THE Scholarly Web

Weekly transmissions from the blogosphere

September 15, 2011

Last week, Helen Keegan, senior lecturer in interactive media and social technologies at the University of Salford, used her blog Heloukee: EdTech and Digital Culture to consider whether academics posting online can end up taking the credit for their students' work.

The blog was a platform for a number of posts around a symposium, "The Paradox of Openness: The High Cost of Giving Online", held at the annual Association for Learning Technology conference. In her post Attribution (network 'whispers') - http://bit.ly/nQNqZM - Ms Keegan asks: "Ideas and content are shared easily through open platforms, and yet attributions can be masked in the flow of dissemination: does credit always go where it is due?"

She cites a post on Plagiarism Today that describes how a tweet was quickly detached from its original authorship in a blizzard of retweets. The post adds: "It's not hard to imagine that, instead of a tweet, we were talking about a poem, a blog post or a photograph. As it gets passed around on the web, attribution sometimes gets left off and, eventually, the new posts are more and more likely to be unattributed or misattributed."

Ms Keegan describes her own attribution incident. "I had tweeted a link to a video made by some of my students," she writes. "In spite of clearly stating in the tweet that it was their work (not mine), when I checked back into Twitter later on that day I was happy to see that it had been retweeted many times - but slightly dismayed to see that in the flow of dissemination, the link was now being referred to as '@heloukee's film', suggesting that I had made it myself. When we promote our students' work, are we also promoting ourselves? Whether intentional or not, it is possible that we 'profit' in some way from their work - in this case I was happy to be retweeted, but felt guilty about the misattribution and tried to clear up the confusion." She adds: "Attribution can easily be lost as content passes along a network resulting in credit not going where it is due...what implications might there be for our learners, and for us as educators?"

A previous post by Ms Keegan, The Tyranny of Authenticity, discusses the currency of online "identity". She writes: "In order to engage our learners I find myself evangelising and modelling online behaviours. This in itself affects my own online behaviour, in that I have a more relaxed Twitter 'self' during the summer months...and this then deviates from my Twitter persona during the academic teaching year when I'm more guarded with regards my online communication and behaviour, focusing on sharing useful links and operating more as an 'interestingness' curator for my students.

"Although there are tangible benefits in terms of developing their online IDs/networks, we are also operating within a pedagogical space which is largely driven by an employability agenda...and the development of the PLN (Personal Learning Network) as an additional device for lifelong learning. The transition from 'me' to 'professional.me' is not unproblematic, and there are ethical issues at play when we encourage our learners to cast-off prior, potentially problematic online IDs in order to nurture a persona that appeals to potential employers."

Send links to topical, insightful and quirky online comment by and about academics to john.elmes@tsleducation.com.

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