The Care and Attribution of Ideas

The other day someone asked me a question about an NECC presentation that Darren Draper, Kelly Dumont, Kristin HokansonRobin Ellis, Beth Ritter-Guth, Carolyn Foote, Stephanie Sandifer and I did this past summer:  The Walls Came Down: Incubating Collaborative Learning Environments and the use of a term throughout our proposal:  “viral PD.”

They point out to me that JenniferJones  at the Jenuity Blog has been a prolific poster on Viral PD since January 2008 and this person said, “Well, you ‘stole' Viral PD and didn't attribute credit.”  Interestingly, the original NECC proposal was due in October of 2007 and honestly, perhaps one of the other people had heard it used, but I'm not really sure where I heard it first.  I just think it was around the time that Google Presentations emerged that viral PD really became something people talked about — summer of 2007.  Who said it first?  I didn't know, it was just a word that started being used.

Jennifer is a great writer and certainly has done a lot with the term.  I give her all of the credit for really pushing forward the term and doing a lot of thought and work.  But I'd like to back up and talk around this issue because it tends to come up every so often.

This comes back to an issue that has been tossing around in my mind since a Web 3D post from here at Cool Cat Teacher.  Stephen Downes had picked up the post and this were a few comments over on his blog:

Anymouse, March 3, 2007

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?”

*** A few more comments came in.  Then, this comment. ***

“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…”

Then after a continued heated exchange comes this comment:

Anymouse, March 7, 2007

also perhaps you geniunely didn't know that others wrote about it before you. In reflecting, if this is the case, then I apologize. peace”

Yes.  The truth is, in this case, I had looked around for more about Web 3D but didn't turn up the blog post that was quoted, but I'm a SL and Web 3D newbie, so assumed there were people who had blogged before me.  My goodness, but anyway, the reason I pull this back out to share is this. Certainly there is no one who “invented” the term that is traceable. 

So, these are the points:

1) If you KNOW that someone has said something and you're quoting them, then quote them.  Cite them.  Share it and what they are doing.  This is something to teach students.

2) Understand the viral nature of “buzzwords.”  Things evolve, they are shared.  People talk about them.  Just because you've used the word a lot doesn't mean that others aren't using it too. We all want to create or invent something, I guess.  Leave our mark.  But for any of us, myself included, to assume that we “invented” a term can be dangerous — very likely someone thought of it before us. 

Of course we want to attribute.  That is a given and IF — a BIG IF — we know about a person to attribute it to! 

I was literally in a session with someone at GAETC had dinner with them the night before.  The person quoted something I said, and I was in the room, however, I think that honestly, they didn't remember who told them that.  Could I have been offended, I guess so but really, it is not about me anyway.

Intellectual property is important, but buzzwords except for “Web 2.0” I guess, are tough to “claim.”

As a teacher, to me, greatness is not measured in how much blessing I receive but how much blessing can flow through me to others.

It is not in being a beautiful ripe piece of fruit, but in squeezing out of my life to bless others. 

I don't want to trivialize this but want to acknowledge that indeed Jennifer has been writing a lot about Viral PD and surely knows much more than I on the topic.  When we created the presentation, viral PD was in the presentation and we didn't attribute because honestly, I don't know at the time that there was anyone to note.

I also bring this out to show how this sort of thing happens.  Don't assume that someone doesn't care or doesn't attribute ideas.  Why don't you ask them?  You may just share a resource that they are interested in?  None of us “IS” the edublogosphere. 

No one has sole claim to the grand wealth of knowledge or the same set of “friends.”  We all bring something to the table and openly communicating to others is something that we should do to prevent misunderstandings.

Just some thoughts on the care and attribution of ideas.

Has this happened to you?  If you think someone has “stolen” your idea, what do you do?  Does it bother you?  What if you talk about something and don't KNOW the source? 

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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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1 comment

Kate Klingensmith September 8, 2008 - 8:57 pm

I am so happy to read this. Being new to the blogging scene, I certainly try my best to always cite and give credit where it’s due. But, of course! – we’re only human and our mental capabilities don’t work like the ‘history’ tab on our web browsers. They can easily mis-file or even lose sources, especially when the word or idea in question can be found virtually everywhere. Cheers to you doing the best that you can!

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