I was looking at a comment written by a child on a blogpost today. In it the child had written a poem at the request of the teacher. It was extremely well written so I immediately suspected that they had copied it. To confirm my suspicion I simply copied the entire poem and pasted it into a Google search. Sure enough I found the poem listed on a legitimate website citing the author of the poem. I will take this up through leaving a comment of my own on the child’s post linking to the original poem and stressing to the children in that class that copying other people’s work without attribution is not acceptable. Hopefully the teacher will pick up my cue and instigate a class discussion on the subject. Maybe.
More worryingly, when I looked up the poem I also found the work included on at least half a dozen teacher’s websites, wikis and printable resource collections without any reference to the author. One teacher even had the gall to request that if anyone used her printable resource that she should be attributed as the author! I think a lot of this stems from the days when the photocopier was the single most important resource in school and photocopying anything and everything was quietly tolerated. How often have you copied a page out of a real book to focus on a piece of text in a shared reading session? The difference is, of course, that all of this went on behind closed doors and was tolerated by too many. Nowadays, the first port of call for resources is the internet and I suspect few teachers bother with considerations such as copyright and fair attribution. This might be all very well when it comes to using stuff in their classroom as you are extremely unlikely to be called out for doing it, but causes issues if the work is published online.
On average we get about half a dozen “take down” notices a year where a child or teacher has published something on their blog (usually an image) without checking the relevant permissions. Our position on such matters is simple, we’ll take the object offline, let the teacher know what’s happened and hopefully learn from the experience. We’re not in a position to start entering legal discussions about the niceties of copyright and fair use.
I have long since held it to be an essential part of ICT to teach children about issues of copyright and here are some of the web resources I use to teach image searching in particular:
http://photopin.com – a nice Flickr search tool that searches for Creative Commons images and includes the necessary image credit as an embed code.
http://compfight.com – an alternative Flickr search tool that you need to set to a Creative Commons search but works well on an iPad (which Photopin doesn’t). Note that there is a very nice Compfight plugin that sits in your post editor screen, too (details here).
What if Flickr is blocked in my school? This is an all too frequent occurrence and my answer is to get it unblocked. My argument is that the easiest way to teach children the responsible method of finding content licenced to use on blogs is to use tools like Photopin and Flickr, not Google Advanced Search.