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Adding photo credits to Powerpoint shows

UPDATE: please see this page for updated slides and additional tips.

Here are tips for educators on how to attribute images in a Powerpoint slide deck (hit pause button to assert manual control of the slide advance).  The tips are focused on the logistics of attribution (placement, text color, etc.) since the law aspect is, um, complicated.  It’s just a draft, so if you have suggestions, let me know in comments or via email.  I made it because very, very few educators seem to provide image credits.  Or at least the ones who post their slides online …

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In other news, my other thoughts on Powerpoint.

And, since you’re reading below the fold … any advice on getting WordPress to display Powerpoint slides so that URLs work?  I’ve tried several plug-ins, but nothing seems to work.

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Citing text in Powerpoint presentations

I created the PDF below because many students who post their talks on the internet seem to think it’s OK to plagiarize when using Powerpoint, Keynote, Prezi, etc.  It’s just six slides because the average person will get bored after the first slide, when references to elevator romance abruptly stop.  It ends on a few issues that have short answers, but you can add the details if you want.  If you can help spread the word, great.

Citing sources in an oral presentationPlease also see Kyle D. Stedman’s article on annoying sources.  And if you need a laugh, I highly recommend The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotations.  (Search for Colin Purrington if you’d like to see my contributions.)

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Powerpoint plagiarism

Open up a Powerpoint or Prezi show on the Internet and it is likely to be packed with text and images copied from others: no quotation marks and no image attributions.  I think this is unfortunate, but not surprising — kids probably learn to plagiarize in grade school from their teachers, and then they watch their college professors do the same.  When students graduate and get jobs that require them to post slide decks on the internet, they’ll do the same: use other people’s text and images without indicating that that’s what they’ve done.

Powerpoint plagiarismBut why don’t teachers use quotation marks and attributions?  Teachers ask their students to cite sources on papers, so teachers clearly know about academic honesty in writing.  Here are my guesses:

  1. Teachers think that quotation marks and attribution text ruin the aesthetics of their slides.
  2. Teachers think citing others for copied text and images undermines their authority in class.
  3. Teachers know it’s wrong to plagiarize (and steal copyrighted images) but are busy and hope nobody will notice/complain.

For many teachers, it’s probably a little of all three.  And about #3, I’m left wondering why so many teachers place their plagiarized slide decks on the internet for the whole world to examine, rather than hiding them behind Blackboard and Moodle like everyone else does.

Given the common Powerpoint plagiarism by teachers, one might think education/teacher organizations would develop clear policies urging their members not to plagiarize (and not to use uncredited, copyrighted images).  The only statement on this topic I’ve found so far is from the American Historical Association (website):

“All who participate in the community of inquiry, as amateurs or as professionals, as students or as established historians, have an obligation to oppose deception. This obligation bears with special weight on teachers…”

More groups should plagiarize that sentence.

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Adding photo creds to talk slides

I don’t often give talks on how to credit photographs in slideshows, but when I do, I show these:

Slide01Slideshows in dimly lit rooms have been putting audiences to sleep since the 1840s, long before Powerpoint, Prezi, and related software perfected the process. And for these shows, there’s been a long tradition of not giving credit to the photographers who made the images. For example, on magic lantern slides and 35mm slides – but the credit usually did appear on the image frame, so at least the speaker knew the origin and details. That’s changed. Now speakers are using images they find on the internet and quickly paste into their shows to interrupt the painful sequences of bullet points and text too small too read. Attribution is rarely given, and the speaker doesn’t know, doesn’t care.

Slide02(The slide above is unattributed, as an example.) So why should attribution be shared with the audience? One way to answer that is to ask the question, why should slideshows be any different than books, articles, and websites? Everyone accepts that photographers should get credit in those mediums (right?). Images on a slide should be attributed just like any quoted text should be cited (and enclosed within quotation marks). Providing image attribution and text citations allows a speaker to humbly acknowledge his/her debt to others. The opposite of this humble and clear acknowledgment is to pretend that copied text and copied images are the speaker’s. Attributions are useful, plus they are really, really easy to add.

Slide03Yes, I know that’s hard to read — that’s sort of the point. The credit is there, but audience not terribly motivated to read it because the font is small and the color is subtle. Audience is supposed to be paying attention to you, not reading all the photo creds. (If you’re boring, of course, they’ll be reading the photo creds.) There are several ways to format your attribution.

Slide04 Note that there are no rules about what information to include in an attribution, but photographer’s name is most important. But if all you have is a URL, use that! Also note that if you hate Powerpoint and Prezi (or are just lazy), Haiku Deck generates image credits automatically … you just search for images from within the program. [The hotlinks don’t work in the above (it’s just an image), so here are the links: Creative Commons image types, roadkill possum.]

Slide05Photographers rarely have clear instructions to teachers regarding photo usage, so it’s always a good idea to ask. When contacting them, always remember to praise them (e.g., “Wow, that possum is really cute!!”). They might even have a better version for you to use. They might say no, but if you’re a teacher, chances are you can use it anyway (because of the “fair use” clause of U.S. Copyright Act).

Slide06 Slide09The problem with vertical text, of course, is that it’s annoying to edit. But it’s perfect if you have photographs and images with 4 x 3 aspect ratio — just format your slides for 16 x 9 presentations, which leaves a big chunk of space on the side for attributions.

Slide10The above might seem silly, but if you have a room full of impressionable students, they will absorb what you did and (perhaps) model your due diligence when they start boring people with their own talks. By the way, I have the Tineye button on my browser and use it all the time: works like a charm. [Here are the links from the above slide: Jeffrey’s Exif viewer, Tineye Reverse Image Search, Google Inside Search.]

Slide11Yeah, I really hate end-of-talk image credits.  This is the main reason I created this whole page … I’m trying to stamp out this practice. Yes, I know it’s futile.

Slide12URLs from above: http://search.creativecommons.org, http://www.cer.jhu.edu/mediaresources.html, http://wellcomeimages.org/.

image-attribution-in-powerpointIf you want an example of #3, this: perhaps you took a photograph and somebody in audience wants to know how tall an object was.  Given your position and eye height when you took photograph, might be possible to estimate — so make it easy for them to contact you.

Slide13This is the part that many teachers choose to ignore. Especially teachers that are trying to make a name for themselves as Free Range, Open Source MOOC gurus.  They think that because they are hip and work at an educational institution, they have a blanket waiver to use other people’s images and then post the slides to slideshare.net and such for the whole world to download and reuse.  They probably know that sharing such files online is illegal (if they’ve used copyrighted images without first purchasing them), but they think it’s still OK … just like kids think it’s OK to share song files as long as they don’t get caught.  But aside from the legal issues, publishing copyrighted photographs and illustrations on the internet is simply unkind to the photographers and illustrators on this planet — it reduces their ability to make a living, plus removes the control that an artist might want for an image.  E.g., she might want a particular photograph to appear only in the context of a larger body of photographs.

Slide14Links: The Educator’s Guide to Copyright, Fair Use, and Creative Commons, Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for OpenCourseWare, Washington State University Fair Use Guidelines,UCLA Drops Copyrighted Videos From Course Web Sites After Legal Threat,The TEACH Act. Also, this is great: Cite and Attribute Your Sources.

Slide15Plea: there are a lot of teachers out there who didn’t get the memo about image credits.  If you can share this page somehow, I’d be grateful.

If you are really bored, here are my some of my posts on the evils of Powerpoint.  And here are my other tip pages.

And for the sake of honesty, I’ve never given a talk on this topic. I just liked the sound of that introduction.

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Kids learn to plagiarize from their public school teachers

Use quotation marks to avoid plagiarism
This is a made-up quote inspired by a public school teacher who plagiarized me (twice). Please use this slide in your presentations to teachers-in-training.

This post is for public school principals and superintendents — people who are in a position to set broad educational policies and to rally teachers, staff, and students to achieve those goals.

Here’s my plea: ask your teachers to use quotation marks and citations when they copy/paste text into Prezi shows and syllabi.  Without explicit marching orders, some teachers seem to plagiarize, and then their impressionable students may end up believing plagiarism is “mildly bad but acceptable,” just like sharing MP3 files and bootleg Gossip Girl episodes.

How often do public school teachers plagiarize?  I don’t have any real data, but I’ve recognized chunks of my text on perhaps several hundred syllabi, slides, and handouts.  That might seem like a small number (there are a lot of teachers), but I see the frequency as rather depressing.  They are teachers — of all people on the planet, shouldn’t they be on top of attribution?  You don’t even need to find a special character code: it’s SHIFT + ‘.  Easy peasy.

So some teachers clearly plagiarize (and then post the files on the Internet for the whole world to see).  But why?  Let me allow a teacher to answer that.  The teacher quoted below plagiarized from me several times, excerpting parts of my Designing conference posters page onto her syllabus (no quotation marks or citation).  When I mentioned this to her, she replied,

“You’re absolutely right. Sorry again. It is a good resource and it helps kids, which is why I use it. I can see why you take issue that it is part of my syllabus which is tied to me/my class, but the teaching world couldn’t possibly, on every single document/worksheet/test we give our students, quote or cite source for chunks of information we use to help our students learn things. Education (at least where I teach) moves too quickly to do so, and we already have too much asked of us in and outside of the classroom. But yes, it is a large amount of information taken directly from your site/work.”

On her syllabus are chunks taken from other people, too (you can tell partly because the font and writing style are completely different; again, no quotation marks and no citations).  If students are able to recognize such patchwriting (likely, given it was an Advance Placement course), the students may assume plagiarism is socially acceptable.  If a lot of teachers plagiarize like the above, I think it may explain why so many students in college plagiarize.  It can also explain why they seem so shocked when they get penalized.

The teacher above is using what I like to call the Fair Use Excuse.  “Fair use” is a quasi-official term that describes a clause in the US Copyright Act, and allows people to legally use copyrighted text or images under some circumstances.  But “fair use” does not relate to (or permit) plagiarism, which is when people pass off other people’s text as theirs (no quotation marks, no attribution).  I’ve even had university copyright lawyers try the Fair Use Excuse when I mention that a faculty member has plagiarized me (i.e., copy/pasted my text with no quotation marks, no attribution).  Would teachers accept a “fair use” explanation from their students?  I don’t think so.

The Fair Use Excuse for plagiarism seems especially common among younger teachers, and I suspect they are second-generation plagiarizers who learned how to plagiarize from their teachers, the first generation that started using Powerpoint in class. Powerpoint is the entry drug for chronic plagiarizers.  Soon they moved onto Prezi, then started plagiarizing even their plagiarism statements.

By the way, the teacher mentioned above has a strong (one-sentence) warning about plagiarism in her syllabus — she clearly knows what plagiarism is and views it as academic dishonesty.  (Also by the way, her school’s academic honesty policy is plagiarized from another school.  That’s a different post, which, in fact, I’ve already made.)

So if you are a principal or superintendent, please use your influence to encourage your teachers to model academic honesty.  It’s in the same vein as asking them not to smoke in front of the school, behavior you’d think you didn’t need to explicitly prohibit, but do (you do, right?). Of course, if you’re a typical principal or superintendent, you’re thinking right now, “But my teachers are all great — this is simply not an issue at my school/district.”  And — forgive my bluntness — you’d be delusional.

If you are not a principal or superintendent, but know one, please consider sending this post to them. If you happen to be an education professor in college, you might want to add this issue to your teacher certification program (but that’s just me).

And if you are a student who has just been caught plagiarizing (oopsy!), the above information is your ticket out of the trouble!  Just analyze (via Google search) your teacher’s syllabus (or Prezi slides, or whatever) and document his/her plagiarism.  Then show the results to the principal and argue that your teacher showed you, by example, that it was totally acceptable to copy/paste without attribution.  To further make your case, plug in your school’s academic honesty policy into Google — chances are that your principal plagiarized it from a university web page. If teachers and principals do it (they’re busy!), you can, too (because you’re busier!).

For a great overview of how teachers can better reduce plagiarism in public school, this.  Please also see my page on Preventing Plagiarism, wherein I make a special plea to elementary schools teachers.

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