Be Careful of Claiming You Coined a Term

I came back to an old discussion from this September 2008 post at Edufire:  Teacherpreneur:  Another New Word Coined in which the author says:

Jeff used a word recently
that I love: Teacherpreneur. Personally, I’m fascinated by the
intersection of education and entrepreneurship. Why? Let me list thee

This was my response:

The term has been around for quite a while – Nov 2006 was when I blogged it.
It is difficult to attribute these terms to anyone, though. Although
I’m the first person that I recall using it, I don’t know
all knowledge.
A while back, I used the term Web 3D, and was accused of
“stealing” the term from another person when in fact,
I’d never heard the term, it was just a natural progression for
me. The other person had used it years before me, but did they
“invent” the term, I just don’t think so.
Terms just seem to evolve – however this is an important term to use, I think. (See from this summer).
We need to give teachers the ability to customize our classrooms and
to shape the curriculum to meet the objectives instead of having
prescriptive things handed down.
I do think, that where these sorts of things go astray is when
people “steal” terms and don’t attribute, but that is
something we’ll never know as it is in the heart of an individual.

At first my response to reading this was to bristle, yes I admit it, perhaps like an anonymous commenter on Stephen Downes' blog in March 2007 when he quoted me using the term Web 3D

“I thought you may be interested in this as well on We 3.0 and 3D.
Sumedh Mungee from Washington University wrote about it here in 2005.
His blog is interesting.

The more and more I see the workings of the web…I wonder how
truly democratic it is…and then realize, ‘oh, wait, it isn't
democratic afterall.' It seems like only certain voices are heard and
recognized as being innovative….look this gentleman wrote about Web
3.0 and 3D two years ago…why isn't his post considered?”

And another quote:

“The point that Davis makes is that the experts are missing it, when
indeed many experts are not missing it. She is riding on the work of
others without giving credit. Yes, this is common in academia.
Furthermore, she says she predicts as if she is the only one who is
predicting this…this has been predicted for some time.”

As part of my long response, I said:

“I would never ride on the work of others without giving credit. Period. I teach my students not to plagiarize and cite their sources and I do the same.”

The papers that they cited that I supposedly purloined the phrase from often predated my own cognizance of even what a blog was.

But this isn't to rehash and old issue, but to share that this same sort of thing has happened, with the shoe on the other foot. 

The blogosphere is a big place and terms grow, evolve, and move forward.  As humans, we all want a legacy.  It would be great to be associated with an “invented” term, but unless you're going to capitalize on a term that you coin, much like Tim O'Reilly has done, I just don't know with how information moves if it is practical to do.

Are We Losing the Ability to Find the Original Source?
The way search systems work, it is very difficult to find the “original” source of information as I don't know if we could list things in reverse chronological order… with the newest rising to the top, the oldest often are lost in the shuffle.

There are many times I've wanted to find the original source of a term, but have been totally unable to find it.  If there is a way, please share it!  And also, it assumes that the source is available online.

Be Wary to Claim that You Coined It

I think we have to stick with:  if we know someone else used it, we need to cite the source.  If we don't, then be very wary about claiming to coin a term.  It is very likely someone used it before you.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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