The world of attribution or something like it

A lot has been spoken on Twitter and blogs about giving attribution and credit to people recently. I won’t cite all the conversations – because I cannot keep track myself! And this is one of the issues I have with the whole thing too but I will come back to that.

When I first began using Twitter it was as a person who liked a few celebrities and liked to enter competitions. After a year or so I realised there was a whole network of teachers connecting and sharing ideas. I thought this was brilliant. At the time I found being an ICT Coordinator quite isolating in that within school I had noone to learn new tricks and techniques from. I was doing well on my own so it was fine but those who have connected with lots of others you will also know what I found out – that having a whole load of ideas on the table is really helpful when you are teaching a new topic etc.

So I loved being able to ask a question or bat ideas about with people on Twitter. It is this sharing and supporting which, I believe, made the Twitter teacher network grow so much and it is now bigger than I can even contemplate.

I am more than happy to share any of my ideas and for people to use them in their classroom/school. I do not expect anyone to mention me or my ideas. If someone takes that idea and does it well then that was not my doing anyway. That is their hard work and teacher skills not mine which made it a success in their classroom and their school.

If someone gives me an idea and I use it i will often and usually say where it came from – even if just to tell my students that I got the idea from “someone” on Twitter. But at the point at which they have taken that idea and done some work then the praise lays with my students for doing well with that idea.

So if someone does well with an idea that they took from someone else I have no issue and in fact, they have the right to be proud of it in their own right as they managed to make someone else’s idea their own in practice.

So I don’t always attribute when I use an idea in class. And I can only apologise for that. I sometimes take your idea – I always thank you for it and say I am going to give it a go – but I may not write your name on the bottom of the SMARTboard I make to teach it to the children, for example.

However, I am now non-school based. And I now speak at conferences and in schools about work that I do. So I am now in effect selling “myself” and “my ideas”. But of course not everything I do has come from my own ideas. Some of the things I do are my own ideas (they may have already been done by someone but where I had no knowledge of that I can only assume I had that idea independently anyway so do not attribute) but the ones where I know I took them from someone else I have to make an effort to attribute those.

It isn’t always easy. Sometimes I cannot remember exactly who it came fromĀ  so I believe by at least saying “I got the idea from a teacher on Twitter” I am, at least, not claiming this as my own independent idea.

Some are more clear – for example I have taught people about making maths videos using SMARTboard recorder by children, for children. And mostly when I speak I tell people the idea came from Eric Marcos of Mathtrain.tv who I was lucky enough to hear speak at BETT 2011. I recently forgot though. I made a video and posted it on YouTube for a TeachMeet as I couldn’t make it in person. On that video, in my nerves, I forgot to mention where the idea came from and I felt very bad about it. I didn’t make any money from that video as such but if someone finds that then finds me and hires me into school or asks me to write about it I have a duty to ensure they know that it was not my own idea, merely something I adapted for myself. I added it later to the video description when I realised my error but I still felt bad about the whole thing as people had seen the video before that happened.

I personally think we do need to attribute as much as we can. I don’t always get it right and sometimes forget. I hope as I go further into freelance I will get it right more often and will always make a note of who I heard an idea from where I can.

I make a particular effort at conferences to say where my ideas came from as it is more obvious in that scenario. But I don’t think I have always done it well on Twitter and in conversations. On Twitter the 140 characters is usually my excuse but that is not good enough. In conversation my only excuse is that I am not naturally social and every conversation in person is a little struggle in my brain. But that is not good enough either.

I am never in a million years going to claim I have any authority on anything and am sure there are people who think i do it wrong – who maybe have seen times when I don’t. I can only apologise. I am trying. Hard. I look at others and sometimes feel they don’t work so hard at it. maybe I am not seeing the times they do it right. I am sure I have no right to judge and yet I do. I am human and not a perfect one at that.

But I hope that the more I do consultancy the more people will realise that I try and give credit where I can and where I know it.
I have written articles and attributed where my ideas came from. Some of them have been my ideas and some have been from others.

My recent conversations re: attribution on twitter and elsewhere have, I fear, been misconstrued (as I am not good at articulating) as me saying I am amazing and other people are rubbish at it. This is certainly not how I feel about it in actuality but I fear I have said it all entirely wrong due to my own personal struggle with it rather than, actually, any moral standpoint.

I am in no position to judge anyone, I know that more than anyone, but the whole issue has made me think more deeply about how much I do attribute and what I need to do to improve my own practice and that, at least, I do feel is a good thing.

One thing I do know is that the whole dicussion makes me uncomfortable. There is only one reason for that. Guilt. I haven’t always done it right. So I am pledging right now to make a more concerted effort. I can only hope I do so in the forgiveness of anyone who feels I have wronged them or others in the past.

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