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.
The last session I am attending is “Google Docs & Research: How-To?” given by Christopher Craft, Ph.D. As I am using Google Drive with my students for an upcoming research project, I’m excited to learn more about the tools available here.
When students are doing research, they sometimes struggle with citing their sources or moving beyond a quick search with Google.com. The Google Docs Research Pane helps to facilitate searching for and citing sources. By going to Tools –> Research, the Research Pane pops up on the right hand side! You can search Google, images, scholar, quotes, and dictionary! By dragging and dropping certain content (e.g. images), not only will the material appear, but a footnote (in MLA, Chicago, or APA format).
A great element in using the Google Image search is that, when teaching students about copyright and usage rights, you can limit the Google Image search to “free to use or share.” This is key for work that is going to be published online. I highlight the need to address licensing in student projects in my article: “How to Find License Free Content for School Projects.”
Remember that this tool is not perfect. Students may need to fix formatting or bibliography. For example, if you do not want students using footnotes, they will have to revise the document to remove the footnotes and use in text citation. For my students, they would need to revise image citations for full content, such as for a work of art.
Another great tool for sophisticated research is Google Scholar. It is both a stand alone feature as well as a search option on the pane. You can look up academic content and, so long as you have access rights (e.g. via Jstor) you can read and include the citation properly. If you have not yet played with Google Scholar, it’s worth a look. Here’s a good introductory video (it’s 40 minutes so grab a snack!).
You can also search and input quotes! Not only can you find relevant quotes, but then it will put it in the document and then cite it. Again, it will cite as a website, so if you would like your students to format differently, then be sure to have students revise and edit!
These features also work on a shared format as well. This means that if you have a group of students working on a research project, you can see who added what and when. So is one student doing all the work and the others slacking off? Is Joseph doing research on Jstor but Stephanie is spending all of her time on Wikipedia? I like that this not only lets me see the amount of material students are contributing, but the quality of that research.
Another key feature is that by looking at the revision history, you can look for plagiarism. Using revision history, see if students are adding in chunks of texts or individual words. Using your own judgment, you can then select a section of text and do a quick search. If students create a bunch of citations at one time, then you may want to pull that student aside and ask them how they incorporated their research (Did they carefully revise and add footnotes as they went?) to see if that meshes with how the citation appears in the document. This is also a great tool when you consider the “document translation” feature. If all content was added at once, the student didn’t translate, they used the tool to do it for them.
There are a few draw backs to using the research pane. For example, there is not a way to seamlessly integrate outside research. If students are using books in your library in addition to web resources, they cannot easily include that in the research pane. Google Books is not currently integrated in the research pane either. They will have to manually input content and material.
Plagiarism is the bane of educators, but here are some great tools to help you not only catch plagiarism, but to address it before it happens!
We all want students to have integrity and submit class work with honesty. Yet, plagiarism exists. I found a site with some great resources for you! Plagiarismadvice.org released a set of 6 on-demand webinars.
- A Quick Guide to Referencing
- Identifying Plagiarism
- Case Processing
- Reducing Plagiarism through Assessment Design
- Using Electronic Sources
- Why Do Students Plagiarize?
The resources tab will bring you to downloads of useful articles including Fighting Dishonesty with Turnitin.
Other web sites that you may enjoy regarding plagiarism:
Plagiarism.org – learn more about plagiarism and how to cite sources, or check for plagiarism
The Plagiarism Checker – copy and paste text into the box to check
Plagiarismchecker.com – check for plagiarism plus handouts
Turnitin.com, the most popular anti-plagiarism tool for schools, offers free and low cost professional development for combatting plagiarism. While some of the courses focus on the software specifically, a number of the courses are great general education on current trends in plagiarism and methodologies (not just using Turnitin) to combat plagiarism, educate students about sourcing, and more. The professional development is offered in a variety of formats, live webinars and on demand recordings. Some courses also provide CEUs. Some examples of course offerings are:
Plagiarism Spectrum—Insights into the 10 Types of Unoriginal Work
Examines a recent report published by Turnitin intended to move plagiarism beyond the black-and-white definition of “literary theft” to one that captures the nuances of how plagiarism can take shape in student writing. Topics include how to interpret results from OriginalityCheck. Watch Now
Originality, Plagiarism, and the Web
Examines recent findings about unoriginal content from a Turnitin study. Topics address students’ research habits, issues with source integration and intentional versus unintentional plagiarism. Watch Now
To see a full list of professional development opportunities, click here.