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Academic Honesty When Using Images, Music, and Video

Academic Honesty is an important mindset we work to cultivate in our students as teachers. We do a very good job to teach our students the ethical (and legal) practices required to ensure written work is their own (i.e. not plagiarized). We teach students how to summarize, paraphrase, and quote. And when ethics-got2they have used other’s ideas, we teach them to cite those ideas and the texts they come from using standard formats like MLA or APA. Along with our intuition, we have awesome tools like, which help the students and us do originality checks on their written work, giving us teachable moments to help students learn from their mistakes when they occur.

With teachers doing more activities and projects that require multimedia elements like images, music, and video, students are faced with the process of having to acquire these elements. The Internet has made it very easy to acquire these elements in just a few clicks. What is often lacking in the process of acquiring and using media, however, is the same ethical practice and mindset we have for writing. We have to be sure that our Academic Honesty scope also applies to the use of images, music, and video in student work. Students need to ensure they do not infringe on the copyrights of others, doing their best to use properly licensed media with clear and accurate attributions given in the work. This is an essential part of digital citizenship training for our students.

Though it’s important to be aware of the backbone to this issue, I’m not going to go into the depths of Copyright law and Fair Use in this post. I will just focus on some quick and practical ways you can get your students to have an ethical mindset to find and use properly licensed media. Unfortunately, there isn’t a tool like for checking multimedia, so we have to build our understanding of the means and websites necessary to get properly licensed media, ensuring and expecting our students are using them.

First, teaching this stop light metaphor to your students is a great place to start to build an ethical mindset for multimedia use.

ethical-media-use-traffic-lightTHE BEST OPTION: Students create their own images, music, and/or video. In the same way we expect students to write using their own words, students creating their own original media when possible is the best way to avoid academic dishonesty and breaching copyright in schoolwork. At the same time, it promotes additional creativity in the classroom. It helps our students to be creators more than consumers with their technology.

THE GOOD AND LEGAL OPTION: Students acquire and use multimedia from Creative Commons, Public Domain, or Royalty Free Internet sites with clear and accurate attribution. These are sites where the creator of the media has given certain usage permissions in advance; the student does not need to seek explicit permission from the creator in advance of using the media as long as there is attribution. Students do need to be aware there are different types of Creative Commons licenses and need to understand what they can and can’t do with the media according the license the creator chooses.

ONLY WHEN THERE IS NO OTHER OPTION: Students acquire and use (copyrighted) media from the Internet with clear and accurate attribution. The use falls under Fair Use. Sometimes there is no other option like when a student needs a scientific image, historical image, or other obscure content that would be difficult to create or find through the other options. In most cases, the use of the media would fall under Fair Use as long as there is clear and accurate attribution to the creator.

It’s also important for you to model this mindset and practice with your students. Follow the stoplight as you seek and use multimedia in your lessons. Always be sure to clearly and accurately attribute multimedia work used in your lessons and presentations.

Second, here are some places where you can guide students to find Creative Commons, Public Domain, and Royalty Free media.

All Media


  • PixabayGeneral image site; most images are Public Domain and free to use.
  • Photos for ClassLegally reusable images with attribution already on each image!
  • PhotoPinCreative Commons licensed photos.
  • TinEye Labs – Legally reusable images searchable by color.
  • Wikimedia Commons – Contains Public Domain and legally licensed media.
  • CompfightYet another search engine to find legally reusable images.


  • CCMixter – Thousands of hours of free to use music for video, film, or video game projects.
  • Free Music Archive – An interactive library of high-quality, legal audio downloads.
  • Jamendo – Creative Commons licensed music from a variety of genres.

Lastly, here are attribution statements your students and you can use. Note: these attribution statements usually appear in-the-moment when the media appears in the work. For example, if a student is doing a presentation, the image attribution should appear directly on the slide on which the image is placed.

Images (be sure to put the following statement ON EACH IMAGE when it appears in your presentation or other multimedia product)

  • If you have a photographer’s name – “Image by <author’s name> on <website name>
  • If you don’t have a photographer’s name – “Image from <website name>

Video (put the following statement in a corner near the beginning of the video clip for about 5-10 seconds)

  • If you have a videographer’s or production company’s name – “Video by <author’s name> on <website name>
  • If you don’t have a videographer’s or production company’s name – “Videofrom <website name>

Music (it will depend on the context in which music is used. If the music is in a video, put the following statement in a corner when the music begins playing for about 5-10 seconds. If the music is in a presentation, a attribution can be on a slide or can be stated orally if it fits well into the script. If it’s a podcast, the speaker can attribute music at the end of the podcast).

  • <”Song name”> by <artist or band’s name> from <website name>

Image Attribution 1


Using Google’s 20 Percent Time Concept in My Psychology Class

Psychology is a subject area about which most students are very curious. Thus, they generate many questions about the mind and human behavior. This was very apparent in my psychology course when I surveyed the students at the beginning of semester, asking what they want to know and hope to learn. Because this course at ACS is only a semester long, we only have a short time to investigate foundational elements of psychology (I modeled this part of the curriculum after the IB Psychology syllabus by investigating Biological, Cognitive, Sociocultural, and Abnormal Psychology). However, I don’t want students to leave the course without having the opportunity to investigate answers to questions with which they came into the class. In response to this, I developed the Personal Project which incorporates Google’s 20% time concept and builds their sense of curiosity, an important habit of mind in today’s world.

This Personal Project allows the students to investigate a question they have had or pursue an intellectual curiosity related to psychology. I calculate 20% of class time (based on the number of classes we have in the semester) and set whole periods aside (at approximately two week intervals) for the students to work on the project. This semester that’s about eight 82 minute periods. Of course, some home time needs to be dedicated to this project, as well. I do provide structure and have due dates within this process, however. These are the steps I outline for students on the project overview (the project rubric is in that document, as well):

  1. Chose a topic area where you’d like your investigation to focus. (I differentiate this aspect and leave this open for the students to define a topic in which they are interested. I do provide a list of topic areas that I and previous psychology students have found interesting to help students that are stuck).
  2. Generate a research question that will guide your investigation and get it approved by the teacher. (This part of the process is very important and will drive the research the students do. I work closely with them to develop a question that will have them working higher level thinking skills, not just a summary of a topic or question that leads to a simple yes or no response).
  3. Write an annotated bibliography for at least 5 sources relevant to your research question. (I feel this is an important academic process since I can check that they are thinking deeply about the sources they are using. This is a process they will do often in university, so it’s good practice for that, as well. This part of the process is assessed as a formative task).
  4. Chose the type of product you will create to show the findings of your investigation (product possibilities: documentary style video; website, podcast, online magazine style report, VoiceThread, research report, TED talk-like formal presentation) (I differentiate the product, as well. I want the students to push creative abilities and build technology skills in this project, so I guide them to technology-based products that have strong creative elements in them. This is not an exhaustive list of possible products, however. If a student has a different product idea, they can definitely pursue that upon approval. I only allow 3 students to do a traditional research paper style product since this doesn’t really push creative abilities. They must give a good reason for wanting to do a traditional research paper. I provide links to examples of each product type so students can make an informed decision).
  5. Write an outline or storyboard that organizes your content in context of your product. (Organization and planning! This part of the process is assessed as a formative task).
  6. Create a draft of your product for feedback from a class member. (Peer editing and feedback)
  7. Submit your final product and celebrate during a show and tell! (Students that choose to do the TED style formal oral presentation do it on the due date. After those presentations, the other students share their products. Self-assessment and reflection will also occur upon completion of the product).

Students have chosen some very interesting topic areas this semester and are working well through the process so far. They are showing excitement and motivation to work on this since they are in control of what they are learning and creating. My role is as a guide, helping them work through the process, refining their understanding of the topic and related research, providing feedback, and assisting with technicalities relating to their product production.

I plan to implement this concept with my IB Geography Higher Level course in the second year of the class when we are learning the options. Students need to know three options for that course. I will facilitate two of the options, then the students will chose a third option based on their personal interest. I will structure the time and process similarly to how I’m doing it in my psychology class.

If you are using the 20% time concept, I’d love to hear your comments and how you are facilitating the process in your course!

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