Earlier this year, I wrote an elearning discussion paper on reusable learning resources for Futurelab. It was snapped up and published. Stephen Downes gave it a brief thumbs up and correctly interpreted the paper as an introduction and a history of learning resources.
But a rattled blogger put a comment against Stephen’s post that was far from complimentary to Stephen, Futurelab or me. Presumably the writer thought that the comment would get wider exposure on Stephen’s blog than on the Futurelab site. The claim was that my paper was written on the strength of “a few google searches”.
Research or copying
I suppose some papers are written on a few Google searches. Many may not necessarily cite any of the results. In my attempt, I cited a dozen or so (I'd 26 citations) of the hundreds I had on my list, including some mention of my own findings in the field.
The commenter's criticism reminded me that research of this type could come across as bogus to someone who may never have done proper research before, or had not considered the usefulness of passing on accumulated knowledge to others. Bogus or not, clearly I was being painted as a copier, and an out of date one at that. Perhaps I am.
Authors, thoughts and plagiarism
In Dave Snowden's recent post on a keynote speech he attended about innovation in companies, he asks the question: how does imitating other cases constitute innovation? Dave was obviously uneasy about the assumption that copying may be an integral part of innovation.
Sandipan Roy discussed plagiarism in the context of innovation in design, from an ethical point of view, and is still looking for a definition of it. He cites Wikipedia: "Plagiarism is the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work". Presumably the operative word here is ‘author’, though I wonder about 'thoughts'.
A learning skill
For as much as note taking is a fundamental skill of an independent learner, it would appear that taking notes at university lectures could incur copyright issues. So far, such copying is seen as a protected infringement unless it is published, which is another form of copying.
Given the recent interest in so-called wiring of the brain and the associated metaphors, in the context of learning, how long will it take before copyright is applied to the passing on of skills and knowledge by a teacher?