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Set a good example:
Credit others’ work

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by Candace Perkins Bowen, MJE

Part 2 of a 2-part blog on teacher plagiarism and copyright issues

As the first part of this series noted, we teachers can sometimes be the most innocent thieves. That lesson plan we found online, the handout with another teacher’s name whited out, the great final project – when are we borrowing and when are we stealing?

There’s not always a very clear line between the two. I can remember a flight home from a JEA/NSPA convention when Howard Spanogle, then a journalism teacher in a neighboring district and now C:JET’s assistant editor, told me all about an assignment he used that worked well for him. He later shared a handout he had used and my Elizabethan newspaper project was born.

What a perfect way to hook my sophomore English II students on journalism! I taught them a little about inverted pyramids and leads, using quotes and finding “experts.” As we finished “Julius Caesar,” they got in groups of five and had to choose a date during Shakespeare’s time, decide on a range of newspaper articles, research to find out more details and put the info in news, features, sports and opinion pieces.

Of course I didn’t need to worry about plagiarism. Although they had to provide a standard bibliography, when they wrote about fashions at the turn of the 17th century, they did so with “interviews” with the Queen’s designer and quotes from her ladies in waiting. The details had to be accurate, but that feature-writing style was not what they would find in history books.

Had I stolen Howard’s lesson? Maybe. It started out much like his, but as it progressed, I developed better prompts for my students, found stronger resources to suggest, helped them actually use desktop publishing to put the pieces together. Those all were my additions.

JEA is helping us acknowledge some of today’s lesson developers when we use the new curriculum. When the content launched last April, the only things branded with the group’s logo were the PowerPoints. When I asked project leader and JEA vice president Sarah Nichols why there weren’t more, she said that was a great question. She said in the next phase, which they are working on now, they have templates for handouts, rubrics and quizzes in addition to the original PPT template. It will show the source.

Using someone else’s lessons doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, everyone shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel, a phrase NSPA uses on its website to house a section of forms, templates and materials all publications staffs can use. Each is branded with a little circle logo that says, “the wheel: Don’t reinvent it.”

So when Kent State education majors taking my Teaching High School Journalism methods course prepare presentations, I always warn them: Give credit whenever you can. “Lesson adapted from:” or use of the organization’s logo will help then ensure their own students learn that fine line between just taking something and giving some recognition to the teacher or group who developed it first.

One Comment

  1. Two great blogs to shed light on a current issue in education and elsewhere.

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