Recently, I was having a conversation with some fellow teachers about online sharing. We were discussing the idea of sharing our work we do with our students on the internet and the impact that has on us, them and others. There is a common understanding that sharing is a great way to show new ways of thinking, innovative ways of using tools and getting others to feel inspired to try new things. In fact, all of us agreed that we have tried something in our classrooms that was someone else idea, creation or lesson. These teachers are also the best example of sharing well. If they share an idea they developed from a shared idea from another, they give credit. If they present an idea they developed in a collaboration, or like a term that another has used to describe an idea, they ask to use it, with credit. Every time.
Sharing is important as educators and it’s important for our kids. Our kids are able to see that ideas often come from other places and are a blend of our thinking and others. Our kids then get to see their work as being valued and important and worth sharing with others. They see audience, importance of quality and that special feeling of being recognized for good quality work and the possibility of inspiring others.
But there have been some issues in the world of sharing recently as well. These problems are generally limited and the exception, but they occur and I personally feel they need to be addressed. Some people are using what others share and are not giving credit, or they are giving credit but not asking permission, or they are asking permission but then telling an inaccurate story. People are using what others are sharing and telling “a” story, but too often it’s not “the” story of the work. I make the distinction because even if I see a person’s blog, video, student work, etc. I don’t actually know “the story.” The story has background, relationships, context, and meaning that only the person who is involved in the story can tell accurately. Even if you have heard the story, it’s still hearsay. If you are a person who wants to tell another person’s story, do the work like a reporter. Ask the person about it, say you would like to tell it and where you would like to tell it, after they tell it to you, tell them what the story is you heard and check for accuracy and details. Ask is there anything else to add. Finally, ASK permission to tell it.
This failure to ask to use and failure to use properly is misuse of sources and not giving credit to the work is plagiarism. I had a friend who recently was presenting at a conference and was in another session where someone she didn’t know was using her work. It was the same work she planned to use and discuss in her session. The person didn’t ask her, didn’t tell the story correctly and was presenting at a conference. My friend was brave enough to confront the person and express the desire to have been asked to use the work. This example and others have happened countless times to her and I am sure to others.
Presenting and sharing other people’s work without credit is fraudulent. If you are getting paid to present and you don’t give credit I think that is almost criminal. If you are presenting only other people’s work with permission in a session the title should somewhere include curation. You should clearly state that these are other people’s ideas. They are ideas you found, ideas you heard about, ideas you like, but they are not your ideas. If you have permission to use, share and speak about someone’s work, no problem, but please still give them full credit in your presentation.
Teachers need to continue to share, I will continue to share the work I do with others and my students. But people who are entrepreneurs and making money in the education world by stealing from others deserve to be called on it. Education conferences need to review the work of presenters and just as a editor would require citations for published work, the committees should require credit to the source of the work too.