A few years ago someone stole my photos. Full disclosure, it happened on Facebook. Nonetheless, a “friend” reposted a collection of my photographs as one of their albums. In some ways, I suppose my ego should feel a little inflated by this, however, I have no delusions of grandeur when it comes to my ability as a photographer. Instead, I felt a little hurt that I didn’t receive any credit for my original photographs or at least a message asking if he could repost them.
I always share this anecdote with students during our (now revamped) digital media unit when we explore a creator’s rights and responsibilities. Common Sense Media has an excellent lesson plan on this subject that serves as a great introduction to plagiarism and giving attribution. In the past, I had relied heavily on photos for class as photographs from this site come with attribution embedded. Moving forward, however, I want to start teaching students how to use advanced Google Image searches to help them find photographs that they can use and give attribution to.
In all honesty, I had never really considered the importance of giving attribution to internet resources until I participated in professional development by Project GLAD. At the end of this training, I and the other members of staff who completed the course were given access to GLAD’s resource bank. We were encouraged to share any resources that we created and given free access to other teacher’s work with the proviso that we give credit to the creator. At the time I was still very new to teaching and I remember thinking that I didn’t mind if people used my resources and didn’t give me attribution. My feelings towards this have changed over time though, now I feel that when I share a resource and sign my name to it I feel as though I should receive credit for it. This is a feeling I want to instill in students too.
Times are a-changing
As mentioned in Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture (John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation) “57 percent of teens who use the Internet – could be considered media creators.” I am very curious to see, after a few months of distance learning, how this number will change. I would expect to see a huge increase as students adapt to online platforms and start messing around with the tools at their disposal. Equally interesting will be how students perceive themselves as media creators. This census by Common Sense Media in 2015 found that teens felt as though they spent far more time consuming, as opposed to creating, media.
I wonder if more students would now see themselves as media creators or if they simply see themselves as students completing work for their teacher? Over the past few weeks, my Fourth Grade students have been creating and sharing stop motion videos about the rock cycle. Using a combination of Stop Motion Studio and iMovie, the students have been sharing their videos with their classmates and giving each other tips during our daily meetings. Many have been inspired to make their own videos on subjects ranging from penalty shootouts to the woes of having a slow internet connection.
I would like my students to know that they are creators, directors, writers, and editors. As such they are the owners of their intellectual property. Nobody has the right to simply take their work and claim it as their own. As an addition to my unit plan, I think it will be important to look at remixing work and how this affects copyright.
I think that schools have a huge responsibility in teaching students about ownership of intellectual property. Educators need to serve as role models for students in order to reinforce the importance of copyright. Last week I was called out by one of my students for a PowerPoint I created as none of the images had attribution. On the one hand, I felt a little embarrassed as he was completely right, however, on the other hand, I took this as a sign that my students were beginning to take action and apply their learning to the world. We need to ensure that schools are also modeling copyright protection even if the country the school is located in does not have strict copyright laws. I think this is important in order to dissuade students from plagiarising work, even unknowingly, not because it is illegal but because we want students to think for themselves and concentrate on developing their own skills.