Wikimedia Commons

I am using this opportunity to explore tools that will be useful to my students as they engage in the project that they will be beginning shortly. Their experiences for this project will be the subject of my project for this class. We have being intensively studying Genocide, hate and racism since January. My students have been learning about the scientific origins of racism, colonialism around the world and at home, the effects of colonialism here in our province and how far racism and hate can go (Genocide). In Literacy, they have been engaging in Literacy Inquiries (for more about these read Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action by Harvey Daniels and Stephanie Harvey) which is different from a novel study in that it has students inquire about the “big questions” in their book rather than just the elements of the novel itself. My students will be presenting their findings on Youth Voices a blog site that features the writings of youth. (This site is the focus of my Block 7, as I attended an online session at EduCon on this forum) I need to find sources that they can draw from to include in their postings as I want them to include images and other media in their postings. One of the major blocks that I am now faced with is copyright. I have been looking for a space from which they can get free, copyright free images to use and I believe I may have found it in Wikimedia Commons.

So, what exactly is Wikimedia Commons? Well, they describe themselves this way:
Wikimedia Commons is a media file repository making available public domain and freely licensed educational media content (images, sound and video clips) to everyone, in their own language.
Unlike traditional media repositories, Wikimedia Commons is free. Everyone is allowed to copy, use and modify any files here freely as long as the source and the authors are credited and as long as users release their copies/improvements under the same freedom to others. The Wikimedia Commons database itself and the texts in it are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.
PERFECT right? Well, almost, I do have some concerns but more on those later.
So basically this site is pretty easy understand. You type your search word in and all the files that are available to you come up listed under a category. I chose to search Rwanda as I know that is one of the searches my students will be making. There were 683 files listed under the subject of Rwanda. I first selected the Rwanda wiki which also contained links to many of the individual files.

I am most interested in the images that relate to the genocide so I chose that category to refine my search. When you select a file, it will take you to the page of that file. Scroll down and you will see the information on the photographer as well as the permission of copyright disclaimer which describes all that you are granted permission to do with the file.

Most files stress that you must attribute the file to the posting author. So, I present to you, my first Wikimedia commons image. It is a photo of the clothing from genocide victims at one of the Genocide Memorial sites

Image Source: Author, Fanny Schertzer. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License. In short: you are free to share and make derivative works of the file under the conditions that you appropriately attribute it, and that you distribute it only under a license identical to this one. Official license http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nyamata_Memorial_Site_10.jpg

Wikimedia Commons is very easy to use. To get the image into this blog, I simply dragged it off the wikimedia site onto my desktop and inserted it into the blog. This will be very useful to my students and the project that I will have them doing. Having said that, I have two concerns. 1. What if the image was taken from google, attributed falsely to an author and posted on Wikimedia Commons. Being a part of Wikipedia, we all know that anyone has access to alter the information. If this happened, would I be held responsible for the copyright infringement? Probably not, but it is something to consider. 2. It says that all files must be properly attributed to their author but it does not specify what that entails. When I sources the image above, I just guessed at how to do it. I used the name I found at the bottom of the page, not the posters user name and since it said that a licence for further use needed to be give that was exactly the same as the one the author used, I just copied and pasted it. I have no idea if it is correct because it did not explain. I tried to search their help databases and was not able to find any information on properly attributing it so I hope that I covered all bases.
Overall, I will be having my students use this site for their project. It will allow them copyright free media and on top of that I will be able to explain copyright law to them and show how the internet has changed access to everything! Another teachable moment.

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