Project Update: High School Class – by “Anna L”


For our midterm project, Alex and I taught a law class at James Hillhouse High School. The school is located less than a mile from Yale (on Sherman Parkway and Henry Street). Over a thousand students attend the high school; 88% are black, 10% are Hispanic, and 2% are white.1 Hillhouse High has historically been an underperforming school but has improved in recent years. Now 63% of students are proficient in writing (a 17% gain from 2007) and 47% of students are proficient in reading (an 11% gain from 2007).2 However, even though student performance has improved, Hillhouse High School students are still performing below the national average.3

The instructor for the class we taught, Mr. Paulishen, informed Alex and I that many of the students don’t have internet access at home. Those applying to college have to stay late at school to work on the school computers, because most colleges ask that applications be submitted online. The students who own computers at home often have to use the school printer because they don’t have a printer or can’t afford ink.

When Alex and I originally designed the lesson plan, we took a lot for granted. All the high school students we knew frequently used websites like and Wikipedia. We also assumed most students had been exposed to concepts like copyright and social networking before. We found out quickly that we needed to do a lot more explaining than we had originally planned, and so we decided to cover less in order to make sure that what we taught was understood well.

We taught 8 students who were enrolled in a class called Educational Law. We taught the class by sitting in a circle. It was discussion-oriented, and all of the students participated at least once. We chose to talk about topics we had discussed in Intro to Law & Technology that could be useful for them to know.

First, Alex discussed Facebook. Most of the students had Facebook accounts (only 2 didn’t). He talked about what information is safe to display, privacy settings, Facebook quizzes, and terms of use. He also pointed out that that college admissions officers and employers often view Facebook pages, and Facebook employees can see who you view and how frequently you view them.

Next, I discussed Wikipedia. Only 2 students said they were familiar with Wikipedia. I talked about how Wikipedia works, its guiding principles (no original research, verifiability, etc.), its reliability, its usefulness as an educational tool, how to edit it, and the incident with Jimmy Wales and the David Rohde kidnapping. We even inspired the class to create a Wikipedia page on their own high school in order to learn further about some of the ideas we had discussed.

Finally, we discussed fair use. We talked about what “copyright” means, what can and can’t be copyrighted, and digital sampling. We also listened to a few songs and discussed whether the samples taken from different songs and used in others were fair use. For example, we compared these two songs:

Bittersweet Symphony—The Verve

Ridin Solo—Jason Derulo

We discussed issues like whether Derulo’s song has the potential to affect the market value of Bittersweet Symphony, which is one important factor in U.S. law used to determine whether a beat or digital sample can be considered fair use.

The class went well, and even though we didn’t get to cover everything we wanted, we hopefully exposed the students to some new issues they hadn’t considered before.

We recorded the class. It can be viewed here:

-Anna and Alex