Teaching and Learning

Publications and Presentations

In my classroom...

Most fun instruction sessions ever

This is my wheel, plus the "lazy kate" to hold the bobbins for plying.

This is my wheel, plus the “lazy kate” to hold the bobbins for plying.

Last week and this week I got to expand my repertoire of class sessions into very new territory. I got invited to a class on early Anglo-Saxon material culture to demonstrate making yarn using a drop spindle and to talk about using that homespun yarn for weaving. And later I got invited to another class studying 18th Century English Workhouses (where the residents did a lot of spinning), to demonstrate making yarn with a treadle spinning wheel and then talk about knitting and weaving with that yarn.

Such fun! I got to use words I’ve never used at work before, like “lazy kate” and “niddy noddy.” Students got to try their hands at spinning with the wheel and the drop spindle. And the one down-side was that I hadn’t oiled my fly wheel recently so there was an annoying squeak. Oh, and that my nephew has hidden my orifice hook, so I had to use a crochet hook to thread the wheel. (Somebody needs to think of a better name for the orifice hook.)

I also got to tell them about sitting with an angora rabbit on my lap and spinning directly from his coat. (And also the other rabbit that hated me and would NEVER sit still for such a thing.) Such a different set of things from the things I normally tell students, and they were soooo much more interested in what I had to say. Database searching is never this fun!

One student in the Workhouses class is building a game scenario in which the gamer “spins” using the space bar as a treadle and some other keys as the hands working with the wool. He needed to know about treadle technique and timing, and he also timed me spinning so that he knew how many inches of yard I can produce per minute.

Next week I’ll rejoin the Anglo-Saxon class to do my demonstrations as part of their end-of-term project: a sort of pre-renaissance fair with demonstrations of all kinds of early Anglo-Saxon material culture. I might even get my very own apprentice.

Example of drop spindles

Example of drop spindles

There was a lot to love about being involved in these classes, but one of my favorite things was that these were heavily digital classes, working with 3D modeling and game design, and here I was doing the farthest thing from digital work I can imagine — making yarn from sheep’s wool. The juxtaposition was delicious.

PSA: “Instructional Use” is not a Thing

One of the most common things I hear when talking to people, especially faculty, about Fair Use is “But this is an instructional use, so it’s ok, right?”

Instructional or Educational Use is not a uniquely determinative thing in copyright. It just isn’t. It would be so educationally useful to post all those PDFs to a website so that people without library access could read them, but being educational isn’t the only litmus test. I really really wish it were because I’m pretty much in favor of opening up information as much as we can to as many people as we can, but Fair Use isn’t about re-publishing stuff, it’s about making use of stuff.

Now, in-classroom use, THAT is a thing in copyright that doesn’t get enough air time. Section 107, the Fair Use section says that reproductions “including multiple copies for classroom use” may be just fine, depending on those famous Four Factors. Reproduction for research purposes: probably fine (but do that Four Factor test as always). Reproduction that is necessary for comment and criticism: same deal. Reproduction that is “instructional” or “educational” though, is just too broad a brush. Almost everything is educational in some way.

That said, don’t be too scared to make excellent uses of the Fair Use provisions of copyright law. If we don’t use them, we will lose them. Market Effect will come inching ever inward if we let it. Arm yourself with those Four Factors and use them as they were intended: to extend conversation and allow for the creation of new knowledge while being fair to the rights holder.

[Updates for additional clarity on my mini-rant:

  • Classroom use is not the ONLY venue for educational Fair Use. It is simply one spelled out use that we on college campus can take advantage of.
  • Republication can be Fair Use, but it isn’t necessarily Fair Use just because we are educators. The Four Factors are still the important points to weight.]