Educon Notes: Citation and Attribution in Today’s World

As a guy who creates a heaping cheeseload of content—both the copyright kind and the Creative Commons Share-and-Share(ski)-Alike kind—the session I was most interested in attending at this year's Educon conference was How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Citation, offered by Bud Hunt and Joe Bires.

Basically, Bud and Joe were playing out two ends of the fair use spectrum—Bud arguing that the ideas of others are important enough to honor that citation is essential in almost every circumstance and Joe arguing that citation is 1). increasingly difficult in a world driven by co-creation and 2). a barrier to innovative thought.

The session really got me thinking.  Here's my notes:




Any thoughts?  What are you doing to teach your students about attributing the sources for their ideas and inspiration?


9 thoughts on “Educon Notes: Citation and Attribution in Today’s World

  1. Bill Ferriter

    That was one of Buds points, too, GeoJo. Citation and attribution—in most cases—doesnt have to be cumbersome or intimidating at all. Simple comments like, I borrowed this idea from _______ are good models for kids to hear and use on a daily basis.
    Doing so sends the message that giving credit is important—which is the right message to send.
    Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

  2. GeoJo22

    Our middle school also has an academic integrity contract that all students sign. We teach citation at the beginning of 7th grade and continue to reinforce it. But you do not have to wait to teach attribution or citation. Students of all ages should cite the sources they use. We just need to make the process simpler for younger students. They will learn to respect the work of others and behave accordingly.

  3. Carl

    Bill, I agree strongly when you say that attribution should happen all the time. I am saddened to hear Samantha say that she has never been taught how to cite — every teacher in my school seems to re-teach it every year because it simply doesn’t stick with the students.
    One of the most important parts of my practice is my involvement with our Honor Council, which we established several years ago to promote academic integrity and the Academic Honor Code we developed (we’re one of the few public schools in PA to have one). I am honored to serve in a group of students and teachers charged with helping create an environment where everyone aspires to want to show integrity in all acts. It folds into a community orientation that, frankly, some people may find at odds with the apotheosized value of Individual Achievement.
    It’s a terrific struggle. Ease and speed have become ends in themselves, and non-physical concepts like attribution are hard to “see”.

  4. Samantha Fleming

    Yes, I too think that part of the issue with teachers is that for most of them, they themselves are not creators of content. Therefore, they can’t relate to the power of owning ideas. Makes perfect sense!
    In addition, I believe that many teachers probably have not been taught how and when to cite references correctly; this, in turn, explains why they aren’t teaching it. I also think that many teachers probably struggle with the difference between attribution and citation. You’re right, attribution should happen all of the time – sadly, it doesn’t. I’m not sure I can recall a teacher ever attributing any content to another individual other than in a literature class.

  5. Bill Ferriter

    Hey Samantha,
    Thanks for stopping by.
    One of the questions still rolling through my mind after Buds session is whether or not teachers struggle with citation and attribution simply because theyre not widespread creators of content themselves. I certainly feel different about the ownership of ideas now—three books and 500 blog entries later—than when I wasnt writing.
    Teachers also misunderstand the idea of fair use for educational purposes. Theyll claim that they dont need to cite sources because theyre using content in their classrooms. I think what Bud would argue is that while teachers may have different permissions for using content, citing content is never an option.
    My a-ha in the session was that attribution and citation could be two different things in my classroom. Attribution should happen all the time. Its an entry level expectation for anyone using content and/or ideas that isnt theirs. Citation is a higher level of attribution that may not happen in every single situation where a teacher is sharing content with their kids or when kids are sharing content with each other but that must happen anytime a teacher and/or student is publishing their final thinking on a topic.
    Any of this make sense?

  6. Samantha Fleming

    Hi, my name is Samantha Fleming. I attend the University of South Alabama, and I was assigned to your blog by Dr. John Strange as a project for our Microcomputing Systems class.
    I can see both Joe and Bud’s side of the spectrum. I agree with Joe in that citation is increasingly difficult due to co-creation. It becomes extremely challenging trying to cite something when that person is citing someone else and so on. I also agree that it becomes a barrier to innovative thought because you have to be particularly cautious of what you are saying for fear of plagiarism and copyright issues. However, I still agree with Bud in that the ideas of others are important enough to honor. I know you nor myself would like it if someone took our work and tried to play it off as their own.
    My issue with citation is that every teacher I have ever had to write a paper for has stressed the importance of citing references. However, not a single one of those teachers ever took the time to teach us the correct way to it. In my opinion, all students should be given a course, class, or seminar of some sort on how to correctly cite references if it is going to be a requirement.

  7. gasstationwithoutpumps

    It think that you are confusing scholarly citation (tracing back where one gets ideas from) with copyright and ownership. The ideas are quite separate. Being given permission to use or copy (as in the Creative Commons licenses) in no way reduces the responsibility of a scholar to state where they got an idea from.
    The purpose of citation is to be able to trace back both good ideas and errors to their sources and has nothing to do with who has commercial rights to use the ideas.

Comments are closed.