Plagiarism certainly is a problem, and intellectual property is a complex issue that most learners don’t adequately understand. I’ve found many educators as well as students are confused about attribution versus copyright compliance. I addressed this and other issues in my winter 2003 article, “Copyright 101 for Educators” published by TCEA.
On the topic of WikiPedia, it is important for people to know that all content shared there is placed or already in the public domain. That means people can legally do whatever they want with it (including copying and using it without attribution,) but that sort of behavior certainly doesn’t follow academic conventions and should be frowned upon. Reusing WikiPedia content which actually IS in the public domain isn’t illegal, therefore. Of course people do post content to WikiPedia which either isn’t in the public domain or they don’t have the right legally to put into the public domain, so this leads to the content being taken down and some potential confusion. One important point to understand, then, is that just because content is in WikiPedia, it is not necessarily in the public domain. It should be, but if it has been recently posted and not reviewed by editors, it is certainly possible it’s been uploaded there and put in the public domain erroneously. The same thing can and does happen from time to time with Creative Commons licensing of images on sites like Flickr, as the case of Virgin Mobile Australia and a summer camp photo used in a national advertising campaign revealed.
One very important question which I don’t have a good answer to is helping young people understand, at a gut level, that plagiarism is wrong. Certainly digital technologies make copy and paste easier, but do we really need new ways for helping students understand the ethics of plagiarism? I remember teachers in high school who literally tore up and destroyed student work which they suspected was plagiarized. The case I am remembering was harsh and I think unjustified, but it certainly left a lasting impression. I am not saying teachers should be draconian and act without just cause, but I do think that the way plagiarizers learn about the impropriety of their actions is through consequences. I’d be interested to know what others think about this question as well, and how they are addressing it. How can we help students not only understand digital ethics, but also CARE about them? I agree with those who observe people learn ethics by making decisions, not by being lectured to or hearing about the Character Counts “word of the week.” I think we need moderated social networks in schools where students have opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them, and we engage all the stakeholders not as “network nazis” but as co-learners who help maintain a safe as well as ethical learning environment for everyone.
If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, subscribe to Wes' free newsletter. Check out Wes' video tutorial library, "Playing with Media." Information about more ways to learn with Dr. Wesley Fryer are available on wesfryer.com/after.
On this day..
- Picasa Slideshow Link for iPhones: No Flash Required - 2016
- FREE Enhanced eBook for Kids: "Snowflake Gets Lost" by Rachel Fryer - 2012
- Upcoming Wes Fryer Presentations in Oklahoma City (Feb - Mar 2012) - 2012
- iGrill, iRig & Mikey - 2011
- iPad, OER, and Custom Course Web Applications / iApps - 2010
- High Definition USB 2.0 Hue Webcam - 2010
- Comments from Drew Edmondson at the 2009 OU K20 MidWinter Conference - 2009
- Notes on Dr. Scott McLeod's follow up session at OU K20 MidWinter - 2009
- Comments from Oklahoma Lt Governor Jari Askins on Oklahoma Education - 2009
- Notes from Dr. Scott McLeod's keynote at the OU K-20 Center's 2009 MidWinter Conference - 2009