What do the Winklevoss twins, Divya Narendra, Kelly Clark and middle school students share in common? Please continue reading to find the answer.

Several years ago I was offered the opportunity to teach technology at a Catholic middle school for girls. I immediately and gleefully accepted the offer. What an incredible journey awaited! Now I know that my expectations were rose-colored and that I was somewhat naïve about students and teaching. In many ways, my expectations were greatly surpassed by my experience.

The school served academically promising girls from the poorest neighborhoods in Baltimore. The student population created a new experimental dimension in my white, middle age, middle class life. What I did not realize was the awesome passage that I would travel and the resulting life transformation.

Interestingly, the mundane can be the propeller to an extraordinary learning encounter. In my case, teaching proved to be life changing. I learned about the day-to-day struggles of the very poor. In the process, I was blessed to develop a supportive friendship with a gifted teacher who taught me a lot about children, trust and respect. This woman possessed a beautiful spirit that continues to inspire me. Her dedication to children, leading a values driven life based on Catholic ideals was, and still is, inspiring. Equally important, teaching helped me learned about myself.

Thou shalt not cut and paste!
As a technology teacher, one of my biggest tests was teaching the fine art of source citation. In other words, if you use someone’s ideas, words, and/or art in your document, you are obliged to cite their contribution. If you use someone’s work and pass it off as your own, it is considered plagiarism. The notion that plagiarism is wrong, bears consequences and potentially, public humiliation did reap any change in behavior.

Convincing students that “cutting and pasting” was plagiarism became a contest of tenacious wills. The classroom became a ground of self-will, i.e., my tenacious will working to stop the practice and the student’s prevailing dogged will to continue plagiarizing. I am positive the school year ended in a stalemate or more likely, a “cutting and pasting” triumphed.

What is the likelihood that a 10-year-old is versed in the fundamental operations of a Fortune 500 company? When confronting students about the probability of their plagiarism, the response was a wide-eyed, earnest denial. Did the child really believe her innocence? I hope I was not preparing her for a successful career on Wall Street.

The stalemate may be grounded on the ease of “cutting and pasting” and the temptation to quickly complete an assignment to engage in the favorite pastime of “extreme texting”. Like a lot of technology, “cutting and pasting” and the Internet offer instant gratification. What could be more seductive than instant gratification?

Instant gratification vs. ethics and the law
To the young psyche, the fact that plagiarism is a punishable offense and at the very least, unethical did not have any framework. The act of stealing was understood as physically taking a tangible possession without permission.

Stealing electronic information and using it as your own was an ethereal concept. To these young minds, the Internet did not hold ownership of anything because there is no identifiable human, so there was no harm done. Many people may be baffled by this concept and the assumed low probability of prosecution makes plagiarism a rampant crime.

Who is being harmed?

Facebook-the lines are blurred.
From urban legend, we know that Facebook began at Harvard in a student dorm. This fact is mutually agreed upon by all parties involved. The story becomes muddled from this point forward. Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss and Divya Narendra contested in litigation that Facebook was their idea. Mark Zuckerberg the genius that launched the Facebook technology contested that Facebook was his creation. In the final analysis, the lines are blurred as to who created Facebook. Who/what was the origin of the idea and where did the execution and launch convene?

Creativity begets creativity.
Recently NPR broadcasted a story about Kelly Clark’s hit “Since U Been Gone”. Clark’s hit was often mistaken for a song by the Smashing Pumpkins, Pavement and Parquet Courts. I believe that creativity begets creativity. Thorny situations can easily arise from creative works and cause difficulty identifying ownership. Once again, who or where the creative process started may be impossible to ascertain, therefore, who gets the credit and who is the owner?

Data, stats graphs and charts.
Facts support the grant proposal and give your request substance. Data and statistics may be required that you do not own. When writing a grant, be absolutely positive that you only use authorized material.

If you want to use the data, you may be able to easily obtain permission by asking the owner. There may be a fee attached to the information. Pay the fee if you want to include the information. If you do not have permission or have not paid the fee, do not use the information.

The use of information may just require a source citation. Make it your practice to use standard citation formats for all borrowed information. Finally, be sure you can verify and validate all information that you use. The grantor may question your proposal. Be prepared to confidently discuss what you have proposed.

Questions, comments, fine points etc.
If you have any questions, “Google” plagiarism and/or source citations; there are a host of resources available. Research librarians are also a good resource. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me.

Good luck and best wishes,


Believe in possibility and in yourself.