdom of Mitch Resnick

I’ve plugged the book before, and it won’t be the last time. Every educator must read, “Lifelong Kindergarten” by Mitch Resnick. A beautiful quote within the book’s, “Top ten tips for learners” section is number 6 – “It’s okay to copy stuff (to give you an idea).” Resnick posits that copying is a two-way street,

“You should feel free to build on the work of others, but you should be open to others building on your work, too.”

Resnick is also the creator of Scratch, a widely popular and free computational thinking application in which children can make their own games and more, either from “Scratch” or by remixing the work of others. The platform makes “remixing” and giving credit to the original author super simple, too!

Resnick lives and breathes all the wisdom that Seymour Papert passed on to him. Resnick has said that all of his major projects have been inspired by the work of Papert (If you click no other link, I implore you to take 5 minutes to watch this one). Papert himself “remixed” Piaget’s ideas and wisdom to create his own theory of learning – Constructionism.

And now, some provocations from COETAIL…


How can you inform your students and peers about the importance of respecting the intellectual property of others?

Simple – model it in action and talk about why. Here’s a video I made for my ISTE Certification on the subject, which I use with my kids at the start of the year.

Also, I know my audience. Every photo I use is either from PhotosForClass or another attribution-friendly source.

Do you see this as an issue in your school?

It would be very naive of me to say that it wasn’t, although I’d say most members of my team, and a select few of my other colleagues do feel passionate about this.

How do we teach copyright in countries where international copyright law is not clearly defined or followed?

Again – – modelling, advocacy, informing and educating.  Just because people do it, doesn’t make it right.  You could kick off the discussion with a nice story like Ellen Javernick’s, “What if everyone did that?“.

What is our obligation as educators?

If we don’t teach it — who will?!!!

What are your thoughts?

  • How do you un-demonize the word “copying”, all the while teaching your learners to respect and pay tribute to the work of others?
  • What could you do better in terms of the way you model this ISTE Citizen standard indicator for your learners?
  • Do you have any contextual examples or ideas you wish to share?


3 Replies to “Respecting the Remix”

  1. Justin,

    Everytime I read one of your blog posts, I come away with so much more to explore and dive into!

    Your question about how do we un-demonize the word copying while teaching our learners to respect and pay tribute to the work of others is one I wrestle with constantly. I am a true believer that we learn best when we have models, examples, and mentors. That imitation is the training wheels of our learning new things and completely important to acknowledge and allow. The strategy I am trying out now with the learners I work with is asking these questions: What have tried that you learned from someone else? What’s next? and What would happen if…?

    I am finding that the intentional conversations (aka conferring) with learners is helping to create an environment that puts copying in a new light. We are starting to see that imitation is part of the process.

  2. Hey Justin,
    Another great blog post! You have so much knowledge when it comes to educational technology and I am so happy to be in this cohort with you.

    I have also wondered about how to teach the idea of intellectual property when living in a country where it is not respected. In my blog post this week, I spoke of when I lived in China and there were markets for “copies” of designer handbags, shoes, scarves, etc. It is so much a part of their culture that many of my students didn’t see anything wrong with it. Like you, I think that we have to make it personal. I believe that every student innately wants to do the right thing- even though it may not be the easiest.

    I think the drive for creating and coming up with “new” ideas is a big motivator for students. When they see that they are able to construct new things and ideas, they get a sense of pride and accomplishment about it. Dr. William Glasser said that humans have five basic needs that always need to be met: survival, belonging, power, freedom, and fun. People will do whatever they need to have these needs met, which leads to sometimes using unhealthy/unethical ways of meeting a need (i.e. those without love/belonging turn to drugs and alcohol).

    When it comes to stealing the intellectual property of others, I think that it falls into the power need category. Competence is a huge part of the power need and a lot of students may feel inferior when they see good ideas on the internet and do not feel as though they can come up them on their own. Educators must nurture the idea of competency in order to show every student that they are capable of achieving great things as well.

    In order to foster empathy for the original creators, we must speak with students about how they would feel if someone took something that belonged to them. In the Ferguson video provided this week, he said, “When we steal an idea, we justify it. When someone steals our idea, we vilify it.” Brilliant! By challenging students to think of how they would feel if someone took something they created, we allow them to tap into the complex idea of “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.” In my opinion, this is the key for familiarizing students with the idea that stealing intellectual property is wrong.

    Thanks for a great post,

  3. Justin,
    Thank you for sharing Mitch Resnick’s work and words! I facilitated a coding club at an elementary school and students used Scratch to develop games for a local competition. It’s an amazing platform and gave us great opportunities to discuss remixing and giving others credit. Additionally, students learned to create their own images to use in their games and I emphasized that they give themselves credit as well as anyone else’s work they used. Encouraging students to add themselves to their “Works Cited” or list of credits (when appropriate) in a project or publicly shared creation can also help them recognize the importance of recognizing others’ contributions to their own creations.

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