Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Plagiarism and Copyright

In reality plagiarism is synonymous with copyright infringement. We live in a copy and paste world today and it can be very difficult for students to understand the concept of using others' information as if it were their own. 

I think the best way to teach students is to lead by example.  What comes to mind this instant is the lesson that 4th graders are learning in the computer lab right now, taught by a para-professional, about how to copy and paste.  They will be doing reports in class and need to have photos attached as part of their grade.  And they are learning to copy and paste them from the internet.  This  would be the perfect time to introduce students to copyright infringement and the importance of using sites that allow for copy and paste.  Unfortunately, this is totally overlooked.

To help curtail the events of plagiarism, I purchased the World Book Online this year for our students and it has a built in citation piece that will help students to identify their sources more accurately.  As digital literacy increases, so does the need to teach and prepare our students.  It is never to soon to teach paraphrasing and summarizing.  This can and should be done early on in elementary school and in fact, I believe this is addressed as part of the Common Core Standards.  Students in middle school are not sure what the difference is and to be really honest, sometimes I'm not sure that teachers do either. 

Students need a lot of examples and plenty of opportunities to practice. 


  1. You are absolutely right... "Students need a lot of examples and plenty of opportunities to practice." It only makes sense to educate about copyright/plagiarism/citation when you are actually teaching copy/paste or research methods. Teaching these important tools creates responsible learners that can help each other identify mistakes that can be fixed before it becomes an infringement.

  2. I think we have to teach our students to give credit where credit is due. Teachers have to understand the rules of "Fair Use" too. Just because you "mashup" information you still have to cite the sources. As educators we have to ensure our work is cited too and point that out to students during lessons. The earlier we start setting this example the better. Personally I haven't been to any Professional Development seminars where it talks about the differences between fair use, copyright, and plagiarism.

  3. I teach my 5th graders summarizing, but I don't do much with teaching paraphrasing. I think most people often forget or don't think they need to give credit to sources that they summarize or paraphrase. Pointing it out during the lesson would be a great way to teach them about citing sources.

  4. I agree with your statement about our "copy and paste" world. It is so easy to just swipe and click and boom-you're done! Especially when we are looking at sources on the Internet. I think teaching students to cite print sources makes a lot more sense to them, but it is even more important in our copy-paste world to teach them how to cite their electronic resources.