“Remixing” Teaching Plagiarism in the Digital Age

A photo of an instructor writes on a chalkboard while a student plays on their smartphone.

Convincing students that academic writing and research is significant to their lives is not always easy. Further, in a highly digital world with increasingly digitized libraries, journals, newspapers, and other research sources, traditional book-based research may seem outdated and irrelevant to them. While this may be disappointing for many instructors, it is important to understand how students, especially millennials, might see scholarship in the context of the digital age. To understand this context, let’s look at an example: the remix.

Remixes are creations many people, particularly millennial students, are implicitly aware of particularly in the era of the internet meme. Remixes cut and splice various and multiple cultural works together to create something new. Remixes are most often associated with pop culture as seen in Bonjour Star Wars, a musical mash-up of Star Wars and the Disney princess genre, which was created after Disney and Lucasfilms announced their merger. Similarly, scholars cut and splice ideas from multiple texts and disciplines to connect and form knowledge. Then, they cite these ideas per principles of academic integrity. 

Presenting scholarship as a remix helps students make connections between something they are already familiar with and the newness of academic scholarship. Remixes demonstrate how new ideas build off one another and generate even more ideas just like scholarship. Further, understanding how scholarship is a form of knowledge collaboration and production leads to innovative thinking; a skill relevant to our evolving workforce. As many jobs are lost to technological innovation, we need to equip students with the skills for knowledge management and complex customized work

To familiarize students with effective practices for scholarship in the digital age, we created this lesson based off the video series, Everything is a Remix, by Kirby Ferguson. Everything is a Remix explores ideas about creativity and originality as applied to copyright. Not only are the videos informative and thought-provoking, but Ferguson’s project is a great example of innovative thinking that utilizes social media. When Ferguson began the series, he crowd-sourced donations to complete it. As the videos received more attention, he eventually gained a sponsor for the fourth and final video in the series. While the series does not explicitly grapple with scholarship, it serves as a great jumping off point for thinking about creativity as it relates to academic scholarship in the digital age. 

This lesson is designed to be taught at the beginning of a course, but could also be brought in for teachable moments. The lesson could be utilized in multiple ways: as class-wide discussions, group activities, etc. The aim is two-fold: get students thinking about creativity and scholarship and teach students to see themselves as creators of scholarship. Students have good ideas, often unencumbered by disciplinary boundaries, worth sharing with the world, and reminding them of this is important. 

Ideally, this lesson is customizable to instructor pedagogy, discipline specificity, class level, and student demographics. For example, the first three videos may be more suitable for introductory-level classes, while the final video may be more suited for more advanced students. We encourage you to do your own remix of the lesson! 

Lesson: Academic Integrity & Remix Culture

Test students’ prior knowledge and experience. The following questions can be used to prompt students’ prior knowledge and experience:

  • What do you think citation is?
  • What do you think plagiarism is?
  • Do you think citation is or is not important?
  • What have been your experiences with citation and plagiarism?

These questions could be included in a low-stakes open-ended quiz for students to take. They could also be used as points of discussion for a class. Consider putting students in groups and having them discuss these questions.

Watch. Students watch Everything is a Remix by Kirby Ferguson, a series of Vimeo staff picked videos exploring notions of originality, creativity, and innovation through pop culture. Instructors might not want students to watch the entire series due to time and/or student exposure to academic integrity practices. The first three videos may be more suitable for introductory-level classes, while the final video may be more suited for more advanced students.

Activity. The following series of prompts are based off Bloom’s taxonomy and ascend from remembering to creating. These prompts are designed to get students to engage with the content in the videos. These prompts could be implemented as a class-wide discussion, group activity, etc.

  • Remembering & Understanding: Per the videos, define creativity and originality. What are the differences and similarities between the two? Define the three basic elements of creativity. How are they similar and different?
  • Applying: Apply Ferguson’s three basic elements of creativity to a cultural work (books, movies, inventions, etc.). Students could also apply the elements to an academic work.
  • Analyzing: Relate Ferguson’s principles (creativity, originality, and the basic elements of creativity) to academic integrity.
  • Evaluating: Assess the significance of creativity and citation to scholastic practice. How does this impact academic integrity?
  • Creating: Create your own academic integrity philosophy based off what you have learned from this lesson and the course academic integrity policies.

Further Resources

References

Center for Learning Experimentation, Application, and Research. (2016). Teaching Resources for Engaged Educators [online training modules]. Denton, TX: University of North Texas.