Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Cheating by Example

I've yet to meet a teacher who isn't concerned about plagiarism and cheating, especially these days. Kids can so easily copy & paste content that our concerns about legitimate authorship have increased exponentially. So, schools have invested quite a bit of $ in services like turnitin.com to help kids analyze their documentation of sources. What has really struck me as I've been forced to become more knowledgeable about copyright law (though) is that we, as teachers, do not necessarily provide a stellar example of the respect for intellectual property. Ouch.

I've made many Powerpoints using images I've gotten online. As of late, I've tried to be better about actually citing the origin, but have I attempted to get permission to actually use and cite that source? And that's just one example of my misguided understanding of "fair use." How many of us have been short on textbooks & have made copies of sections or chapters for the kids to take home & use? Have we used music for slideshow presentations that have exceeded 30 seconds per composition? Have we shown DVDs in the classroom with copyright laws in mind? Have we used the quotations of others (either peers or "famous" folk) without acknowledgment? Even worse, have we encouraged our students to do similar things within the guidelines of a presentation assignment?

If we, in the classroom, are not modeling that fundamental respect for the work that someone else has created or published, how can we honestly get upset when kids use someone else's work and turn it in as their own?

The advent of the Creative Commons license has at least given all of us the opportunity to use what has freely been shared. Will it have everything that we want to use in the classroom? No. But if we demonstrate to our own students that we are paying attention to "the rules" and respecting the wishes of those creators, perhaps the plagiarism conversation will have a more realistic context.

I would encourage everyone to start searching for "shared" content or create from scratch when preparing something for use, either personally or professionally. The Creative Commons website is a great starting point. Let's start with ourselves as leaders in the classroom and encourage our students to think about what they create as well.