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Today’s guest blogger is Kim Haimes-Korn (see end of post for bio).
This week I have an important assignment for multimodal composers. When we have students work in digital spaces as content creators, there are often questions about ethical citation and usage practices and how to share content. Although we have many great resources, these notions are complicated when students share content, post images, and embed links on blogs or within other projects. Digital writing involves remixing and sharing content, but it complicates issues of plagiarism and ethical use. Even when you look for examples, you will notice that there is disparity and a great variety of possibilities. It is by no means an exact science.
I like the idea of having students create a Style Guide for Digital Citation and Usage that becomes the class reference for these practices. In addition to their handbook, I start them with some readings that address the subject. I also show them sites like Creative Commons and other ways to find copyright-free images that are in the public domain or labeled for reuse. It is also important to show them that large blogging sites have usage guidelines that are specific to their situation. In order to be a good digital writer you have to have the knowledge and motivation to dig a little deeper. For example, the site Hubspot has plenty of content to share and is happy to have people use it according to their Content Usage Guidelines. These guidelines explain usage and permission rights along with expectations defined by the group.
It also gets complicated when you want to share data or ideas that have been repurposed multiple times. It is important for students to critically read these sources to try to get to the original source rather than citing the last place they found it. In the worlds of digital writers there is a term, newsjacking (coined by David Meerman Scott), in which authors pull stories trending in the news and add them to their own sites for marketability. Basically, it is a way to draw on the Kairos of an existing situation to boost and enhance your own content.
Images are essential to successful online content. Students need to know not just how to cite them but where to find them. This exercise asks students to share copyright-free image sites and other strategies for understanding the usage guidelines. For example, when you conduct a Google Image search, you can go to the tools menu for a drop down list of usage rights where student can choose from a list of suggestions. When they choose, “labeled for reuse,” Google filters those images that fit the category. The internet has a lot of information on these topics, such as this infographic created by the Visual Communication Guy, Can I Use that Picture, which provides a visual representation of these concepts. It is useful to have students go to these different types of sources (textual and visual) to try to make sense of and enter the conversation. This assignment helps them to think critically about the choices they make as content creators.
- Have students read and review online sources (articles, infographics, blogs) for citation practices and usage guidelines.
- Put them in small groups to discuss what they found, looking for overlaps and distinctions. Discuss the ways these definitions are communally constructed. Ask each student to summarize a source on a presentation slide and present it to the group.
- As a group, assimilate the information and create a collaborative style guide slide that simplifies and defines the citation and usage practices for the particular classroom context from the summarized sources. Place this slide at the front of the presentation for easy future access.
- Share the presentation with the class – revise and shape through feedback.
- Publish the style guide in a place where students can access it for reference for future writings in the class.
Reflections on the Activity
It is always easier for students to remember information when it is communally constructed on their own terms. This exercise allows students to critically explore these issues in relation to their own real needs and expectations. The assignment defines a consistent methodology for these practices within a single classroom but also makes students aware that these practices are fluid and constantly changing. The class style guide invites them into the conversation and makes them aware of their ethical responsibilities as digital writers.
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