How to Curb Plagiarism in Your Classroom

If our goal is to teach, our students is to learn, and our primary method of assessing that is through assignments and tests; then the highest concern is that of making sure each student has done their own work.

Before we discuss plagiarism, we should mention the term Digital Native. Digital Native is the name many have given the generation of students who have grown up their entire lives with Mobile Phones,Google, YouTube, Torrent Sharing, etc. Usually, the term is pejorative, saying that these students have no social skills, ability to think deeply, or respect for copyright.

All of these are true/false in varying degrees just as much as it would be for any other person on Earth. Stereotypes get us nowhere.

Plagiarism is considered a growing problem within schools because of the pervasiveness of the Internet. Sharing information and  files is so easy that students can find the definition of a word faster than they can say it.

I believe that plagiarism can be curbed if not eliminated from the classroom in a few ways. 
  • Plagiarism Checkers - There are free and paid versions of these. They allow you to cut and paste or upload a file to check it against the Internet to see if anyone has already used it. The problem with this is if someone from your own class wants to share with another student the online checker will fail. Basically, it will prevent them from plagiarizing sources but not other students. Additionally, this will only work for written work and not math for example. However, it does have it's place. Google will help you find the one that is right for you.
  •  Blooms Taxonomy - In a previous post, I suggested you reflect upon your curriculum and where it is on the Bloom's Taxonomy pyramid. If you are asking your students to recall a definition or equation then you are creating an environment where they simply need to ask a friend or Google for the answer. While you might think that Googling answers is a mentality that needs to be squashed. My challenge remains for you to assess the students through application and creation. It is pretty difficult to copy when each is expected to provide their own thoughts. 
    • For those in math, I recommend ALEKS and Accelerated Math. Personally I like ALEKS more because it explains and uses less paper. They both will create differentiated work for students to work at their own pace as well as have different copies of the assignment. If the thought of that creates fear from a grading perspective, fear not for both of these programs will grade them for you.
  • Copyright Education - Even veteran teachers are unclear about what constitutes fair use. Teaching students how to cite and when and what is appropriate for each assignment will go a long way. I would imagine this article would be true of any age, but it drives home the importance of clarifying the fine line. I also recommend this resource as it clarifies the law.
I always tell my students that, "No one cheats their way through Medical School". You can rest easy, that if they are cheating now, it will eventually catch up with them. Additionally I will quote Seymour Papert who pioneered Technology in the Classroom decades ago saying, "In the future, people will be hired not for what they  know, but what they are able to find."

Finally, I leave you with this funny and uplifting TED talk.