Long before the Internet became the go-to research tool, most students had been taught about the proper use and citation of text-based sources, using styles like MLA and APA. But with the internet making it so easy to find text-based information and easily copy it, teachers have had to ramp up their efforts to instill ethical and legal awareness around plagiarism. Many schools even subscribe to plagiarism detection services like turnitin.com to have additional means to check student work. Recently, the humanities team at my school completed a scope and sequence for successfully building this ethical understanding and citation process with text-based sources starting at Grade 6, using MLA format at all levels and in all classes, including science and math. We also subscribed to turnitin, with all students in grades 8-12 having accounts.
Along with traditional text-based research, the Internet and new technologies have more and more teachers facilitating projects that require other media like images, music, and video. At the same time, many teachers are publishing some of that work out to the world through blogs or other means. This creates a whole new issue in regards to the need to use legally licensed media and give proper attribution in the process. This is also a critical understanding and skill to go along with preventing text-based plagiarism, and is key aspect in building responsible digital citizenship with today’s students.
One of the ways in which I work to build responsible digital citizenship with these other types of media at my school is by teaching about and requiring students to use Creative Commons licensed media in their work/projects that include images, music, and/or video. I also work with fellow faculty members to build their understanding so they can support the students in their own classes. This previous post about my colleague’s culminating project in her Humanities class references my assistance with the Creative Commons search and attribution process.
In my Technology Skills for the 21st Century Learner class that I blogged about a few weeks ago, I briefly mentioned the project where I have the students create a lesson that they teach to middle school students about “Ethics and the Internet.” My second semester students recently facilitated the lessons with the 7th graders (my first semester students did the lessons with the 6th and 8th graders).
Using a Understanding by Design (UbD) unit planning template, I have the students plan all three stages of the lesson, using the following goal/benchmark from our information literacy standards in stage 1 (they are also assessed on this benchmark for this and a couple of other projects during the semester):
- Students advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology.
The students create the educational presentation and activities that they will facilitate. Of course, if they use any media that they don’t create themselves, it must be Creative Commons licensed media. While they are putting their lesson together, I coach them about the approach they are taking and give feedback on the activities they are creating. Their lesson needs to last at least one hour.
Both semesters’ students enjoyed doing the lesson. The response from the middle school students and their teachers was positive, as well. One of my colleagues who observed the students’ lesson said that it was great that this idea and process was being presented to students by students. I definitely agree. You can read some student reflections on the experience here.
The students that come through the Tech Skills class in the future will continue to do these lessons for the middle school students. In the same way student knowledge about plagiarism and proper text-based citation needs to be refreshed and retaught each year, students will need to be refreshed about Creative Commons and properly citing other digital media each year so that they can develop a deep understanding of the process and an empathy for the legal issues that surround the creation and publication of original and/or mashed-up work.
Here’s the slideshow I use to introduce Creative Commons to both staff and students: