(first published on Medium, 8th September)
The digital world consumes those of us that have access. It is so easy to forget that reality exists outside of this space. Many — millions — don’t have access to the digital world. Copyright (and its alternative licensing options) are just as relevant in the real world, as it is in the digital world. It is just as relevant offline as it is online. With the real world in mind, how is copyright taught at schools, and how is that done when there is little to no access to the internet? Wiki In Africa with the help of the Creative Commons Open Education Platform Activities Fund decided to tackle this problem for teachers in French-speaking school systems
Wiki In Africa decided to tackle these questions by creating a collection of French-language resources for teachers to teach in the classroom the concept of Copyright and how to use it. One of Wiki In Africa’s flagship projects is the annual primary school writing contest WikiChallenge Ecoles d’Afrique. The work done to ensure WikiChallenge happens showed that there are no materials, either supplied or easily accessible, that help teachers to effectively teach the complex concepts that surround and apply to copyright — let alone articulate the available alternatives.
Luckily, the Creative Commons Open Education Platform agreed that something should be done when the project was selected as one of six projects supported by the CC’s Open Education Platform Activities Fund. The Wikibook and its resources were conceptualized and created by Florence Devouard (User:Anthere) with illustration, design, and communications assistance by Isla Haddow-Flood (User:Islahaddow).
The Wiki in Africa team created and published the Ressources pédagogiques relatives au droit d’auteur in French on Wikibooks at the end of 2020. The Wikibook contains modules, teaching guidelines, materials, and assignment models to support teachers as they introduce the concepts of authors’ rights, Creative Commons licenses, and licensing attribution to their classes. Essentially, how it impacts their lives, and what to do when they come across it, including how to correctly apply attribution. The target audience is aimed at students (10–15-years-old) in French-speaking Africa.
What is included in the Wikibook?
The Wikibook offers a curated set of resources to support teachers in their lessons on and introductions to the concepts of intellectual and artistic works, copyright, Creative Commons licenses, and the best attribution practices to use when reusing works produced by others. The resources and lesson plans are presented in the form of 3 modules, of increasing difficulty. The first module is intended for 9–13-year old children, while the subsequent modules are intended for classes of 11-to-14-year-old children.
The training materials include information resources on copyright for teachers, materials to use in class with the students (that can be downloaded and printed), and suggestions and instructions for activities to be carried out with the students. The video above introduces the concept of creative works.
Offline access to the resources
The training content and resources provided are accessible to all French speakers, but it has been designed specifically for African students with poor access to the internet. This explains some deliberate design choices:
- The Wikibook is made available on the internet on the site fr.wikibooks.org, but it was designed to be downloaded and used in an offline situation (for example, it can be used offline on tablets, servers, or local computers.);
- Included in the lesson plan are materials and resources that are specifically designed to be printed and distributed to the learners. There is a poster that clearly shows how attribution works and how to do it correctly. There is an illustrated storybook that should be printed and read by the learners;
- As far as possible, copyright was discussed in conceptual terms, and not as it applies per country, the intention was to keep the concept clear and not to adopt the point of view of any given country; and
- The resources and lesson plans are designed for offline applications. The materials and examples provide a simpler way for young people who have little to no internet users to discover the concepts of copyright and to provide them with the skills required as future digital citizens. The Wikibook does not offer exercises that require internet access or refers to using the internet. All lessons can be conducted in a disconnected situation or entirely offline.
The issue of access to open educational resources is very important in French-speaking developing countries. It is also important that young people quickly learn the basics of copyright, both as users and as creators of content.
Regardless of the connectivity situation, the Wikibook offers a way to approach copyright from a fun, positive, and creative angle rather than a repressive, threatening one.
Finally, it should be noted that all the content offered is published under free licenses. As they were created by different authors, they are published under either a CC BY or CC BY SA or CC0 license. This means (among other things) that all the content can be reworked, translated and adapted to the situation of the country, the school, or according to the age of the pupils.
About Wiki In Africa
Wiki In Africa (www.wikiinafrica.org) is a South African registered NPO whose work across the continent focuses on bridging the digital divide by encouraging the contribution of African content to global educational platforms, such as Wikipedia.
The programmes Wiki In Africa creates are specifically aimed at skills transfer and community building to bridge the content and contribution gap that perpetuates the digital divide that plagues Africa, thus decolonising knowledge and the internet through the online celebration and contribution of the information, cultures and histories of Africa under free licenses.
Wiki In Africa programmes address the following key areas:
- Taking back the visual narrative : looking at contemporary society and cultural heritage across Africa through the annual Wiki Loves Africa photographic competition which, over 7 editions, has seen the contribution of 72,000 images to the Wikipedia media library, Wikimedia Commons, by 9,277 photographers from across the continent. The images have a life beyond the competition, with these images being placed in articles on Wikipedia, and thus being viewed by over 713 million times since 2014; with 25 million views in April 2021 alone.
- Gender gap through its groundbreaking Wiki Loves Women programme that has been rolled out across 14 African countries, in partnership with 78 civil society organisations;
- Youth and education through WikiChallenge African Schools and WikiAfrica Schools; Since 2017, the francophone and primary school-focused WikiChallenge African Schools has rolled out in 9 countries. The 2021 contest involved over 100 schools, resulting in 139 articles and 600+ photos being submitted to Vikidia.org, with 17 schools receiving prizes.
- Technological solutions to Africa’s challenges by creating the offline editing solution WikiFundi (with offline resources) and the award-winning ISA tool.
- Volunteer development and community support through all of the projects and the 2021 launched WikiAfrica Hour.