When You’ve Lost Integrity …

It was with real disappointment that I read Shelly Terrell’s post “When Education Leadership Fails You #Edchat” the other evening.  It wasn’t actually her post – it was well written – it was the content.  I wasn’t aware of the origin of the post but, as it turns out, I “know” the student work involved.  I did share the link to any of those who care to follow me.

There are a number of things that disturb me about this:

  • reuse of someone else’s work without attribution;
  • support from parts of the educational community that support the action;
  • that no apology had been extended for the action.

It’s the last point that, I guess, hits me deepest.  We all make mistakes.  At times, I feel like I’m leading the field.  While an apology may not necessarily make everything all right, it can go a great distance in smoothing over any hurt feelings.

Beyond the reuse without attribution, I think the situation is amplified since the product used was that of a student.  You know, the reason why education exists.  The beings that we hit over the head about doing things properly and avoiding nasty things like violating someone’s copyright.

The situation serves to remind me of the value that we put into the sharing of ideas and resources.  We are all so much smarter and richer because we’ve amassed this community of continuous learners.  I so value turning to my social media sources and find all the latest “finds” that my community finds and shares.  In a small way, I try to contribute back by sharing my readings and thoughts on this blog.  Sometimes, I feel like the noisiest kid in the classroom.  I used to think it was OK since I did my reading and sharing first thing in the morning and that people would have to conscientiously go looking for it.  It was only then that I stepped back and realized that we’re interacting in a global learning community and I was only concerned about people in the Eastern Time Zone.

Social media tools make it so easy to share.  The truly nice thing is that the Twitter, Facebook, Google + spaces that I use will honour the original author by crediting them whenever I share something.  That makes it easy to track back to the original source AND it lets people know that I’m not the original creator of the content.  I’m just the vehicle that passes it along.

But, if I was to remove the original poster name, then a reader would be well within her realm to expect that it was mine.  My ego likes it when you like my thoughts.  My ego likes it when you like a blog post.  My ego would never stoop so low as to intentionally take someone else’s work and repurpose it so that it looks like it’s a dougpete original.  That’s just wrong.

I like it when someone takes my original works and makes it better like Sylvia Duckworth did with some of the good folks that I’ve interviewed for this blog.

If you take a good look, you’ll see that there are attributions to the original contributors of the content.  Rightfully so, Sylvia signs the graphic with her name.  She’s built upon the works of others and is perfectly justified in claiming ownership to the final sketchnote.  She doesn’t make claim to the content by removing the original references.

As my dad once told me, “you make yourself look good by making others look better”.  Sylvia demonstrates this perfectly.

That’s the kind of learning and sharing that I want and I hope that others want and respect as well.

To do otherwise is a loss of integrity.  When you’ve lost that, what do you have left?

I remember a line that’s stuck with me about a jury instruction “if you determine one statement to be a lie, you’re entitled to ignore the entire testimony of the witness”.


5 thoughts on “When You’ve Lost Integrity …

  1. Doug, a thoughtful response. Thank you for emphasizing the value of open sharing, value that is dependent upon trust in attribution. To be fair to the sharer in question, the student creator had placed his @handle in the shared image, thus technically, if someone opened the image, they could find the creator’s @handle on the image and know it wasn’t the sharer who created it, unlike many times in the past when this sharer had no such attribution, nor cited as “unknown.” This was the sharer’s defense in a reply to my tweet questioning how awesome it would have been for the student to have received all 600+ notifications of RTs and Faves that the sharer received, for the student creator was denied this by the removal of the @handle from the tweet that Shelly originally shared. — That said, it was the deliberate removal of the @handle that was troubling, as it fits a pattern of garnering viral traffic via the sharing of so many others’ work, often with no @handle attribution (and sometimes/sometimes not with attribution in the image itself), the primary means in Twitter to make that one-click link to the creator.


  2. Violating someone’s copyright – I’ve lost count how often higher Ed teachers insist on Turnitin for assignments in order to monitor proper citation. Perhaps a version should exist for educators….? Doug, always enjoy your perspective.


  3. Hi Doug,

    Thank you so much for adding to the conversation. I love how your example shows the result of an idea shared. You shared the voices of many in your blog through the interviews. I’m sure more people followed your blog, because of these interviews. However, people also followed the people interviewed and were inspired by them. This is a bit different, but you show how your spirit of wanting to celebrate those in your PLN has helped the community grow and know each other more. Mutual respect and admiration have been spread and these become values celebrated with your willingness to use your blog to spotlight others. From this great example, Sylvia Duckworth was inspired and took those words and created art. Her art carried those values and spread them throughout our community. Without attribution, then the art, idea, or image isn’t really built upon. The artist may stop creating. Values aren’t celebrated. Thank you so much for your support and example.


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