Plagiarism Education Week is April 21-25. Turnitin.com is hosting a series of free webcasts to highlight methods to combat plagiarism from pre-emptive education, structuring assignments, and addressing the issue after the fact. Topics include:
- Understanding Plagiarism with the Help of Dr. Seuss
- Tweets from the French Revolution?: Using What Students Know to Promote Original Work and Critical Thinking
- “I Plagiarized My Child’s Birth”: From Extreme Plagiarism to Contextualized Understanding
- How to Keep Your Job, Not Lose Your Reputation, Avoid Getting Sued, and Not Kill People
- Plagiarism Education Week: IRAC, Therefore I Write
- Survival of the Fittest: Adapting Methodologies for Successful Plagiarism Discussions
To learn more about Plagiarism Education, enroll, or participate, visit their blog post here.
This has been reblogged from my post at PLP Voices.
by Jennifer Carey
It’s an open secret in the education community. As we go about integrating technology into our schools, we are increasing the risk and potential for plagiarism in our tradition-minded classrooms.
In fact, a recent PEW research study found that while educators find technology beneficial in teaching writing skills, they feel it has also led to a direct increase in rates of plagiarism and infringement of intellectual property rights. In my recent article about using Google Drive as a system for students to write and submit work, many of the readers who commented expressed their concern that students would use such a tool to “peek” at their peers’ work and perhaps use it for “inspiration.”
These concerns lead us to an interesting discussion about collaboration and plagiarism in the classroom. It is true that tools such as blogging, social media, Google Drive, and DropBox(among others) allow for faster and easier communication and collaboration – skill sets that many educators and business leaders have identified as valuable and important today. But when does collaboration cross the line into plagiarism, out in the digital frontier of education?
In the balance, does plagiarism make these tools more problematic than they are useful?
An interesting dilemma
We want students to do “group work,” to collaborate, and to discuss. However, we have very specific realms in which we want this to happen: the group assignment, the in-class discussion, studying for exams, etc. At the same time, many of us want to put up barriers and halt any collaboration at other times (during assessments, for example). When collaboration takes place during assessment, we deem it plagiarism or cheating, and technology is often identified as the instrument that tempts students into such behavior.
This leads me to a broader and more provocative question. Should we ever stymie collaboration among our students? We live in a collaborative world. It is rare in a job, let alone life, that individuals work in complete isolation – with lack of assistance or contributions from anyone else. Perhaps as educators, it’s time to reassess how we want students to work.
Instead of fighting a losing battle (as my grandmother would put it – “You can’t nail jello to a wall!”) by trying to ban any type of interaction with students online, what if we incorporated collaboration into our lessons and our assessments?
Transforming “cheating” into collaboration?
While I certainly do not want my students copying and pasting somebody else’s content, at the same time I think that it’s engaging and fruitful for them to be able to discuss assignments and enlist assistance from their peers across the board. For example, my students are currently working on a research essay. They have individual topics that they have chosen. I’m perfectly fine with them sharing their work with their peers and looking for feedback, input, or guidance. This is not cheating, rather it is collaboration. It should be open and above board – transparent – but this is exactly how they should grow as learners.
Using tools such as Google Drive, students can more easily collaborate across distances and with conflicting schedules. Better yet for me as their teacher, I can actually view their collaborative efforts using the “revision history” function of Google Drive (Go to File → See Revision History). This allows me to see who contributed what and when. This way, I can track not only quality, but quantity. (See my post on Google Docs and research.)
We have all heard students complain that a member of the group has “contributed nothing.” Now there is a method to verify and follow up this complaint. While student A may have contributed fewer comments or changes, those contributions may have been especially meaningful and balanced. Likewise, if student B has never logged into the system, the teacher knows this well before the project is complete and can follow up and discuss with that student the necessities of participation.
But what about the test?
Outside of project work or written papers, we still have the formal quiz and test assessment. Many of us are required to do testing in our classes (in the form of mid-terms or finals). This does not mean that the anti-collaboration walls must go up.
Now, we ask students not to discuss test questions or we guard them in the fear that those questions will leak out via cellphone snapshots — or that a student might Google the answer! Perhaps it’s time to reassess how we write our exams. If you can Google the answer, how good is the question?
Do we want students to simply memorize and regurgitate information? Is this the type of learning that we value in the 21st century? Or do we want them to think, assess, reason, and verbalize (vocally or in written form) their processes and ideas? I would argue that the latter is better not only in assessment but in overall skills.
My students may produce an entirely wrong answer, but if how they got there was through logic, reasonable assumption, educated guessing (not just plain old “guessing”) – and they were effective in communicating that process – then there is evidence of learning that I can take into account. I’m not left to figure out what they DID know from a T/F or multi-choice “wrong” answer.
Perhaps instead of focusing our concerns on technology as a wonderful aid to plagiarizers, we should focus on its ability to foster creativity and collaboration, and then ask ourselves (we are the clever adults here) how we can incorporate those elements into our formalized assessments.
There will always be corner-cutters
Unfortunately, yes, there will always be those students who want to cut corners, find the easy way, and cheat to get out of having to do the hard work. (See my post on combating plagiarism.) But a significant majority of students are inherently inquisitive: they want to learn and do better by engaging and thinking, not memorizing and fact checking. It’s up to us to appeal to that inquisitiveness.
The reality is that rote memorization is largely becoming obsolete and not a reflection of the needs we have in our citizens or our workforce. Instead, we need to get busy fostering creative and developmental skills that will allow them to achieve through their skills as collaborators and creative makers and shapers of information and ideas.
This is the power of the new technologies that are populating the digital frontier of education.
This post, written by Jen Carey, originally appeared on Edudemic.
Plagiarism, defined as the “wrongful appropriation” of another’s words or ideas, is a pervasive problem in schools. Many teachers and administrators believe that the internet has caused an explosion of academic dishonesty (a recent PEW survey of College Presidents would agree). While, most teachers and administrators are familiar with tools like turnitin that can catch plagiarism after the fact, there are some ways that educators can combat plagiarism before it starts!
In the new digital frontier, we need to hold digital literacy at the forefront when teaching students how to use and incorporate material into their work. Today’s students are used to rapid answers to questions via quick searches (again, verified by PEW in “How Teens Do Research”). While this is not necessarily bad, it does mean that as educators we need to change the way we approach research projects in the classroom so that we can teach students to not only do traditional research, but also to effectively use online media and content. By incorporating these strategies, we can start to combat plagiarism before it begins.
3 Strategies for Combating Plagiarism
1. Provide students with meaningful lessons and examples of “real world” plagiarism.
Students need to understand why proper citation and documentation is necessary not only in academic research but in “real life.” When you can show them examples from the real world, they understand this concept better as they make a personal connection to it. Here are some great modern, pop culture cases (there are many others) to help frame the discussion:
- Famed Black Eyed Peas frontman Wil.i.am was recently sued for plagiarism and copyright infringmenet on a single he released this spring.
- Dan Brown, author of the Da Vinci Code, was sued for stealing the ideas of another author in writing his popular book turned blockbuster film.
- Popular CNN correspondent Fareed Zakaria was was suspended from Time and CNN following plagiarism accusations.
Not only do these examples highlight plagiarism, but they also spark interesting conversations about why people want credit for their products and ideas.
2. Make Research Assignments about the process rather than the end product.
As teachers, when we assign a research project, we often focus on the end product: the research essay, presentation, etc. However, students (especially young students) do not automatically know how to conduct meaningful research. Our modern students are used to Googling answers. They have grown accustomed to information being readily available. However, as academics, we know that research isn’t a fast process. It’s slow and deliberate. As a teacher, I need to intentionally slow my students down during this exercise. I do this by breaking down a larger project into more manageable chunks and focusing on the process. Here are some techniques that have worked for me:
- Give students small practice assignments where they must read, summarize, and properly cite material.
- Show students what proper citation should look like. Many rely on resources like EasyBib or Bibme to build a bibliography but do not understand what exactly is going into the finished product. Demonstrate to them what should be included in a citation and why. In other words, remove the “but EasyBib said this was right” excuse.
- Provide students several examples or case studies of material that they must distinguish as: properly summarized and cited, improperly cited, plagiarized, etc. Allow them to identify and explain the problems.
- During the research process, have students keep a research journal of the work they complete. Ask them to record their sources and write down any thoughts or questions that they brought up.
- Assign steps throughout the process: a detailed outline, a series of quotations with citations, a bibliography, a summary of their argument, etc.
By focusing on the process and breaking it down into smaller chunks, students will learn to slow down and be more deliberate in research, developing key critical analysis skills.
3. Require that they use online content!
Instead of banning Wikipedia, blogs, or other online content, encourage or even require that students incorporate these materials into their work. For better or worse, students will use material that they find online. Once students gain the analytical skills to assess the credibility of online sources, there is a treasure trove of information to be incorporated. Embrace the potential to teach students how to harness the internet to conduct powerful research.
- Teach students to search effectively. In his piece “Why kids can’t search,” Clive Thompson recognized that while, “High School and College Students may be ‘digital natives,’… they’re wretched at searching.” Students need to be taught how to use search engines to find legitimate sources and information.
- Teach students to evaluate online content of all media types (written, encyclopedic, podcasts, video, etc). There are many tools out there for teaching critical analysis of online content, Cal State Chico’s CRAAP test and Turnitin.com’s SEER rubric are both great places to start. You can even use some popular internet hoaxes like the Pacific Northwest tree octopus (Google it and see what you find!!)
- Don’t shy away from Wikipedia as a source. The majority of high school and college age students will reference Wikipedia in a research project. Even in academia, the attitude towards Wikipedia is changing. Treat it the same way you would a standard Encyclopedia – it’s a good starting point, but not the end of research. EdTechTeacher has a great Webinar “Wikipedia: Bane or Blessing?” that can guide you here.
- Focus on transliteracy – how should a student evaluate a Wikipedia article vs. a blog vs. a tweet? Do not hold them to one type of source.
Teaching students to do real, meaningful research not only combats plagiarism, it also makes them better students and critical thinkers. These are the 21st century skills that will serve them throughout life. It will also help to limit those conversations we have all had with a child that turns in work that is not their own. By teaching students how to effectively navigate content of all types, we are promoting academic integrity as well as necessary, real world skills.
To learn more about teaching digital literacy, EdTechTeacher is hosting a series of Summer workshops many of which will specifically address online research and education.
Today, Mind/Shift highlighted the rising problem in academia of cheating. Professionals are asking is it the current demands and high stakes associated with grades that drives cheating, or the ease of access (with the internet and hand-held devices) simply making it easier to do so (and likewise, to catch perpetrators)?
Interestingly, thy find that cheating is a problem not just with students, but teachers and administrators. The recent scandal in Atlanta highlights the pervasiveness of academic dishonesty. If teachers are doing it, one can hardly be surprised that students are following suit. Additionally, the findings demonstrate the most cheating is done not by those students who are struggling, but far more by those in honors and advanced classes.
“I was in honors classes in high school because I wanted to get into the best schools, and all of us in those classes cheated; we needed the grades to get into the best schools.” – Anonymous Student, Psychology Today
So, what is behind this new culture of cheating? Is it simply that we talk about it more openly or that it truly has become more pervasive? I’ll admit, I always struggle with the issue of cheating as it is a feat I cannot fathom – I have never cheated on a test in my entire life. The idea of cheating on a test make me anxious and sweaty. In fact, I remember a time in middle school where I accidentally saw my neighbor’s answer on a multiple choice test. I wrote a note to the teacher on the exam stating what happened (I don’t remember the outcome). I really struggle with putting myself into the mind-set where cheating is a viable option.
To read more about the study and thoughts behind this issue, see the Mind/Shift article: “What’s Behind the Culture of Cheating?“