Give credit where credit it due

Another year of school and the vital need to think through ‘plagiarism’ rears it’s ugly head again – particularly as the Open Content movement gains strength. The recently released Horizon Report 2010 explains:

A new educational perspective, focused on collective knowledge and the sharing and reuse of learning and scholarly content, has been gaining ground across the globe for nearly a decade. Open content has now come to the point that it is rapidly driving change in both the materials we use and the process of education. At its core, the notion of open content is to take advantage of the Internet as a global dissemination platform for collective knowledge and wisdom, and to design learning experiences that maximize the use of it.

Collective knowledge and wisdom depends on one thing though – giving credit where credit is due, whether it is courses, information, ideas, inspiration, motivation, etc. In fact, development of knowledge and scientific research has always depended on this.

But with the global reach of information and info-trash the ‘times, they are a changing‘.  Misinformation can become information. Knowledge can too readily become bias. So learning to give credit where credit is due is a critical and essential information fluency skill for our students to acquire.

Creative Commons

Let’s demonstrate to our students how easy it is to acknowledge inspiration in an online learning world. It takes a quote or a backlink – that’s all. What does it achieve?  Well, first and foremost, it builds learning conversation and creative endeavour,  and secondly it demonstrates that a learner is able to analyse and synthesize thinking from a global repository of possibilities. Sharing is so important, but so is sharing openly and inclusively.

It’s so easy to plagiarise, and call something your own!

Well why not, you might ask? Mashup? what’s wrong with that? There’s plenty of that around and it doesn’t really hurt does it?

Let’s face it, if I take myself as an example – I’m one in millions writing online. What does it matter if someone takes what I say and publishes it in China, or Russia or Timbuktu. Not much really, other than it misses the chance to develop better resources or better information about a topic.

However, educators and managers of technology supporting educational institutions online  understand the need to build that online info-puzzle together. We’re a big crowd with the potential to influence things!

That’s where book publishing and refereed journals  still have it ahead of the internet at this point in time – up to a point anyway. In addition, the notion of acknowledging ideas is a tradition in Western scholarship which for me has value in building credibility, personality, creativity, knowledge, and quality facts.

[Of course, what I’m talking about here is a very simplistic peek at the much more complex topic of knowledge  sharing which is at the heart of what we need to introduce our students to. Do drop over and read  If We Can’t Even Describe Knowledge Sharing, How Can We Support It? A nice ‘peppery’ look at the complexity of knowledge behaviours.]

How can we change the tendency in an online world to ‘copy and paste’ what suites for personal profit or gain?

Together, let’s entice our students into being captivated by the amazing opportunities that online learning presents. Introduce them to Creative Commons Licensing. Make sure that when they grow up they understand the power of the “By licence” (via Beth Kanter).

Teach your students the wisdom and value of giving credit where credit is due.


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6 thoughts on “Give credit where credit it due

  1. Pingback: LibraryLand Headlines « Reading Power

  2. This is a great topic to bring up. Often it’s not even an issue of intent and rather the student was unaware that using something from the web was plagiarism. Students need to be taught that giving credit where credit is due is just as important on the web as it is in real life settings. When they become employed they may be put in a similar situation where they have the opportunity to take credit for work that did not belong to them. Learning sooner than later will teach them a valuable lesson that can be applied in all walks of life.

  3. One of the tricks that has concerned me is that bloggers can and have circumvented giving credit to other’s original ideas by predating their blog posts, which most blog settings allow. So, if someone comes up with an insight or innovative new idea or connection as one of those one in millions that now publish to the Web freely … it can actually appear that someone has not given credit to an earlier idea, when in fact the earlier idea wasn’t original at all … the post was simply predated to appear as it were an original thought. And then depending on that blogger’s political mite, they actually get the credit while the later poster gets accused of appropriating the information.

    While I am sure that this isn’t the bulk of the issue about giving credit where credit is due, it certainly poses a dilemma that we really don’t know which contributions were put out into the public domain first. And this kind of slight is really hard to detect and correct.

    So when it appears that proper credit has not been given, it may be just that … appearance.

    • I do agree Frank. The issue of how bloggers treat information that they find is an important one, as is the devious ways of altering apparent published dates. Flexibility and versatility of online exchange can have it’s downsides 🙂 The other terribly annoying thing are the sites that simply ‘suck in’ posts from blogs onto their own space – with adsense activated – in order to make money on the back of others. What can we do? First up – let’s be aware of these ‘corrucptions’! Second – let’s not perpetuate them. Third – help youth learn better ways of connecting and sharing.

  4. Hi Judy,

    Fantastic post and excellent analysis of open content with some pertinent reminders. I think the bedrock of critical literacy is the business of making sense of who said what, how the information was constructed and whose (often vested) interests it represents. Acknowledging that should be second nature to all of us.



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