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Is Their Work Really Their Work?

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Its sad but true -- as our students become more technologically savvy, so does their ability to use technology to their advantage advance, and as we work to sharpen our student critical thinking skills, we also prepare them with the skills needed to find loopholes in our course assessment schemes and to win in the "cat and mouse game of [plagiarism] detection" (Thompson, 2006).

Technology is such a paradox.

The amazing tool that guides students to primary and secondary resources, video footage, and information-rich hyperlinked documents, also leads students to academic work and knowledge bits that can quite easily be passed off as their own. Often touted as a tool that extends learning, technology also restricts learning as students become proficient in the art of cyber-plagiarism but mislay the academic rigor that results from serious study, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

The same tool that helps students violate copyright code also helps teachers identify infringements to those copyright laws.

More than ever before, todays teachers need to become the gatekeepers of authentic student academic performance. Its their job to make sure that the student work theyre assessing is indeed the students work. Anything less turns education into a charade where students pretend they know something and we give them credit for their pretense. In Busting the New Breed of Plagiarist, author Michael Bugeja (2000) suggests that keeping plagiarism at bay in the schoolhouse is not for the faint of heart, that it is "all about gambling -- a student betting that you lack the fortitude to come up with the evidence to back your suspicions. . . ."

Identifying plagiarism can be as easy as Googling a suspect phrase from a students piece of writing. Including the phrase within quotations marks will help the search engine locate online documents that contain those exact words and in that order. To help you maintain authenticity in your students work, check out the resources below.

Who Is Brenda?

Brenda Dyck is a sessional instructor at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton, Alberta (Canada). In addition to teaching preservice teachers, Brenda is the moderator of MiddleTalk, a listserve sponsored by the National Middle School Association (NMSA). Her "HotLinks" column is a regular feature in NMSA's magazine, Middle Ground. Brenda also is a teacher-editor for MidLink magazine.

Author Name: Brenda Dyck
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02/27/2007
Updated 06/05/2009