Don’t Make Me Hoarse, Cite Your Source

There is a pandemic that needs to be addressed. Something we have all done at some point and time. A thing that is so tiny in the grand scheme of life that we overlook the need to follow proper procedures. That thing is giving credit where credit is due. Specifically giving credit and social media when we borrow and broadcast other people’s images, ideas, and content. Everyone scrounge around Twitter, Facebook, and Voxer looking for gold nuggets from others. Why wouldn’t you? That’s the best thing about being connected. The problem arises when we don’t give credit to the originators when we do.

Most people who know me understand that I hate the idea of paying for lesson plans. We create them for free using and share them using the #physed shared Google drive. The drive also has posters, images, and videos. While they are free they come with a cost. The cost as you will read below is real, although it is not always monetary. I am worried that the creators of original content are going to stop being so free with sharing if we do not stem the tide of plagiarism and content theft.

This week I am going to let the innovators do the talking. Each one of these teachers has contributed significantly to the #physed community in one-way shape or form. They have created numerous resources that have helped change the image of the #physed community.

They are going to tell you why it is so important that we give them the credit they are due.

Here is an excerpt from an email I received from @joeyfeith this week in regards to him reacting to people using his work without giving him due credit. Joey is an OG of the social media #physed community:

I know what you are saying: “it’s a sign of respect”, “it’s just sharing good practices”, “it’s just getting the word out to more people”.

That’s what this community used to be about (and, really, still is in a lot of ways): teachers getting excited about new ideas and sharing them with others. However, back then there were fewer incidents involving people omitting the sources of their inspiration. People would get credit for everything they did and, rather than recreating someone’s work or posting it on your own site, people would go out of their way to link back to other teachers’ blogs and websites so that new people could discover them. It worked, it was beautiful, and it was what inspired me to keep at it.

But, lately, I don’t see so much of that. Not just in regards to my own work, but with others too. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

Credit seems like such a silly thing. What’s the big deal, anyway? Ideas are ideas and everything gets remixed. This is the Internet we’re talking about.

That’s really easy to say when you don’t know the process behind making those ideas a reality. The process that involves a moment of clarity, the struggle and frustration of making the thing you see in your head a tangible resource, and then the hesitation in regards to “do I make this free or do I sell this? Screw it, I’ll make it free!”

It is hard to explain how much of my soul has been put into making be something and helping raise awareness for our online community. It’s hard to explain it. It’s not something that anybody but me can measure. I do measure it, though. I measure it in the amount of friends I’ve lost because I couldn’t figure out how to balance my social/work life. I measure it in the amount of nights my wife sleeps alone or how many weekends she spends wishing we were out doing stuff as I work on building stuff and getting it right (well, trying to). I measure it in the missed family opportunities and the money “lost” (there are a lot more costs involved than people know).

All of these I measure, and all I have asked for to balance it out is some credit. Call me vain, call me a jerk, call me whatever… the credit is enough to keep me going when I really don’t feel like it (which has been more and more often ever since last year).

Terri Drain (@terridr99) is another innovator in the #physed world. She created some great videos and podcasts for physical education teachers to unpack standards and also created the website Her story is similar to countless others I have encountered on this subject.

Terri: I discovered that someone copied several pages from my website and used them as their own. I had to ask them to take it down. It created a very awkward situation.

Me (doing my best psychiatrist impersonation): How did that make you feel?

Terri: Disappointed in the fact some people think it’s okay to lift someone else’s work.

Me: Did it make you think about not wanting to share or keeping things to yourself, or doing something differently in the future because of it?

Terri: Philosophically I believe, probably like you and most people out there, we are going to move forward as a profession when we share and learn from each other. I’m determined as ever to share but always preface any workshop that I do with you are welcome to use my stuff, but you need to give credit from where you got it.

Ben Pirillo (@coachpirillo) is one of my favorite creators in the entire world. He creates youtube dance videos that are so easy to follow and fun to watch. He also creates a ton of other activities that he gives out for free and some that he posts on teachers pay teachers which you can check out here. (these are not lesson plans but actual lesson activities that he created so don’t call me a hypocrite) He also runs a sweet #physed website you can check out here.

Ben: If it’s stuff that is on my teach #phsyed Weebly site or the videos it’s fine as long as they are citing where they got it from. Just like you would cite a source if you were writing a paper. I have had a few people that I have seen use my activities that I am selling putting pictures out on Twitter and not giving me credit for my ideas. In addition, you should ask the person who created the content for permission to share.

Me: Tell me how it made you feel when you found this out.

Ben: I was frustrated. Really? I created that idea and I developed it. If you don’t want to buy it that’s fine, but don’t post it online and not give me credit to me. It gets even worse when people are liking it and retweeting it. If it gets to the point where I see my items being used and not citing where they come from I will stop sharing things in that way. I would do my videos, but it would definitely hinder what I am willing to share.

Lynn Burrows is a physical educator from Colorado. She runs a fantastic site you can see here. Lynn presents around the country.

When it comes to people “stealing your ideas” without giving credit I think a couple things happen. Initially, people cite your resource. They then share that idea with four people or maybe 100 people. Some of those may cite you some won’t. The next generation has no idea where the ideas came from. I’m not saying it’s all innocent but when people get further away from the original source of the information they lose the sighting of it.

I love Lynn. She is one of the sweetest people in the world. I try to emulate her outlook on life. She really sees people as people and not the physical shell they occupy. This is an important point to remember. People are not maliciously stealing ideas and attempting to steal credit. We have to remember some people may not know or be able to find out the original source of information. This is not a free pass to excuse them. It is a rational explanation of why some ideas are not attributed to the originators.

Sarah G-H (@GHSaysRockChalk) is an innovator and member of the @PHYSEDagogy team. (No one knows how to say it. They even messed it up on their own podcast interview!) She opened up about just exactly how hard it is to let go of content that she creates and how horrible it is to find out that your ideas are being stolen and people are taking the credit for it. Sarah also explains how copyright infringement and plagiarism are serious violations of people’s time and energy.

I’m very protective of the things I create for my students and am very cautious when sharing resources on Twitter. I understand there are members of the #PhysEd community that believe in #SharingIsCaring and #TogetherWeAreStronger, but sometimes (ok, a lot of the time) I’m really uncomfortable sharing things that take me hours to create.

Earlier this year I discovered that entire sections of my school website (the site my students and parents can view) were stolen and re-published on another site. Screenshots from that site were shared on Twitter and Facebook and that teacher received a ton of credit for work they didn’t produce. I ended up confronting that teacher and we had a very awkward conversation. I do believe we should always give credit to our sources, whether we use a quote on a blog, borrow an idea from a friend, or adopt a new teaching idea.

#PhysEd resources should be free, but that doesn’t mean they don’t come at a price. I spend hours every night working on things for my classes. My husband makes sure I have time to work by cooking dinner, cleaning the kitchen, and making our lunches for the following day. He packs our sons’ backpacks, asks me if I need any help with anything, and checks to make sure I’m not forgetting anything.

When I share snippets of the things I’m doing in class, it’s incredibly frustrating when I receive messages asking me to share an entire resource that took me hours to create. “Hey, can I have a copy of that?” “Can you send me all of your rubrics?” “Can I have your lesson plans?” I know this may sound really selfish, but it’s really, really hard for me to share things that take me so much time and effort to create.

Why would we not give Sarah the credit she deserves when she does share her work when it is clearly so hard for her to part with it? I believe more people find it harder to share their resources than let on.

Andy Vasily (@andyvasily) is one of the most gifted educators I have come in contact with. His ability to bring the curriculum alive to the students is something I will be attempting to replicate for my entire teaching career. Andy is now a #physed consultant that travels the world lifting the profession of education to new levels. His words always come from a place of empathy and understanding.

When I first saw all of the discussion this week on Twitter about the issue of people not crediting who they get their ideas, resources, and inspiration from, I must say that it struck a chord with me. I think that it is critically important to look at this issue from all angles, especially from the perspectives of those whose work has been taken without being given due recognition. When I read the part from Joey’s email that Justin posted above, I think that he (Joey) brings up hugely valid points when it comes to the incredibly hard work that goes into maintaining and developing a website, taking our ideas and making them into tangible resources, and sharing good teaching practice in general. Joey has been instrumental in changing the face of physical education as have many of the educators mentioned in Justin’s blog post here. Every single one of them has been doing their own part in bringing attention to the need of transforming the way physical education is delivered. They are not the only ones, there are so many others on Twitter as well.

Lynn B, Ben P, Terri D, Kevin T, and Sarah G also all shared snippets into their own stories and when questionable conduct has occurred in regards to the taking or borrowing of their ideas. I’m of the mindset that we must share our best work and in so doing, we can hopefully inspire change in the practice of other educators which ultimately impacts and enhances student learning for the best.

I’m also a huge believer in the laws of abundance, meaning that when we give all of ourselves and share our work, it will always come back to us ten-fold in variety of ways that end up making a difference in our own lives. Despite having a law of abundance type attitude when it comes to sharing thoughts and resources so freely, it can certainly hurt when someone else just takes these ideas and runs with them without acknowledging where they got the ideas or inspiration from.

As an avid blogger myself, I have put a tremendous amount of time and energy into my work, into sharing my practice, resources, and ideas. And as Joey states, credit seems silly at times. Why is it necessary really? Everybody is taking ideas off the internet and making them into their own. However, at the heart of it, receiving credit can make a big difference in motivating those who share their ideas and resources so freely to continue doing the great work that they do. When someone’s work has been impacted by another or an idea, resource, or thought taken, giving credit is the right thing to do. There is an excellent book that I want to recommend to everyone that deals with the idea of good theft and bad theft. “Steal Like a Artist” was a New York Times best seller authored by Austin Kleon. You can find it here. I highly recommend reading this book as it puts the idea of good theft and bad theft into genuine perspective.

I was once collaborating with a fellow teacher from another international school about an idea that I had. I wanted this teacher to try it out so that I could actually see whether or not the idea worked outside of my own teaching space. We were rolling out the idea during similar units that we were teaching simultaneously. The plan was to collaborate and share how things were going during the unit, but due to time constraints, we never got the chance to connect again. You can imagine how I felt a few months later to find out that this teacher had taken the idea and guest blogged about it on a well-known educational organization’s website without referencing the fact that it was my idea in the first place and that we had been working together on it. This person essentially stole the idea and wrote as if it was theirs all along. It was frustrating and hurt a great deal. This is just one example, but there have been others as well.

So, I can sympathize with Joey and all the others mentioned in the post as I have also experienced times in the past that my work and ideas have been taken. However, in moving forward, I believe that we can all learn from these experiences and I’d like to thank Justin for sharing this topic on his blog, but to also thank Joey for sharing his genuine thoughts as well as the others.

It’s essential to understand and realize the importance of crediting others when necessary. It is critical to ask ourselves to what extent the ideas of others drives our teaching practice and whether or not we have authentically recognized those who have inspired us to be better at what we do and given credit where credit is due. Ultimately each and every one of us knows whether or not we’ve done this.

My final innovator is the king of creation in my opinion. His website is second to none. If you can think of an app or resource to use in physical education his website has reviewed. He has authored numerous books which I have shelled out my hard earned money for. I personally recommend the Great Games Handbook. His dice digital book puts some great twists on games that you wouldn’t think of. No, I am not his agent nor do I make any money off of his sales! His name is Kevin Tiller. My favorite story about Kevin and people stealing his material was when he was in a voxer group and someone was talking about this great game they had just learned at a conference. He kindly stated that the game they were referencing was straight out of his first book!

For me to sit down and write a book takes a lot of time. Not just time to write it. I mean the thinking process that goes into how I want the book to be designed, what the cover looks like, and how the layout is. The first book I wrote took me ten years. The second book took me a year. It is a very meticulous process where everything has to be symmetrical, colorful, eye appealing, as well as have solid content. It takes a ton of time. You want it to be high quality if your name is going to be attached to it. That being said I see people on Twitter referencing a game that I know is mine that they didn’t cite as being from Phys. Ed. Review. I always call them on it. I say hey that’s one of mine! Just to say give credit where credit is due. When I find something worth sharing I credit them. I mean my website has a ton of content that I share from other people!! I always give reference and credit where credit is due.

If you think about it is a violation of copyright. In all of the books I have written, there is a copyright. If someone doesn’t reference my book that is the issue. Not someone just taking the idea and using it. The internet has so many resources out there that people think it is fair game. They say no one is going to sue me or know one will know. We need to do the right thing even when no one else is looking.

Recently someone asked me if they could purchase 15 of my books and resell them at a conference. I never got back to them and gave them permission. They ordered the books. I think some people want a piece of the glory after I did all the work. If I was out that conference I would ask them did the author give you permission to sell these? If not I wouldn’t buy it. I am hoping other people read this because we should have kindness and courtesy. Instead of reselling my books why don’t you invite me to your conference or put a link to the site where I am selling the book.

Hopefully, the innovators above have impressed you enough to want to cite your sources. You may be saying to yourself right now that I don’t use any of this to make any money. That is the impression I was under. I always thought they couldn’t sue me because I didn’t make any money off of the image or source. I was wrong:

“Fifth Myth: You can use another person’s ‘work’ so long as you don’t make any financial gain or profit from it. This is definitely wrong and false. You are breaching Copyright whether you make money or not! You cannot use the argument that you are giving the Copyright owner free advertising or that you came up with the ‘lucrative’ idea and you will share it with the Copyright owner – any and all profits you make would be taken into account by a court if you were sued. And irrespective of whether you make any money, you are still breaching Copyright. The defining issue is not financial gain but the actual breach. Find your own images and content to use and ideas to make money from.”

Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne) has a great article on how to search for images that are allowed to be used for noncommercial use here. It is vitally important that we only take images and cite the source.

How should we cite sources on social media? Here are a couple of great ideas I saw in this blog recently:

To Cite Someone’s Content on Twitter:

Simply include a “via @username” somewhere in the tweet. If you’re retweeting someone’s content but you edit their original tweet, be sure to change “RT” to “MT,” which stands for “modified tweet.”

To Cite Someone’s Content on Facebook:

Facebook makes it pretty easy to give credit when you’re sharing someone else’s content right from their own timeline — they have a ‘Share’ button ready and waiting for you, and they make it easy to see the originating URL, originating sharer, as well as the names of people who shared it.

I don’t believe that most people are actively stealing credit for other people’s work. (except for the people the innovators talked about above) Most people fall into the trap of seeing ideas online and implementing them. (which is what we want) In their excitement to share, they forget to credit where they got it from. In some cases, they may credit their source, but that is not the source of origination for that idea or image. My point in this blog is not to create a culture where every word and thought has to be attributed to others. The point is to do your best to give the credit to where the credit is due. Credit is the new currency in our new world of free sharing. It is the fuel and motivation that keeps the innovators pushing their new materials out.

My guess is that most innovators & creators want to change the world and make it better. When people have attributed the idea back to the original source that person gets confirmation that what they are doing is helping change the world. Is it is more than just that pat on the back or the likes and favorites on social media. I am sure they love to see an idea generated created a better experience for students.

My final thoughts are to the innovators. I believe that most people are not stealing your ideas on purpose. They are genuinely excited to be doing new and different things all the time. If you see someone using your material reach out to them in the most discrete way and kindly ask them to acknowledge where the ideas and content originated. Start out from the position that the individual did realize they were doing something wrong. We do not want to crush individuals that are attempting to make their world a better place. As one man said always choose humanity over ideology.

Q1: How important is citing your resources to you? #slowchatpe

Q2: Did you ever have someone take your ideas and not give you credit? #slowchatpe

Q3: What makes you want to share ideas on social media? #slowchatpe

Q4: How do you come up with new ideas or lessons? #slowchatpe

Q5: Who is an innovator we should connect with? #slowchatpe


4 thoughts on “Don’t Make Me Hoarse, Cite Your Source

  1. collinbrooksie

    Thanks Justin! Good post buddy. We have a very generous community of educators that are willing to give away their resources. It is disappointing to pour your heart into something and then find that someone has not given credit to you. As a community we need to be more mindful of giving credit to those that create.


  2. artiepe

    Justin: Thanks for posting! Unfortunately, we see stuff posted all the time on social media taken directly from our books and publications (Great Activities Publishing Company) without citations regarding the source. Actually, it is an infringement of international copyright laws to do this without written permission.


  3. Pingback: OTR Links 11/02/2015 | doug --- off the record

  4. Wendy Jones

    Justin, thank you this timely and thoughtful blog! I understand, as Lynn pointed out, that original sources can get lost in generations of sharing. But, we owe it to those innovative and generous educators to maintain the integrity and give credit. I’m glad you brought up the issue of modifying an idea. We need to honor those incredible innovators or we pay a price by failing our profession when sharing is no longer the norm. How sad for our students!

    Liked by 1 person


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s