Practicing Citations in Class

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135696_pastedImage_10.pngI want to report this week on the documentation classroom activity that I proposed last week to help students understand how to cite the various resources that they include in multimodal projects, like videos and audio recordings (see Documentation Troubles, or Can I Just Link to It?). I was particularly interested in helping them learn how documentation works in situations where MLA bibliographic form isn't appropriate. Let’s say that it’s been educational.

I introduced the project as I described it last week. I talked about fair use and creative commons, and we reviewed the Best Practices for Attribution from Creative Commons page. I thought that would give students enough context. I shared this list of resources to evaluate, without the details I have added on why I chose them:

  1. Photo of a Winter Bee (public domain)
  2. Cartoon on Duck and Cover (public domain)
  3. Photo of a SuperCat (CC BY 2.0)
  4. Audio of Birds (CC0 1.0)
  5. Wikipedia article on The Undertaker (CC BY SA 3.0)
  6. The 1932 film of A Farewell to Arms (copyright not renewed, public domain)
  7. The book Writer/Designer (copyrighted)
  8. Sound effect of creepy music (Royalty Free)
  9. Video of The New Day entrance (copyrighted, embeddable via YouTube)
  10. Article on National Poetry Month (copyrighted, audio embeddable)

I assigned groups the resources and asked them to send me their work at the end of the class. When I checked their work, I found that I didn't begin to give them enough help. Every one that I opened was incomplete or inaccurate. So I redesigned the activity and tried again.

In the next class session, I explained that there had been problems and that I was going to demonstrate the process. I have three sections, so I selected three images by Dorothea Lange that are available on the Library of Congress site:

I used a think-aloud protocol to explain exactly how I would complete the citation activity if I were a student, creating the Google Docs that are linked above in the process. My think-aloud even revealed the shortcuts I could take, like copying the entire series of citations from the Best Practices for Attribution from Creative Commons page and then replacing the information with the details for the photos that I was working with.

I added the modified and derivative photos to the documents later, to help make the example more relevant in the future. Students were not required to create modified or derivative examples (though some surprised me and did so anyway).

I extended the activity by creating examples of citations for other media. The Best Practices page seems best suited for text-heavy publications, like webpages or blog posts. I created another Google Doc that demonstrated how to cite one of the Lange photos in a video or PowerPoint and how to use the Birds in Aviary sound effect in an audio recording. For citation of the Lange photo in the end credits of a video, for instance, I demonstrated how to create this citation, following similar music credits on p. 74 of Writer/Designer:

Along the highway near Bakersfield,

California. Dust bowl refugees

Photographed by Dorothea Lange
Courtesy of the Library of Congress,
Prints and Photographs Online Catalog
Licensed under Public Domain

After talking about how and why the citations changed for different uses and genres, students practiced by adding citations for other genres to their best practices pages. I spot-checked their work in the classroom, and they seem to finally get it. I won’t know for sure, however, until I see their next project. I’m hopeful!

How do you teach students about documenting multimodal resources in their projects? I would love to hear more ideas and activities, so please leave me a comment below with your suggestions. I look forward to hearing from you.

[Photo: "Along the highway near Bakersfield, California. Dust bowl refugees" by Dorothea Lange, photographer, is under Public Domain.]

About the Author
Traci Gardner, known as "tengrrl" on most networks, writes lesson plans, classroom resources, and professional development materials for English language arts and college composition teachers. She is the author of Designing Writing Assignments, a contributing editor to the NCTE INBOX Blog, and the editor of Engaging Media-Savvy Students Topical Resource Kit.