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Published August 24, 2021
Barbara Hickman, an assistant professor in the University of Wyoming College of Education, has been named the recipient of the 2021 Mary Garland Early Career Fellowship.
The college presents this award annually to support the recruitment and retention of the best candidates for faculty positions. Hickman will use the $25,000 award over the next two years to investigate how K-12 districts understand and use copyright law; language and adaptation of school board policies regarding intellectual property; and if virtual learning has influenced Wyoming school administrators’ understanding and application of copyright law.
The late Wyoming business leader, John P. “Jack” Ellbogen, established the Mary Ellbogen Garland Early Career Fellowship in 2000 in honor of his daughter’s commitment to community service and philanthropy. The fund is used to support promising junior faculty members in the College of Education by providing startup funding for the recipients’ research and teaching programs, as well as to supplement their income.
The selection committee for the award consists of the College of Education dean, associate deans and the chair of the college’s Tenure and Promotion Committee.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck last spring, many schools had to quickly move to virtual learning but were unprepared to support their students with digital materials and resources. For example, schools that have only one classroom set of textbooks might have made copies to post online for individual students to access. This might not be considered “fair use,” because it changed the terms under which the district owned the rights to use this material.
“The story of the Houston Independent School District (HISD) provides an example of the costs of copyright violation,” Hickman says. “In 2019, HISD purchased study guides and made copies to distribute districtwide. When the publishing company sued, the district was required to pay $9.2 million to the publisher and guarantee employees would participate in annual copyright training,”
The HISD story is not unique and can be attributed to a lack of emphasis on copyright law during teacher preparation programs and district professional development opportunities. The uncertainty many educators have surrounding the legal application of copyright law inspired Hickman to study the problem, so that teachers can be better prepared in the future.
The first stage of the project is to analyze current school board policies on copyright and intellectual property that are in use in Wyoming, and to learn if any changes have been made to those policies during virtual learning. The next stage is a qualitative study to interview Wyoming school administrators about current policy regarding copyright laws and intellectual property -- to gain insight into where administrators see room for growth and improvement in the preparation programs at UW and in their professional development offerings.
“After collecting and analyzing the data, I will develop an outline of recommendations for district professional development opportunities regarding copyright and intellectual property for K-12 districts,” Hickman says. “We also will work to incorporate these findings into our programs at UW.”
Data from this research will be presented by Hickman at the national Education Law Association’s annual conference and other relevant opportunities. She also plans to publish her findings in journals that focus on education law.
The project is a natural extension of Hickman’s research agenda, which focuses on large-scale systems, processes and policies, with a subfocus on the application of constitutional law in schools. This project also expands upon her previous publications on copyright law and social media, as well as a policy analysis paper she is developing that explores the ownership of Zoom recordings.