Creating an Environment That Discourages Plagiarism


Teacher working with students by Intel Free Press / CC BY 2.0
July 2015

Why do students plagiarize? Most of the time it's probably due to two reasons: they don't know how to properly cite their sources or they don't know what to write.

In my English Language Arts class, my students are constantly writing. It may be blog posts, essays, or speeches. In previous years I've never had access to Turnitin to check for plagiarism, and even though this will change due to the requests of the teachers in my district, I don't plan to change my approach to teaching writing. This is because I prefer to be proactive, rather than reactive. So how do I know that my students are truly the authors of the work they call their own?

First, my students start and complete most of their writing in class. When given time to write, there is less inclination to cheat.

Second, I scaffold them throughout the writing process. If it's an essay, we brainstorm the ideas in class, and we crowdsource the evidence they need to support their opinions. I might have students post their thesis statements on Schoology's discussion platform. Then, my students agree or disagree (respectfully, of course) by either supporting or refuting the posted thesis statement with evidence from the text. This natural dialogue helps them practice their arguments before they even start to plan the essay.

Third, my students brainstorm their essay on a mindmap. As they work, I confer with each one of them and discuss where they are going with their ideas. We use Google Slides to map out their essay, and though I could simply insert comments, I prefer to talk to them face-to-face. They appreciate the personalized attention, and I always get an appreciative "thank you" at the end of our conversations. If I run out of time in class, then I will resort to written comments.

Next, students write their essays on a Google Doc, using the information from their mindmaps. As they write, I set up opportunities for students to give each other feedback. I instruct them on which specific criteria to focus on and how to give each other formative feedback. As they work on this, I also monitor their essays, jumping in as necessary to provide even more feedback.

After this process, students revise their essays based on comments they've received. When this draft is finished, I give them a self-assessment to complete. Then, they have the opportunity to revise their essay once more before turning it in. For each step of their writing process, I provide scaffolds and feedback for their writing.

After all the planning, drafting, and conferring in class, there is no need to plagiarize. From this point on, it'll take more work for students to look for someone else's work to copy.

If we equip our students with the skills they need, give them the time to write, provide them with our guidance, and cultivate the support of their peers, there is less incentive to plagiarize. However, I didn't take this approach to teaching writing because of plagiarism. I use this method because I believe in scaffolding and giving my students the tools they need to succeed. The decline of plagiarism is just a byproduct.


Are You Teaching Your Students to be Unintentional Plagiarists?

"Gasp" by Halimae / CC BY 3.0

Sometimes plagiarism is intentional. Sometimes it's not. But neither are acceptable. 

During the year, my students spend a good deal of time learning to cite evidence and identifying their sources when writing essays or research-based speeches. However, do students consider what is plagiarism and what is not when creating other types of content? Do they understand that when they reuse someone else's creative work (images, videos, etc.) without permission that they may be plagiarizing someone else's work and violating copyright laws? Do teachers know this?

How about when students blog, and they provide facts they read from somewhere? Guilty! My students often recount statistics about their favorite athletes when blogging about them, and they often neglect to identify their source of information.

This is where my students forget that they are, indeed, plagiarizing because they fail to give credit where credit is due. Perhaps this is because they don't associate blogging with academic writing (though they are required to follow the rules of grammar and mechanics). 

I think some teachers are guilty of the same mistake. When we are looking to spice up our lessons, sometimes we search for ideas on the Internet. Sometimes we come across a great idea and a lesson is born. But how many are actually acknowledging that their lessons originated from someone else's hard work? Sure, ideas are not copyright protected, and we're not breaking any laws. However, plagiarism is the act of appropriating another person's idea without credit attribution. This may not fall under the jurisdiction of the law, but it does under the court of ethics.

In my "9 C's of Digital Literacy," I pointed out that we should be teaching about character when teaching digital literacy. I believe that we should be encouraging our students to be advocates of ethical practices even if not legally required.

So now I make it a point to include either of the following sentences on my assignments if the situation applies: "This lesson was inspired by _____" or "This lesson idea originated from ______" with a link to this person's work.

If we want to teach our students to do the right thing, shouldn't we be modeling these behaviors as well? It takes so little effort to acknowledge another person for his or her hard work. Isn't it time we started? Sometimes the best lessons are the ones we don't explicitly teach, and many times those are the ones that leave the biggest impact on our students.



5 Things We Have to Stop Pretending

"Heiwa Elementary School" by ajari / CC BY 2.0
What should we stop pretending is good in education?

I was first asked this question by +Nancy Minicozzi when she wrote her "5 Things We Have to Stop Pretending." In her blog post, she challenged me and four other educators to come up with our own five things to change in education. Then, after publishing our post, we must pass the challenge to five other educators.

So how can we #MakeSchoolDifferent? Here are five beliefs I think we should change:
  1. Our digital natives are digitally proficient.
  2. Multiple choice tests and quizzes are effective assessment tools.
  3. A quiet audience is a captivated audience.
  4. We should teach our content areas in isolation and not recognize the importance of cross-curricular connections.
  5. To create an academically rigorous class, teachers need to assign more work, more tests, and more homework.
This next part isn't necessary or a part of the challenge, but I wanted to provide responses to the above five points.
  1. Our digital natives are very adept at using technology for social networking and gaming, but we need to give them opportunities to expand on their skills by letting them practice what I perceive to be the "9 C's of Digital Literacy."
  2. In the real world, we don't take multiple choice tests to demonstrate our skills. We are asked to create products and provide services, neither of which has any resemblance to the summative assessments most students are asked to complete in schools.
  3. Just because students look like they are listening during a lecture, it doesn't mean they are actually learning. Instead, give students the opportunity to practice, explore, and showcase their understanding of a lesson with collaborative work, hands-on learning, and eportfolios. Talk less and have students do more. 
  4. The world is interconnected in so many ways. It's time we showed students the connections.
  5. Learning doesn't have to be hard for it to be valid. Great teachers scaffold their students so that students can successfully meet their learning goals. Excellent educators make difficult-to-learn concepts easy to understand.
Now I pass the challenge to five of my good friends: +Liz Castillo+JR Ginex-Orinion+Jeanne Reed+Lisa Nowakowski, and +Jo-Ann Fox. I look forward to hearing from them and others who come across our blogs. Please use the hashtag #MakeSchoolDifferent to continue the conversation.

Don't Plagiarize! Just Cite It!

Image by Alice Chen / CC0 1.0
It's so easy to avoid plagiarism, and yet many students, and even adults, don't realize this. By definition, plagiarism means to take information (words, concepts, creations, etc.) from another person and present it as your own.  You can easily avoid plagiarism by simply citing the source of the information. However, reusing someone else's creative work is a different topic altogether, and if you are unclear on what this means, then you should read this blog post "Do You Really Have the Right to Reuse That?" to learn more about copyright and fair use.

Below is a great video created by EasyBib that explains how to cite work so that your students don't become plagiarists. Please share this with them so that they can be role models for others.


In-text Citations from EasyBib on Vimeo / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Also check out this great resource plagiarism.org to learn more about this topic.

Do You Really Have the Right to Use That?

"Copyright Symbol" by Mike Seyfang / CC BY 2.0
April 2015

Most students, and even educators, don’t think twice about copying and redistributing Web content, not realizing that they may be in violation of copyright laws. As of March 1, 1989 all creations (text, images, videos, etc.), automatically receive this protection even if the creator never formally files for copyright status.

In this post, I’ve put together a quick guide to help educators better understand this concept and to help them teach students the need to respect the work of others.

Quick Guide to Copyright, Fair Use & Public Domain

Copyright
  • Only expressions of ideas are copyright protected. (However, appropriating someone else's idea is plagiarism.)
  • As of March 1, 1989, all work is copyright protected the moment it is created.
  • Copyright registration is not required to copyright a creator’s work. (It is, however, helpful in ligation cases to establish proof of copyright.)


What fair use usually allows (however, there are exceptions)
  • Criticism and comments
  • News reporting
  • Research and scholarship
  • Nonprofit educational uses
  • Parody
  • Non-commercial uses

Does it qualify under Fair Use?
It depends on how you use the work. Each case is unique, and there is no guarantee that the courts will rule in your favor. These are the questions usually considered in a court of law when determining fair use.
  • Is this an entirely new creation?
  • What is the purpose of using this work?
  • Will you be competing with the creator of the original work?
  • How much of the original work are you using? (You can only reproduce a small portion of the work.)
  • What quality and essence of the original work are you using? (There is no magic percentage that protects you under Fair Use. If it is the “heart and soul” of the work, even reproducing a minute amount of the work could be considered a violation of copyright laws.)

How to Determine If a Work Is in the Public Domain (United States Only)
The table below is created from information published by Stanford University Libraries’ “Welcome to the Public Domain.”
Publication
In the Public Domain
Work published before 1923
Yes
Work published between 1923 and 1963
Work has copyright status for the first 28 year, but has to be renewed to retain copyright status
Work published between 1993 and February 28, 1989
If the work has no copyright notice and “the law has not made an exception for its omission, then the work is the public domain.”
Work created by the government
Yes


Sources



This guide cannot be substituted for legal advice and should not be construed as such. The information contained herein is based on the works cited above.