Sharing or Stealing: Which Kind of Educator are You?

By | 2016-10-29T11:36:06+00:00 August 15th, 2013|
Image courtesy of  Hyena Reality on

Image courtesy of Hyena Reality on

Everybody knows that line.  The one that goes “I’m a teacher – I beg, borrow and steal”.  And most of us have probably used it at some point in our career.  But as copyright and intellectual property have more blurred lines than Robin Thicke’s hit summer song, I have to wonder…is there a line between sharing and stealing in education anymore, or is it all acceptable?


The reality of stealing.

There are very clear directions when it comes to copyright law and intellectual property.  These are spelled out and posted in a variety of venues, and they aren’t all that complicated.  Don’t take stuff that isn’t yours.  Don’t modify anything that you didn’t ask permission of the original owner first.  Always reference where you found your material.  These are all things we learn in kindergarten.

But the internet and the emphasis on collaboration makes these black and white statements more shades of grey than you can count.  Information is everywhere.  Images and music is open to the world, courtesy of a quick Google search.  And all over Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest you see things like,


“Pin now, read later”

“Retweet and share”

“Free downloads”


and so we comply willingly and greedily.  We are voracious in how we consume and produce information.  And with this comes a stark reality: we begin to skip some basic steps and tread steadily into the land of stealing.

People don’t have time to find images for a presentation or a blog post, so they do a Google images search, right-click and image and insert it into their presentation without a citation.

People view a link to a great article or participate in an event and then copy the idea without sharing credit for where the idea originated.

We pin, post, tweet, read, write and speak a model of stealing daily and justify it to ourselves by saying we are sharing information.


True Sharing.

Let’s face it.  We’re in the 21st century where are there are no original ideas anymore.  Everything can be found on the internet.  But what is wonderful about this reality is the huge possibility of authentic sharing.  The ability to communicate ideas within your own sphere of reference and give them freely to become a part of the larger fabric of human understanding.

True sharing is all about the intention with which we are sharing and consuming information.  This means that when you retweet or pin something, you do so with the understanding that you don’t own that information and that you are sharing it not for your own glory, but to further the dialogue about a topic or idea.

More importantly, I think, is that sharing authentically means that as we ingest, digest, and retool information to form our own thoughts, we are referencing all the other voices who have been a part of the conversation on your journey to understanding.  This is what helps us make the shift from stealing to sharing: that we are all building upon each other.


What’s Your Profession?

As educators, our behavior is a model for our students.  So I ask you, which type of educator do you profess to be?  One who begs, borrows, and steals?  Or a collaborator who shares as a consumer and producer of knowledge?  We must make a choice and then take responsibility to follow through with actions that demonstrate our profession each and every day.  And while the lines outside may continue to blur, our internal line will aim straight and stay true.


About the Author:

Susan Riley is the founder and President of She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and Arts and the Common Core. Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter. Email Susan
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