Modelling Good Digital Citizenship

Are you encouraging the kids you teach to break the law and to steal from others?

Being kind online and making the internet a safer space for others is one way to be a good digital citizen. Another, and one that is frequently becoming more important as technology makes online sharing ubiquitous, is to respect copyright.

Of course, students will already be aware of some of the rhetoric around illegal file sharing as it pertains to movies and music, and most teachers would likely encourage them to obey the law in that regard, but there is a huge misunderstanding of copyright when it comes to instances of copying and sharing other texts.

Schools take plagiarism very seriously, but there is a blind spot that many teachers have when it comes to acquiring materials to be used in class. Class handouts, web pages, and Powerpoint presentations are often enriched by teachers with striking imagery found via Google images. However, often these images are reused without permission or attribution. If a student were to do the same with the ideas in their essay, it would likely lead to punishment, but teachers often get a free pass.

The confusion comes from the notion of the ‘public domain.’ Many mistakenly believe that if it can be found on Google images it is in the public domain and can therefore be used freely. Of course, public domain is a legal term for works no longer under copyright. Some works can be placed in the public domain if the copyright holder rescinds their copyright, and there are other licencing options available to make it clear to users that they have permission to use works found online according to particular conditions.

So what can teachers do about with this information to help students become more responsible digital citizens?

Firstly, teachers should only use images they have permission to use. If using Google images, you can refine the search results to display only those images that have licences that allow for reuse.

Search for images with the appropriate usage rights using Google's search tools
Search for images with the appropriate usage rights using Google’s search tools
The second thing teachers should do is ensure that all material they use for class that they did not create themselves should identify the original source as accurately as possible. If you do not know where an image came from, Google has a neat reverse lookup tool that you can use by dragging an image from your computer onto the Google Images search bar. This will find other versions of the image posted online. It is easier to attribute images appropriately if you ensure you note the appropriate details as you find them.

Simply drag and drop an image onto the Google images search bar to do a reverse search
Simply drag and drop an image onto the Google images search bar to do a reverse search
Finally, teachers should hold students to a higher standard than they may be used to. I’ve had many students in the past credit the source of their images as ‘Google Images’. While this may be the actual place the kids found the material they used, it does not adequately credit the real creator of their borrowed media. Students should also be taught to be more aware of the creators making their work available so that they can be credited appropriately.

Did I miss a trick you find helpful in finding original sources of images online? If so, let me know in the comments.

Related post: Better Digital Citizenship – Be Kind Onlline

Modelling Good Digital Citizenship

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