Unlock the Mystery of Intellectual Property for Middle School Students

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Digital Citizenship
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Teaching our students about intellectual property is essential to help them respect the rights of others as they create and understand the value of creative work. According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Intellectual Property (IP) is something you create. It is imagination made real. It includes trademarks, copyrights, patents, and trade secrets. A person or company may own some or all of these types of intellectual property. Here are some suggestions to effectively teach IP to middle-level students.

Define the Terms

Start defining IP with simple and relatable language for the students. Visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) (reviewed here) to help your students learn about trademarks and patents and the importance of intellectual property creation and protection. The USPTO introduces the different types of intellectual property, including copyrights, trademarks, patents, and trade secrets. Use examples of each category to help students understand the concepts to illustrate how each type protects different forms of creative or innovative works. When the students understand the rights and responsibilities associated with IP, they learn the importance of crediting the original creators when using or referencing their work and the consequences of plagiarism or copyright infringement. TeachersFirst has an entire collection of Copyright and Fair Use Resources

Encourage Discussion Related to Student Work and Other Real-World Scenarios

The USPTO also has interactive activities to help students understand intellectual property concepts better. For example, encourage your students to create original works, such as a short story, a piece of artwork, or a simple invention, and discuss how they can protect their creations using the IP information learned in class. Find more ideas for creating original works in this post.

Provide opportunities for your students to analyze and discuss real-world case studies or scenarios involving IP rights as an entrance activity or exit ticket. Foster critical thinking in your classroom about IP by engaging them in discussions and debates on related topics. Begin by asking questions such as “Is it ever okay to use someone else’s work without permission?” or “How does intellectual property impact innovation and creativity?” Involving students in discussions will help them develop a deeper understanding of the complexities surrounding intellectual property.

Allowing students to create and make helps them develop into successful lifelong learners. However, it’s also vital to teach students the importance and value of protecting their work and respecting the rights of others’ work. Therefore, teaching middle-level students about IP is a critical step in the creative process. Share your ideas and favorite resources for teaching middle-level students about IP in the comments below!

About the author: Kevin Bower

Kevin Bower has 21 years of elementary teaching experience, is a certified reading specialist, and teaches instructional technology to pre-service and practicing teachers. He has presented nationally, had his teaching practices cited in various publications, and published a collaborative article on infusing technology into the balanced literacy classroom. Kevin’s research interests focus on using technology to best meet the needs of students with diverse abilities.

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