As a freelance trainer and consultant I have been running the “Copy and Paste Generation” copyright course for school librarians for the School Library Association for several years now and it always proves popular.

The course developed because I had worked with sixth form students at an International Baccalaureate School and also with my independent trainer knowledge of helping deliver EPQ. I realized how little was understood about the need for academic writing, referencing and citation and also keeping within the copyright legislation. Interestingly the more I researched material for the course the more I discovered application of the content outside the sixth form to HPQ, GCSE and even Common Entrance examinations. Personally, I believe that these skills should be taught from the very beginning of education if we are to raise citizens conversant with the principles of information literacy and to prevent the proliferation of fake news, disinformation and misinformation.

Let’s face it, these are not exactly the sexiest topics to get your head around. Yes, some librarians may dedicate whole careers to the minutiae of referencing or copyright but for the majority it probably is not top of the list. Engagement is further lowered because many school librarians these days may not have had higher education experience themselves and find the whole area frightening and confusing. With emphasis in latter years, within school libraries, on reading for pleasure, such topics may seem irrelevant to the librarian role. However, in this information age, in my opinion, learning about these skills is vital. If we, as librarians, are not embracing academic writing techniques and copyright awareness then it is even less likely that our students will engage and yet whether they are headed for university or the workplace these are competencies they will need. So, to make the topics more appealing I tend to run my courses using practical exercises to explain the concepts.

The course itself covers the issues of plagiarism, how to identify it and the reasons why students may be tempted to cheat. It also considers how we can encourage academic honesty and develop a school policy. Teaching referencing and academic writing style and coping with the emotional pressures in producing extended work are core elements. Finally the issues surrounding copyright in schools are explored together with ways to ensure students understand the importance of intellectual property rights. 

There are two elements of practical exercises that I find work well for engagement and for long term retention of information. These approaches also help promote critical thinking and problem solving. The first is using a physical object to address kinesthetic learning styles and secondly ensuring there is always an element of discussion rather than the closed answers expected from a quiz. When designing exercises I try to make sure that very little advanced preparation is needed.

Examples of the types of exercise on this course include use of cards and “Clever Tiles”  recordable devices as well as an interactive visual quiz  to explain the order of referencing. The plagiarism and emotional input needed for extended writing is explained through my “Create an Essay” jigsaw and another exercise involving Lego. Copyright is addressed using scenarios with wooden play people to make it more personal based partly upon issues raised on the Copyright and Schools website.  All of these elements are conducted in groups to promote discussion around the topic.

So, by the end of the course the takeaways as well as a general overview of academic style and awareness of copyright legislation are, a bank of exercises that can be used to teach these elements to students and others in the school community and the rudiments of a school academic honesty policy. However, the most valuable element of any training course is the discussion and debate and networking opportunities and librarians are ace at sharing information and tips.

Feedback has been positive as exemplified by the following comments from recent courses:

“This course gave me the opportunity to ask questions and discuss things further. It was fabulous and I learnt loads especially about copyright but it also reassured me whether I was on the right tracks regarding plagiarism”

”It covered much more than I expected and delivered with enthusiasm. It was good having time to discuss other people’s experiences and practice. I have come away with lots of practical ideas and understanding that copyright laws need more investigation”

“I learned a huge amount not just about teaching referencing for EPQ but also it gave me the confidence to question the application of copyright while working positively”

Hopefully this blog will encourage readers to take a look at the School Library Association website and take a look at the course information and also check out the useful publications on offer around academic honesty and copyright.