Common Core in Action: Teaching Online Ethics

Looking at the responsible use of intellectual property is one key element of digital citizenship that can be connected to eighth grade Common Core Standards.

February 18, 2014
Photo credit: Jason Alley via flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

In an earlier post, I wrote about both the Common Core Standards and what I call the "common sense" standards. Teaching ethical academic behavior online seems to hit both. When I talk about ethical academic behavior, I'm not talking about manners so much as giving credit where credit is due. After all, just because the kids can access information within two clicks doesn't give them the right to claim information as their own.

Gathering, Using, Managing and Analyzing Information

You know how people might feel that something expensive or hard to get feels somehow more valuable? Conversely, they might feel that if something is easily gained, it's less respected. But this isn't the case with access to knowledge.

So how do we as educators help students respect other people's work and not abuse it in this era of accessible information? The answer is, of course, to teach ethical academic behavior in a targeted way, to model it yourself, and to hold students accountable.

According to the Common Core Standards (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.8.8), our students must:

Additionally, according to The Institute for Museum and Library Services website, our students must:

  • Use and Manage Information (Information Literacy): Apply a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of information.
  • Analyze Media (Media Literacy): Apply a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of media.

In order to introduce ethical academic behavior, I first give my students a scavenger hunt of sorts through some resources in order to learn about my expectations. This launches further discussions that are ongoing with every writing assignment. Additionally, I continue to model what we've learned, and I hold them to the standards we've agreed upon.

Today, I want to share this scavenger hunt with you. I share it with my students as a Google Form. Google Form works like a SurveyMonkey poll, and the student results are automatically seeded into a spreadsheet that is easy to score and gives me an idea about their comprehension. The Form includes a brief introduction before launching into the activities.

Online Ethics Activity

As we continue working online, it's important that we become more mindful of using online resources ethically. Read the required pieces and answer the corresponding questions. Please note that from here on in, I will expect that all photos and music used in your digital projects be cited properly. This citation can either be compiled at the end of a project, on a page devoted to this purpose, or cited under each and every image as "courtesy of . . . " Got it?

  1. Go to Google and type in "define: ethics." Based on the results, in your own words, what is the definition of "ethics?"
  2. Go to the Website Builders website. Take the quiz. How did you score on your "netiquette savvy?"
  3. Go to the "about" page on Creative Commons. In your own words, what is the purpose of this website?
  4. Go to Google Advanced Search. Under which tab can you find free sites from which to pull images or documents that are labeled for some kind of fair use? Using Google Advanced Search, find one free, fair use, image-based website to suggest to another student. What is the URL of this website?
  5. Watch this video from the M.I.T. library. What are the four factors we consider when we evaluate for fair use? Please use bullet points to identify these four points.
  6. Go to the Library of Congress copyright website. Read the page, and summarize the gist of that page in a paragraph below (200 words or less).
  7. The final piece is a contract of sorts. Type your name in the box provided as a signature of understanding of the following statement:
    I understand that every image and piece of music must be cited on every project from here on in throughout this school year.

So how do you teach appreciation for knowledge? In this day and age when walls that used to surround knowledge have been breached in lieu of more equitable accessibility, how do you teach students to honor people's work?

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  • Assessment
  • Media Literacy
  • Social & Emotional Learning (SEL)
  • 6-8 Middle School
  • 9-12 High School

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