Publishing Student Work: Who owns the copyright?

Who owns the copyright of student work?

Should teachers be allowed to publish student work without permission or informed consent?

In elementary school, we teach information literacy skills and teach students to properly cite the images and works of others. Creative Commons and the Education Fair Use act allows students to use and cite the work of others in their research for the purposes of their learning. But what happens when students work is shared freely without informed consent?

As educators, we have Copyright and fair-use guidelines about how we are allowed to use the works of others in our learning environments. For many situations, there are clear guidelines pertaining to the law, policies and procedures that fall under the umbrella of Digital Citizenship and Information Literacy that we follow and adhere to. In this age, information technologies are expanding at massive rates, social media and digital publishing are at the forefront of our thinking.

But what about the students? The minors? When we share their pictures and work (especially on our own social media accounts) without regard to Copyright, Digital Citizenship, Character Education, and Information Literacy, and parental consent, I believe that we are making very big statements about what is important to us. We need to be able to look into the future, look at digital footprints, and respect the rights of the individual families who may have personal wishes for their childrens work.

Should educators ask students to share projects they have done online (even anonymously), or should we have express permission from the parents and media release forms? aka informed consent?

My Reflections and Wonderings:

  • Would teachers want other teachers to take pictures of their classrooms without informed consent and share them on social media? Or lesson plans? Or unit plans?
  • Does the mere fact of just being in someones classroom automatically grant that teacher privileges to share student work, or should more concrete informed consent procedures be shared with parents?
  • What about ‘anonymous’ pictures/snapshots of work in progress that is going on in the classroom and shared on twitter? What about the teachers that share student faces on social media?
  • At what point are parental wishes taken into consideration?
  • As adults teaching or taking courses, aka AQ courses, if we want to share something, don’t we ask our colleagues first? Let them know when and how we will share something? Allow them the option of being attributed or being anonymous? Or not at all?
  • When integrating FNMI knowledge in our learning environments, we are not allowed to take pictures without express consent, we are not allowed to take ownership of the knowledge, storytelling, symbols and objects. If we are at a Pow-Wow we are not allowed to take pictures. This is an important reason why we need to have community members including Elders in our schools.
  • I think that there are organizations who have frameworks for thinking about these issues. For instance, the TED-ED clubs organization has done an amazing job of creating clear cut guidelines of informing parents of the work, media release forms, lack of commercialization on the student work of the TED-ED program, and even online mandatory consultations with educators to make sure these guidelines are understood. Further, student work is only uploaded with explicit consent, and it is also completely anonymous and not available to the public.

I think that informed consent and copyright policies need to be explicitly created as they pertain to social media, especially when educators are considering sharing whole student projects on social media. Otherwise who is protecting them and respecting them?

21st Century skills include teaching students to be critical thinkers about what they are posting and why. It includes digital citizenship, and digital citizenship is also being respectful of the needs and wishes of the families whose children we teach. If we teach this to our students, we also want to make sure that we are following this ourselves. Policies and procedures surrounding student work should be created for the benefit of our students, not for our personal benefit.

Just as policies are laid out clearly in our higher education institutions, we should also clearly lay them out for our elementary students as though they are just as equal in our society our higher ed students.:

Exerpt from the University of Connecticut Libraries:

As authors, students may hold copyright to their own work, even if created for a course (see Works Created at UConn). Instructors or researchers who wish to publish student work, upload it to a web site (including WebCT/Vista orePortfolio), or make student work available as models for future classes, should respect this potential right and getpermission from their students. Students who wish to use other students’ work should do also do this.


D. McCallum


© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



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