Last weekend, I came across an article in the Boston Globe that called out to me as an educator: “BC cries foul after footage is used in video by Paul Ryan.” I could not help but start thinking about academic integrity, the work we need to do as educators, and the real world ramifications of claiming another person’s work as your own.
The article explains, in a nutshell, that Paul Ryan (and his staff) used video footage that did not belong to them. They took footage from a Boston College video production and used it without being granted permission. Why is this a big deal? Well, the Paul Ryan video likely violated copyright laws or another law that governs intellectual property. In addition, it is likely that highly accomplished and smart people will lose their job over this mistake.
The people working on Paul Ryan’s team are likely people that were very successful in their studies and worked very hard to earn a position with the Speaker of the House. So, how do we help our students avoid making a similar mistake?
For the most part, students are not making a malicious decision to take another person’s work and portray it as their own. Of course, there are times when a student is feeling the stress of a deadline or mounting work and may make a poor decision, but often students are unaware of their mistakes. This may come from choosing a source that should not be trusted, copying an image from the Internet, or relying too heavily on a google search. While access to information through Internet searches has countless benefits, it has also led to many complications and misunderstandings when it comes to intellectual property and plagiarism.
This is why we believe it is critical to teach students about curating sources, understanding how to tell what images or videos can be used, and how to go about gaining permission to use that media. Understanding “the why” behind properly giving credit to the authors of original ideas is a critical part of this learning and is supported by our Core Values of Respect and Responsibility. Our teachers and librarians play a crucial role in this process. Academic integrity is not about catching students, but is about informing them on best practices. As more and more content becomes accessible, this work becomes increasingly critical. We want to ensure that our students are informed and responsible curators of information so that they are not put in a position in college or the workforce like Paul Ryan and his staff.
Here are some helpful resources on Creative Commons, Copyright, and Fair Use from Brimmer’s Director of Middle and Upper School Library.
- Creative Commons: This video explains Creative Commons and how people can use the different types of content that are using this type of license.
- Copyright and Fair Use Guide from Harvard University: This document details the different types of information and when to give credit to the author.
- Citation Styles and How to Cite Sources: These websites explain the differences between the various citation formats and how to properly cite information.
How do you get the majority of your news information? Do you pick up a newspaper in the morning, scanning the articles and titles? Do you spend time throughout the day visiting traditional print media outlets that post their articles digitally? Or do you depend on news aggregators and social media to get the majority of your information about the latest happenings in the world?
The headlines over the past few weeks have been filled with concerns about “fake news”. The sensationalized headlines with disinformation have spread quickly across social media platforms reinforcing concerns people may already have about a specific issue. Some people have called on companies, such as Facebook, to fact-check stories being posted, some have blamed media outlets for normalizing some types of sensationalism, and others have called on readers to be more discerning when they read articles. Fake news and sensationalism isn’t a new problem. Personally, I remember learning about Yellow Journalism during my 8th grade history class with Mr. Zabinski.
In an era where information is so easily attained and shared, we have known for a number of years how critical it is to develop digitally literate students. As a core 21st Century Skill, digital literacy refers to a range of skills such as:
- the ability to utilize technology as a tool to research, organize, evaluate and communicate information
- the ability to use use digital technologies, communication tools, navigating social networks
- manage, integrate, evaluate and create information to successfully function in the world
- understand one’s place ethically in the chain of shared information
Regardless of how you collect your information, the ability to evaluate and analyze information is a critical part of media literacy. We need to resist the temptation to share, like, favorite, or love articles based on their headline- something that I am guilty of doing from time to time. We also need to properly evaluate an article, taking the time to decode facts that may seem to good to be true.
How do we do this? What do students need to do? Here are a few ways…
Be Critical: Regardless of the source do not assume that all information presented is unbiased or factual. If there is a statement or fact that does not make sense, investigate. If an article is use broad statements and isn’t supplying quotes, sources, or data, then dig deeper.
Be a Fact-Checker: Cross check a story against other sources. Look up the original source that is being referenced.
Know Your Sources: Develop a list of sources you trust- media outlets, specific people, websites
Be Responsible: Understand that once you share something electronically it can never be permanently deleted. Think about who may be reading the information. Consider whether you are supporting the spread of rumors or fake news.
We are all responsible for the information we share, no matter the medium. Our students cannot depend on Facebook or other people to filter stories for them. Instead they, we, need to continue to develop the key skills needed to navigate our world.