Promoting Internet freedom in an educational environment
There are some murky lines one must traverse when discussing Internet freedom and education, which is why the American Association of University Professors is looking to revise its report for faculty rights.
There are a number of perspectives as to how education should work with respect to freedom of speech and ideas. One function of a teacher is to expose students to new ideas and ways of thinking. However, with this ideology comes a number of questions.
Can the expression of certain opinions be detrimental to a teacher achieving this goal? To what extent should a teacher be able to express his or her own opinions? What role does technology play in allowing these ideas to flow freely.
Technology in education
The latter question is among the many that the American Association of University Professors is looking to address as it revises its report on academic freedom and electronic communications for the first time in nearly a decade, according to Inside Higher Education.
Academia has changed a lot since 2004, the last time this draft was revised. Technologies such as cloud computing are far more wide spanning and entire classes can be completed online. The old draft acknowledged the fact that the borders of the classroom were changing, however, it could not have anticipated the ways in which they have since.
As a result, the news source noted, this new draft has broadly expanded the borders to include these kinds of technologies. However, even though it is taking a more wide-spanning approach to the new-look classroom, there are still a number of challenges facing academia.
Free flow of ideas?
One of the biggest has to do with technology and the dissemination of ideas. The report warns that when professors use social media to discuss certain research, it can run the risk breaching on the intellectual property rights of their colleagues. These issues become even more controversial when it comes to the discussion of Aaron Swartz.
Inside Higher Education reported that the the new draft included a section that addresses the recent suicide of the Internet activist who had been convicted of stealing journal articles that were protected by a popular online database. These kinds of paywalls create an odd paradox in the academic world. On the one hand, the digital world has allowed many to access a number of different ideas, but on the other, many of these ideas are not free to access for everyone. With the walls of education becoming increasingly blurry, so do the lines to which these copyrights extend.
Protecting student rights
While teachers have a lot at stake when it comes to their intellectual property, the students are the ones who are supposed to ultimately benefit from this knowledge. For this reason, students at New York University have developed an organization known as the Student Internet Alliances, according to Washington Square News, the campus news paper.
The group recently recently received a micro-grant from Google to help develop the organization. It aims to address many of the issues that students find important on the Internet, and seeks to help provide with students with an "activist dashboard" that students can use to launch campaigns for other issues – including Internet freedom issues in other parts of the world that may not be the same at home.
The students of today are among the most in tune with the way the Internet works and how it can be used both inside and outside the classroom. However, with more resources becoming accessible, the rules of what can and cannot be used become murkier making important that the ideas of copyright and intellectual property continue to be discussed.