Thursday, July 24, 2008

Where's the Respect? A 21st Century Learning Question

As I read updates on Twitter today, I saw a reference Jeff Utecht made to an article entitled Cut and Paste 'not plagiarism'. Dr. Spender was speaking to a group of educators and made the statement that what some schools (her context was universities) police as plagiarism is not plagiarism at all within the new context of web 2.0. She goes on to say that all the students are doing is remixing:
“What kids are doing in downloading text is exactly what they are doing in downloading music,” she said.
“They take bits and pieces, mixing and matching them and making something that is their own product.”

My initial reaction to this article was one of but of course it is plagiarism! When I work with students, I fight against them copying and pasting (without thinking) and changing words here and there and calling that their own work. What I really want from students is for them to think about the information, organize, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate the information from a number of sources before they write.

I also wanted to shout, "but how do we teach them to respect intellectual property?"

Then I started thinking about it a little more myself. I went to the Partnership for the 21st century skills website and reflected on some of the skills listed there: Information Literacy.

  • Accessing information efficiently and effectively, evaluating information critically and competently and using information accurately and creatively for the issue or problem at hand

  • Possessing a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of information

My next stop was to revisit with the NETS for Students from the ISTE website. In particular, I looked at the Research and Information Literacy strand. Students locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media.

Now I am under the impression we need to define ethical use of intellectual property as it relates specifically to web 2.0 tools. Is it ok for a student to "remix" information and put it into a format to turn in as "their own" work? In some respect, that's kind of what I've done with this blog post. But hopefully, I have taken information from a variety of sources, thinking critically about it and drawing my own conclusions. Does this make it "my own" work?

Dr. Spender also said in the article, "I don't really care if there are bits and pieces in their initial information that is downloaded from different points. What I care about is: do they understand it and did they use that information to come up with a solution to solve a problem?"

On this level, I understand the point she is making. I believe this is one area of web 2.0 that hasn't been talked about nearly enough. In my opinion, we need to revisit our definitions of plagiarism and we need to teach our students what respect looks like in a web 2.0 world.

Image used by permission under CC license by Old Shoe Woman

Labels: , , ,


Anonymous Melissa said...

Good points, and I especially like the analogy of cut-pasting to mixing existing music or videos! This truly seems to be what is happening. I'm afraid that students believe they are writing when they are merely searching for and rearranging information. This process seems to be an attempt to not have to think, because thinking is hard, and much of what we are asking them to think about has already been said/solved; in other words, they might be wondering why should they have to reinvent the wheel? Just to get a grade? Just because the teacher said to? This gets us back to creating problems for them to solve -- new, relevant problems, where they can apply the existing information in novel ways. It makes thinking a bit more fun, but still hard. And that makes us have to do a bit of thinking as teachers, right?

July 26, 2008 at 7:58 PM  
Blogger Julia Osteen said...

You make a good point here. This is actually something I've decided on for my goal this coming school year. I'm going to work on making my classroom more inquiry-driven. Any pointers you have for me on that would be appreciated.

July 27, 2008 at 7:28 AM  
Anonymous iDavo said...

What the new world of education needs is more teachers like yourself, Julia. As you so correctly stated, you have taken existing information and analysed, evaluated and synthesised it into you own work. You have cited your sources and provided relevant links where appropriate. What many student fail to do is these essential steps. They cut-and-paste so they can answer the question as simply and quickly as possible. If students are able to do this it is a problem with the question not the student response. Where do they learn that this is "wrong" if we as teachers don't educate them and model our expectations?.....oh and set assessments that are authentic learning experiences that engage our students. One way to slow plagarism is to steer away from written assessments and use some oral presentations. If you have students discuss or even debate a question relating to a topic area they not only need to be able to use their knowledge to respond quickly but they develop their verbal communication skills. Don't forget as Whitney Houston once sang: "I believe that children are our future/Teach them well and let them lead the way....."

July 27, 2008 at 9:16 AM  
Anonymous Melissa said...

Hi Julia,
I'm trying to do the same as you this coming year. I think it will be somewhat experimental. I just wrote up one of my ideas on my blog. It's over at if you care to check it out. I'd love to hear if you think this particular assignment is as Google-proof as I do!

July 28, 2008 at 2:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi - I am definitely happy to find this. cool job!

June 17, 2011 at 10:46 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home