When Education Leadership Fails You #Edchat

“What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right.” – Howard Cosell

Educators connecting online can transform your life. I’ve shared this many times as a connected educator evangelist. We can use our audience and followings to share students’ voices or support teachers who need mentors, ideas, and the benefits of a community. A lot of times, this is what I love about the educators I connect with and I hope you will continue to let online communities transform education, your teaching, and your learning.

My blog and tweets are often filled with inspiration and my excitement at cool tools, ideas, and the projects I put blood, sweat, and tears into. Today, I’m sharing a darker side of educator communities so we strive for much better, because our actions impact our trust, values, and norms in our teacher communities. Our acts become viral. Students see them. They are impacted by them. Our online choices and acts need to model what we hope from our students.

This post is long and filled with my disappointment in ed leaders I used to admire, who I met as the co-founder of #Edchat, and who I met in person at various conferences. I’ve already made many uncomfortable by standing up to unethical behavior, and now I will make them more uncomfortable by saying I expected more. However, before I continue mentioning the disappointment, I’d like to share my incredible gratitude and respect for those who spoke up with me to make sure a student received the follows and proper attribution for what he created. Thank you, Shawn White (@SWPax) and the 100’s of others for sharing the student’s work appropriately attributed.

We Should Strive to Give “Appropriate” Attribution

It is not ok to share work without attribution, copy another person’s shared resource and share as your own, to choose to act selfishly to promote yourself at the expense of others, or to try to silence those who hold educators accountable for their unethical behavior. My question to you, ed leaders, is, “Does the need to be viral justify sacrificing your character?” As Einstein says, “What is right is not always popular.”

Giving proper attribution is important. As Alec Couros, @Courosa, points out, “If we don’t give attribution, we lose the lineage and travel of ideas. That hurts everyone in a community.” As is the case with Krissy Venosdale, @Venspired, who shares in her post, Let’s Do Better Than This, how her inspirational poem she shared online was stolen by many and some are still profiting from shirts, posters, and TeachersPayTeachers’ lessons with her poem without her permission or as they claim as their own. Krissy is the creator of many inspirational posters and resources she often gives free to teachers with a Creative Commons License. Still, some teachers choose to steal licensed work made by other teachers.

IMG_0747On Twitter, when we share an infopic, chart, infographic, and creation from an author, we should: 1. Include the Twitter handle, 2. Link to the post with more info, and 3. Tag the photo with the author’s Twitter handle. We can go the extra mile by retweeting the original tweet. Twitter has 2 features to do this- Tag up to 10 ppl in an image without it taking away from your 140 characters and the ability to quote a tweet. If you are pressed for time or space, then at least share the Twitter handle that is included in the pic and if no credit is given, it isn’t okay to share this pic. Go the extra mile and Google Image reverse search to share the post with original author. Ask the Tweeter, who is the author.

Why I stood up and publicly called out a repeat offender

Where do these unethical choices begin? Why do some educators ok how they act online and cringe at this behavior in the physical world? This week I called out an education leader with 30000+ followers on Twitter. He is a repeat offender of benefitting from the words, shares, infographics, quotes, and thoughts of others without appropriate attribution. He has been called out by many educators for stealing, sharing in keynotes without proper credit, cutting off the watermarks in pictures, tweeting pictures and not giving any attribution, and choosing to copy tweets and repost as his own instead of retweeting or including via @TwitterIGotThisFrom. In case you still believe resharing his work doesn’t make you part of the problem, it does. You choose to make him go viral instead of the authors, creators, or teachers who put hours into manifesting these ideas.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 5.33.22 AMIt’s now August and instead of making better choices to properly attribute, this educator’s need to go viral made him choose to do so at the expense of a student’s creation. I shared an infopic created by a student to inspire teachers. I discovered the student’s infopic when my friend told me about this awesome student he was going to interview. I looked at the student’s tweets, followed him, and shared the inspirational infopic with my 60,000+ followers and mindfully included the student’s Twitter handle with the hashtag #Edchat. The educator did not follow him at the time. I was saddened to see the next day this educator chose to copy my tweet, share with the #edchat hashtag, and removed the student’s handle that was in the original tweet. This educator had plenty more of his 140 characters to include the handle.

A group of us let the educator know we were disappointed he made the choice again to make another’s creation about him and this time that author was a student. The educator responded by asking how he was he supposed to know a student created it, which tells me he didn’t take the seconds to click on the Twitter handle. Still some educators were angry we were holding this educator accountable. Removing the Twitter handle means people won’t click to follow.

Those who stood up against this unethical behavior didn’t hurt our online community; the people who choose to act unethically hurt the community! Hold them accountable and stop trying to silence those calling them out to do better.  

Why aren’t we holding these so called leaders accountable? They know better. This wasn’t an accident. This wasn’t a newby on educator communities making a mistake. This was an experienced connected ed leader with 30,000+ followers. Why is it ok for an educator to take the time to remove attribution for his own benefit? Is this what we want our students to believe is ok? It would have taken less time to click on the student’s Twitter handle and retweet the student than what he actually chose to do.

Why I am disappointed in some of my PLN’s response

Not a big deal is what other educators stated. Some educators excused the act, stating the “information is disseminated,” and the original author doesn’t matter. These are what principals, directors of teachers, and teacher trainers shared publicly. Some of my friends reported Voxer group complaints of us taking a stand. Holding this ed leader accountable was considered “drama.” It bothered some ed leaders so much, one publicly posted a picture to mock the incident then tagged other leaders to join in that conversation. When I responded to the thread and tried to explain why attribution and this incident with the student wasn’t a joke and why it is important, they didn’t respond back. The support for unethical leadership and lack of proper attribution is a big problem. A more dangerous problem, is the need to want to silence those who hold our leadership accountable, because it makes people uncomfortable.

Positive Outcomes of Speaking Up

On a more positive note, many teachers learned about appropriate ways to attribute on Twitter. The idea is to include the Twitter handle of the infopic’s author or at least tag the author on the pic. Check out Cori Corburn’s (@CorburnCori) video below! When you see someone who shares an info pic without any credit or who left out the Twitter handle, then reshare and tag that creator so people follow the author and learn from the author’s other ideas. If you notice someone shared info without attribution at all, then don’t share that post. Instead, reshare the author’s post or create your own post properly attributing.

I end with the Challenge from @Venspired, “Let us do better.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 3.55.30 PM

There is power when you share. Stop helping those with questionable behavior go viral. They profit off the stolen work of others. Recently, one of these “rock star educators” has influenced Principals and teachers to mock those he has selfishly stolen credit from for a year or who are trying to end his unethical behavior. Is someone’s collection of inspiration stolen from others worth your character? Take the time to support the authors, creators, passionate voices, originators of those ideas so they continue to inspire.

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Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell (@ShellTerrell) is an award winning digital innovator, an international speaker/consultant, and the author of Hacking Digital Learning with EdTech Missions, The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers, and Learning to Go. She has trained teachers and taught English language learners in over 20 countries as an invited guest expert by organizations, like the US Embassy, UNESCO Bangkok, Cultura Inglesa of Brazil, the British Council in Tel Aviv, IATEFL Slovenia, HUPE Croatia, ISTEK Turkey, and Venezuela TESOL. She has been recognized by several organizations and publications as a leader in the movement of teacher driven professional development as the founder and organizer of various online conferences, Twitter chats, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Two of the projects she co-organized were shortlisted for ELTons, #ELTChat and the Virtual Round Table Language and Technology online conference. She was named Woman of the Year by the National Association of Professional Women, awarded a Bammy Award as a founder of #Edchat, and named as one of the 10 Most Influential People in EdTech by Tech & Learning. Her greatest joy is being the mother of baby Savannah and Rosco the pug. Shelly has an Honors BA in English with a Minor in Communication and a specialization in Electronic Media from UTSA, a Masters in Curriculum Instruction ESL from the University of Phoenix, and a CELTA from CELT Athens. She regularly shares her tips for effective technology integration via Twitter (@ShellTerrell), Facebook.com/ShellyTerrell, and on her blog, TeacherRebootCamp.com, which has won several awards and recognitions as one of the top ESL, Edtech and Elearning blogs. Find over 400 of her slide presentations at https://www.slideshare.net/ShellTerrell/presentations


  1. I want to thank you for bringing awareness to this. I caught the tail end of the tweets yesterday and tried to follow on twitter by trying to follow the conversation -which is not always easy to do. As I read the tweets, it wasn’t until you shared the post above pointing out the blatant leaving out of that kid’s handle, that I truly understood what this person had done. I still can’t seem to understand why an ed”leader” would leave out the handle to a student? Considering I am a teacher who uses social media, one of my main reasons is to promote my students and show the amazing things they do – I could really care less about promoting myself. I want the world to see the amazing things my kids do every single day.

    I’m sure in my time on twitter I’ve re-tweeted or sent things out without giving credit to the original person – but I know in my heart it was unintentional. What happened here was clearly intentional. As teachers and educational leaders we have a responsibility to model and do what’s right. I can’t believe that people would excuse this behavior. To some this may not seem like a big deal, but to that kid it is. Thank you Shelly – you are truly an edleader and I appreciate you standing up and doing what is right.

    • Thank you for your comment, Shawn. When we spoke and another on Twitter, it was only the tweets which showed part of the story. People believed I was making this person a villain. I wrote this post to show the full story so people would see why continuing to share this person’s post supports his behavior and allows him to be an ed leader. I know people don’t like the public showing of his tweets but for a year people have privately talked to him about quitting and he hasn’t and won’t. I’m hoping this will at least make him think twice before doing this to anyone, whether it’s a teacher or student.

  2. I honor your courage to take to share this. It is unfortunate that others do not see the inherent problem in a historical pattern of a viral educational leader publishing others’ work without simple efforts to attribute, or with deliberate efforts to remove a creators’ handle from a copied tweet. The problem is that the “dissemination” of information in part is empowered, encouraged, and enabled by people trusting in the community to make respectful efforts to attribute them. Many share work in pat for the value of amplifying their visibility and voice, especially those trying to carve careers out of drawing such attention. Not attributing creators and intentionally removing creators’ handles from a share diminishes the value of and discourages open sharing of creative works. Whether social media should have different standards from other publishing or not, the fact is tweeting is publishing. Publishing without attribution is wrong. Plain and simple.

    In this case, yes, the 8th grade student who created this infopic included his handle as part of the image. But the Twitter medium does not enable an easy click-through from that pic to the student, so many people (among the 600+ who RT’d or faved that tweet) will not type in a Twitter search for that handle, and the 8th grade student also receives no notifications of any of those RTs or faves, unless others make the effort to include his handle in their shares. I couldn’t help yesterday but imagine the lost opportunity to inspire and encourage that student (and others) to create more, to amplify #stuvoice in general, to share in the viral power that the ed leader denied him when intentionally leaving out his handle from your original tweet.

    Were this an isolated incident, then yes, yesterday could be called “drama,” or “vilifying,” as the response may have outweighed such an incident–if isolated. But this is not isolated. This leader has a consistent pattern of this, which you note above, and which many others have tried to call out in the past. When last round a few weeks ago I shared two tweets, respectfully, asking why he does not make efforts to attribute, especially as an educational leader, he attempted to mock me and others in a blog post (now deleted) in which he blatantly defended such actions and declared he would likely continue. (This is not about that–I made my point and defense clear in the comments, and moved on.)

    • Shawn,

      Part of the reason I wrote this post was because I saw your tweet debate with him and others before you dating back to April. I’ve heard some say they privately messaged him a year ago because he removed their watermark on their pic. I remember the blog post and tweeted it saying to pay attention to yours and Michelle’s comments. I was so upset to see he took off that blog post. He can’t take this blog post off, though, or the evidence of his actions. I respect people want to keep this a private matter.

      There are others who say he’s getting better, but it’s because he will no longer not attribute them. That’s where I hold those folks accountable. Now, that he doesn’t do it to them anymore he still does it. This was this week. Some of those say we are “vilifying” not because he has stopped stealing people’s words or claiming “the fame” from the hard work of teachers and students but because he stops with those who call him out. I doubt he will steal my tweets again. He probably won’t steal yours or countless people he has stolen from before who speak up. As this example shows, however, he will continue to steal the credit and attribution and following the creator and author deserves.

      I feel we owe our educator community better. If we all owned businesses on a street and a robber came and stole from us, then said he wouldn’t again but stole from the other stores, would we think this is right? Would we let a known robber off only because we know our stores won’t be robbed again. We have a responsibility as leaders and members and citizens of our education community to stop supporting and promoting the “stealing” or the unethical practices of those within that community if we do not stand up to them.

      Thank you for taking this stand with me. I wish I would’ve taken a stronger stand with you much earlier when you were trying to get him to stop. I wish I would’ve unfollowed him then. However, I am glad I took this one now and I’m not backing down or pulling this post.

      • Shelly, I realize, after seeing some of the critique–and mocking–of you, me, and others who challenged this behavior, some of it was confusion, thinking we were arguing for properly citing any idea or thought we share that is not our own, as in proper academic discourse. This is not about that. it is about attribution for the sharing of creative works and products, to attribute and enable others to find and follow the creator. Some, once they learned this speaking up stemmed from the deliberate removal of an 8th grade student creator’s handle from the copied tweet, thereby excluding that student from experiencing the inspiration of 600+ notifications (RTs and faves), expressed understanding of and agreement with what we were doing, especially given the strong historical pattern of this concern. Other continue to think it is wrong, and I am imagine there are Voxer discussions circling around this, continuing to mock this push back, and primarily you as the most prominent one pushing back on this. It is clear to me now this is an issue many seem to privately acknowledge but think it is wrong to publicly confront. I respect that they feel it is wrong; those are their feelings. But I respectfully disagree with that, and I found irony in the mocking, as that felt much more divisive than this push back, IMHO, especially given so many privately acknowledge you, we are right on this issue. I also take issue with the argument that making a point of this may scare off would-be connected educators–a point echoing the now-deleted blog post in which he declared he would likely continue this behavior. I believe in holding leaders accountable, even, unfortunately, publicly if needed when such a strong pattern of not changing by means of private communications, is a modeling of educator voice, of the need to push back on each other and our leaders, when needed. — This is not done to vilify, but to uphold base community norms, attribution for creators adn what we model and teach for educators on to students, attribution prime among these norms. Indeed, the open sharing of creative works is founded upon this trust in a community to share with attribution. Almost every Creative Commons license I see calls for attribution. This confirms for me how much the community values this, and. And it’s not about assuming the role of attribution police. For a long time I’ve muted this person’s tweets so that I would not be frustrated by the lack of attribution. But I passionately believe in the value of open sharing, and of attribution as an important part of fostering this. It is a foundation upon which the strength and learning of the connected ed community is built. And I also believe as members of a community, we owe it to each other to challenge each other to be better, with respectful push back. In this instance, it is also an issue of scale, as it stems from a viral leader whom many admire and look to for learning and as a model. When I saw that the tweet had over 600 RTs and Faves, I couldn’t help be grow frustrated at the lost opportunity for all those people to click through to that 8th grade student, something I believe few did when it is but a small handle in the image itself, as they’d have to study the handle, type it in search, and see what it yielded. We all know most of us seldom do that, especially if we have no idea it is a student’s work. And ultimately, that’s where this all boils down to: students. The student creator finding a voice among educators, who was denied the reinforcement and inspiration when his handle was deliberately removed from the copied tweet. The students who do not learn to properly attribute creative works and creators because their educators who follow educational leaders do not see and learn to do so. I do not regret my small part in this, adding a couple tweets to push back on this. And I don’t think you should regret this post or speaking out. Some have shared with me they think it only looks bad, someone with your following doing so. I disagree, given the history of this pattern you and others note. In fact, when I tried to push back on this before, this leader mocked me in his blog post (again, now deleted), while I and others found my tweet to be quite respectful. That showed me that if pushing back while only having hundreds or a couple thousand followers, and not of the viral ed leader circle, then I was fodder for mockery. Thus it seems only logical to me, given all this history of behavior, that to demand better attribution and modeling of it, to sustain the value of the sharing connected ed community, someone of your stature within the community had to bring this to light. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think so. And, all this said, I now look forward to moving on, again, hopefully to not be focused on such matters but rather all the positive this community has to offer, and for whatever little I may contribute to it.

        • Hi Shawn,

          Thank you again for all you do to help promote good values and respect in our incredible connected educator community. You’ve made several fantastic points and I agree. I don’t regret any part of this at all and will continue to stand by this post and the rest of my actions. I do this with a good heart and from a good place. I know you do as well. I wish others would check their own.

  3. I am extremely disappointed to read this. I’m trying to put myself in the shoes of that student and can only imagine what’s going through her/his mind. She/he is growing up in a culture of academia and undoubtedly has had “the rules” for integrity explained so many times. Then, to see copyright violated in this manner, and from an educator challenges everything.

    The student had the opportunity to be celebrated by the educational community as someone who has contributed to everyone. By removing the reference, that opportunity is lost.

    As you correctly note, for someone else to take credit is just wrong at so many level.

    I’m sorry that the situation has caused you grief. From your blog post, it sounds as though you seized the moment and not everyone joined you. I’m sure that there are many more that understand your position and are just quiet about it.

    • Hi Doug,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m used to disagreement, bullying, mocking, etc. when it comes to taking stands. I also have had private dms with teachers who in the past did say something and others who are privately telling this leader it’s not right. I have other teachers who told me thank you and have said they will not share when he leaves references off.

      I pointed out the ed leaders who gathered together and mocked, because I believe by spending the energy mocking a cause instead of even privately dming or having the conversation to one of their own this isn’t right, they are part of this culture of “it’s okay to take credit, fame, or money for work that isn’t mine.” That many leaders feel this is okay really troubles me. Before #Edchat, #CPChat and countless other communities that stemmed from the roots of #Edchat these leaders didn’t have ways to have such an impact with their voice. The problem is now we saw someone a year ago start copying tweets and work from others and we thought, “Big deal! It’s a tweet.” Now, unethical behavior that has been allowed and supported through our shares has changed our values. On social media, we now have plenty of educators, who now believe stealing because it’s a tweet or share is no big deal. They think leaving attribution on purpose is a laughing matter. This post and the quote pics I keep spreading are to get our educator community to rethink our personal values on what it means to be a citizen on social media with the privilege of having a voice leading and supporting other educators.

  4. Thanks for this post, really brave to do this and call someone out. I would like to know who it is, can’t figure it out from your post, but I appreciate the way you wrote this to respect confidentiality.

    I have thought a lot about this in the past few days. I use Scoop.it daily now, but they don’t attribute the original authors. They would do well to add this as a standard feature – people need to be credited always for their hard work.

    • Thank you, Paul, for this comment. I’m so glad you can’t tell the identity, because on Twitter you can (@ShellTerrell). I called out this person publicly and I was asked by an educator to blur the names on the pics, which I felt was a good suggestion. I was worried even then people could tell and in I do want people to know the person who keeps doing this. However, I also don’t want the student dragged into this and want it made about this incident versus the student’s work. I’ve tried to keep a balance of that and have not tagged the student in any of this. However, the educator in this post who I did call out on Twitter and let him know I was disappointed in him did decide to contact the student publicly, which saddens me more.

  5. shell:
    Thanks so much to you and @venspired for getting up and getting noisy about this. We need to! I am the person who advocates for this kind of digital citizenship in my building and in my community. My students will good-naturedly shake their heads, but they are learning that giving proper attribution is incredibly important. We’re also teaching them to license their own work through Creative Commons.

    I came into the conversation late, through @dougpete’s blog post. I had been aware of the original post, and my #fsl community had created a French version, and sent it out with credit to the original poster.

    Thanks for the reminder to “Keep doing better”.

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