Category Archives: Interesting for Families

Teaching Copyright and Fair Use

teachingcopyright_orgThe Electronic Frontier Foundation has a very useful website for Teaching Copyright issues. It is an excellent resource for teachers on a tricky subject. The website covers the issues in a balanced way I feel—it clearly states downloading copyrighted music without permission is illegal. However many of the subtle areas of fair use are discussed which are the important parts. I used their first lesson plan today and while the kids loved the Copy Quiz Game Show, I had some suggestions overall. I emailed them, but I thought I’d post them here too for others.

First of all, I made the mistake of jumping right in and not setting the context—why should my students care about copyright and fair use? I found my students took a while to focus and I think an introduction on the value of the lesson would help.

Second, some of the questions in the Copy Quiz Game Show are somewhat difficult to interpret when said out-loud. E.g. question 8: “Kathy downloads a few photos of local organic farms from… She follows the rules of the photographer’s specific CC license… That’s OK.” The true/false question hinges on just the last sentence and it is unnecessarily hard to parse when spoken aloud. Which “that” is ok? Also, in some of the questions, the teacher reads out statements which are false, such as “Paula wants to use a short quote from the Titanic in her school paper. That’s copyright infringement.” This statement is false, but in the confusion of the game, that is too easily lost. The students remember what the teacher said, but the true/false part is overwhelmed in the player’s run for a chair and the ensuing struggle. I recommend the questions be rephrased as situations, and the chairs are labeled as Legal and Illegal. That way students are concentrating on the situation and if it is legal or not. Rather than the specific phrasing of the last tricky sentence.

Stratolab announces Strato-Lounge

To celebrate spring, Stratolab invites the public to visit our Upper West Side Studio for “StratoLounge.” All through May, when courses are not in session, StratoLounge will be open to everyone!

StratoLounge is a place to come hang out Tuesday – Saturday after school. Please come visit, use our computers, play games, do homework, or just chill out and have fun. Light and nutritious snacks will be served, and there will be short computer demonstrations every hour. StratoLounge is free and open to everyone. No appointment or registration is necessary, just drop in and join the fun.

We look forward lounging with you!

New Course: Cartoons, Computers and Comic Books

Why are all comics about other people? Aren’t you the most interesting person around? Should you be a super hero instead of that Clark Kent dude? Here’s your chance. Starting January 4, our own Sebastian Mondrone will be coaching a new version of this course on creating cartoons using Comic Life and iMovie. For more information, see the course description.

NBC visits Stratolab to help Wednesday’s Child

Some of you may have heard of WNBC’s news segment “Wednesday’s Child”. Every week Janice Huff interviews a foster child who would like to be adopted. They find out some interest of the child such as sports, music, or…video games, and they arrange for him or her to get a lesson. It’s a wonderful program.

They found me somehow and asked if I could teach a young man named Mauricio a bit about video game programming, and then use my studio for the the interview. I was honored to help out and I had a really good time with Mauricio. He was quiet but very intelligent and picked up what I was showing him immediately. I wish him the best fortunes for his future. Truly a worthwhile cause and I was glad to help in a small way.

Stratolab has a Home!

stratolabmap_125_w_72nd_stAfter many months of searching, we’ve finally found the perfect place for our studio, a.k.a. Stratolab Internation Headquarters. It’s on West 72nd Street on Manhattan’s Upper West Side where most of our clients are, near the express subway stop for the 1/2/3 trains and also the B/C trains. It’s next to ButterCup Bakery and just a block and a half from Central Park. We have a quiet area for working on computers or robots, and another comfortable area for discussing ideas and projects.

Comic Life for Learning Storytelling

Some of my students have been using Comic Life to work on storytelling. I was inspired to use comics with my students by my friend Sebastian Mondrone who is an amazingly creative guy and a comic author himself. Comics are a great way to work on creative writing at a younger age because the visuals make it compelling, and you can tell a lot of story with just a bit of writing.

One thing that I’ve realized is that what I think is a good story is not necessarily what others think, and that it’s important to let students have the freedom to express their ideas despite my better judgement.

For more examples of Comic Life storytelling, check out Ido and Jordan’s page.