What do we mean by information ethics?
The online world has, in a very short time, morphed from a place to find information into a complex, extended community for sharing and collaboration. Digital technology also enables creativity. There is a new openness to sharing, and growing awareness of the role of information ethics in our mash-up culture. Information ethics means respect for and the ethical application of the following:
- Respect for creative rights and user rights in the information world
- Differentiating between levels of copyright: © All Rights Reserved, CC Creative Commons, and Public Domain
- Principles of copyright in Canada and related guidelines for educators and students, particularly a deep understanding of fair dealing in education
- Licensing agreements for free and subscription resources
- Principles of academic honesty: avoiding plagiarism, and correct citation for different contexts
- Applying principles in all contexts as appropriate: as a creator of a work, when sharing informally or formally, within the context of school and out of school.
Why is it important?
Mastery of the ethical use of information is one of the most important skills for surviving and thriving in school, in the workplace, and as a responsible digital citizen. Creating, using and sharing information ethically are core competencies for responsible digital citizens. Being unaware of ethical practices, or not applying them – intentionally or unintentionally – can have dire consequences for one’s academic life, career, and reputation as a responsible digital citizen.
There is no area of digital citizenship where partnering with your school’s teacher-librarian is more important!
What do I, as a teacher, need to know and be able to do?
As a teacher, I must integrate ethical information skills across the curriculum and in all creative and inquiry-based assignments. I must be aware of copyright guidelines for Canadian educators and apply them to the best of my ability. I must develop a pro-active approach to creating plagiarism-proof assignments, and develop constructive ways to address plagiarism when it occurs, be it intentional or not intentional. I must explicitly teach information skills of ethical use and attribution (citation) appropriate for the task and medium. I should collaborate with the school’s teacher-librarian as I strive to integrate these skills into learning.
How do I use an inquiry approach to help my students develop knowledge and skills?
Learning that is driven by inquiry provokes higher-order critical thinking, and a creative approach to sharing knowledge. Good inquiry assignments are by their nature plagiarism-proof. When engaged in inquiry students will be engaged in searching for, synthesizing and using information and works created by others, and will themselves be engaged in the creative process. Deep understanding of information ethics in this context should be central to the process of learning, and should be explicitly taught, in context.
- Integrate explicit skills for using information ethically in relevant and meaningful ways into all inquiry activities
- Investigate famous examples of plagiarism (i.e., Jonah Lehrer, Chris Spence, Christie Blatchford)
- Investigate penalties at your school and various other academic institutions related to plagiarism. Debate: Are those penalties reasonable and fair?
- Investigate and debate ideas and issues related to copyright and plagiarism: Is copying ideas a form of theft? Is stealing a song the same as stealing a candy bar? Is copying from yourself wrong?
- Teach students how to use online citation tools (i.e., Noodle Tools, Knightcite, EasyBib).