The third class

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” —Albert Einstein

I’ve been meaning to write about teaching an evening introductory computer class for low-income residents with this awesome organization called Byte Back, but haven’t found the time just yet.

So last night, because we had skipped our internet lesson the last class due to connection problems (we did a lesson on copy and paste instead — that’s another story), we ended up focusing on using the internet to do basic searches and how the more “clues” or keywords you give the search engine, the better it can find what you’re looking for. Anyway, as it would happen, Google’s doodle yesterday wasn’t a doodle at all, but a black block, so I had to opportunity to explain to my class why and what Google was protesting by being blacked out. It was not on the lesson plan, but we spent about 20 minutes talking about what piracy is (not privacy, as they originally thought!), why it is indeed a problem, and whether SOPA/PIPA was the solution.

It was difficult not to espouse my own views, which made it more rewarding when, as a class, they decided that having a free internet was worth more than possible censorship by a blanket policy to block websites based on copyright infringement and that while piracy is still a big issue, the onus should not be on websites such as YouTube (they were all familiar with YouTube) to monitor and track everything that its users post because the Digital Millennium Copyright Act already forces something similar, except you’re innocent before proven guilty (i.e. if an artist tells you, the website, to remove something due to copyright infringement, you have to remove it).

Now, I don’t think I can explain all the intricacies and nuances of SOPA or PIPA, but it was nice to be forced to explain SOPA/PIPA in a simple way to an audience without the vocabulary to fully understand things such DNS, IP, or ISPs.

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