Plagiarism – (noun) – an act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author’s work as one’s own, as by not crediting the original author.
I have been reflecting on the research process for my middle school students since the start of the school year and how it has evolved since doing my undergraduate degree almost twenty years ago. After Christmas break, my students will be conducting their own research projects and I always fear that I will have some students plagiarize the research they will be doing. A fear I am sure other educators have as well. Yes, it’s true, plagiarism is usually one of the very first items that are addressed in the research process. Students please document your resources!
It seems no matter what steps we take educators are always going to have a few students who just don’t want to take on the responsibility of completing the research process and will spend more time to go out and grab someone else’s work to claim as their own. Furthermore, students still have difficulty understanding that Google is not the source where they go their information. I think I have said this at least a dozen times this year.
Since the beginning of the year, when I slowly introduce my students to researching; I start by writing on the whiteboard one simple statement:
RESEARCH = READING
I don’t want my students having any misconceptions about the research process. I want them to know up front that researching can be difficult and time consuming. It takes perseverance and dedication to the topic or subject they are researching. To tell my students researching is easy would be misleading and push them more in the direction of “copy and paste”.
Which leads me to the question, are students being pushed more and more to plagiarize their work? I am not necessarily referring to teachers. Students have millions, perhaps billions of pages of internet resources to go through. You add checking the validity of the information and students feel overwhelmed. Today’s students want information given to them in quick and short bursts because that is how they receive most of their information today. Asking students to sit down and read informational text for hours is becoming more and more challenging. With the way students are receiving information today, a research article that is five pages could be difficult for them to process and reflect upon for their research. Students aren’t just suppose to read, they are supposed to think about what is being said. Multiply it by six to twelve resources that are needed and I feel students are going to start thinking about what they can do to take the easy way out.
By no means am I condoning plagiarism or saying that teachers are to blame. I am simply wondering if students are pushed or feel more compelled to take the chance of using someone else’s ideas because they are overwhelmed with the research process that worked twenty-five years ago. I think it is definitely worthy of thinking about more and perhaps reading professional text such as Research Writing Rewired: Lessons that Ground Students’ Digital Writing by my colleagues Dawn Reed and Troy Hicks. Also, Wacky We-Search Reports: Face the Facts with Fun by Barry Lane is a great professional read.
I am open to any comments on this topic. I do feel it is worthy of a professional conversation. Happy Holidays!
Yesterday two phenomenal events occurred. First, as many know, the book I co-authored with Troy Hicks with a foreword written by Liz Kolb was released yesterday. The out-pouring of support has been great. It feels awesome to finally have it out there where the world will be able to read our work.
Just when I thought I couldn’t have a better day yesterday, I had the most amazing conversation with my 8th graders about formal -vs- informal writing and texting. Our conversation started with the grammar template that is mentioned in our book. Below is a screenshot of that template with a link.
The students had a solid grasp on compound sentences as we reviewed them. When we talked about the texting portion of the template the conversation heated up! The class decided texting would be an informal space due to the simple fact that an abundance of their text messages are to their friends. As we broke down our mentor sentence from The Giver, students worked with partners to determine what the sentence would look like as a text message to a friend. That is when the nerdy teacher in me became fascinated. The students talked specifically about “Digital Talk” such as “Lol” -vs- “LeL” and “okay” -vs- “ok” or just “k”. I was super excited to hear them debate their language through texting.
I learned that students actually feel they know the tone of a text message that is being sent to them. For example, if someone just sends the letter “k” for “okay”, students automatically assume the person who sent them the text is upset with them. Now, I have had several conversations with students, teachers, parents, and other adults about how tone is hard to determine through writing a text message unless an emoji is attached or there are certain colorful words that are added. However, my students wholeheartedly believe that by not making the effort to type even one more letter for “Ok”, the person on the other end of the message is not happy.
As my 8th graders continued to talk and discuss their language, my smile became bigger as one of my students raised their hand and stated, “There are rules for how we text message back and forth with each other. It’s like we have our own language.” At this point I wanted shout out and say YES!
I contained my excitement and asked, “Does everyone know the rules?” It was agreed by most, if not all, that not everyone knows the rules that must be followed for texting. I found this rather interesting, so I probed deeper by asking, “Are all of the rules already established or are there more made up as time goes on?” I received many responses, but the ultimate conclusion I came to was there are new rules added as certain situations render new ones to be created.
Students continued to express their thoughts and opinions as we plunged forward with creating an effective text message for our mentor sentence but the fact remains ladies and gentleman; students have their own language and we can not take this away from them. Instead, we need to dive deeper into their world and figure out how our students function in all of their writing spaces. It was a magical day to hear my 8th graders talk about the way they write with tone, audience, language, etc. I am still processing our conversation and I am positive there is more to learn. It is such an interesting topic to keep thinking about. More soon!
The last few days I have been thinking about technology and how it is truly playing a major role in the classroom. I watched a segment on 60 minutes on Sunday about the Kahn Academy and I read an article yesterday I believe in the Washington Post about teaching kids to be digital citizens. First, I want to make it clear I am not going to ramble on about Kahn Academy. I know for a fact it upsets a lot of people and the idea of flipping the classroom is still in its infant stages or at least I feel that it is. It seems to me there are still some things wrong with the idea and I am not going to get into that here. The only comment I want to make about Kahn Academy is it doesn’t do any modeling of reading and writing in the online sessions. Enough said there.
The other day I sat down and had lunch with my mentor and colleague. I had to give a lot of thought about our conversation prior to our lunch. Despite the fact we want our students to use technology, and there definitely is a place for technology in our student’s lives, we need to remember we are the adults and the teacher. It is true, there are too many adults, including educators that are whipping out their phones and checking them in class, professional development, and while they are in line at the grocery store. I am not saying I am innocent of these accusations from time to time, but what is frustrating is watching professionals who scold students every day about being on their cell phone or keeping their cell phone put away, and then seeing these same adults pull out their cell phone during a professional development session and vigorously text, surf the Internet, or play games. We can’t hold our students to expectations that we ourselves are not willing to follow. It seems digital natives have not been given proper instructions on how to handle the devices they come into contact with each and every day. Essentially, they need digital modeling by teachers, parents, and other important adults in their lives.
In my opinion, if we as educators are crying to use more technology in our classroom, we need to model for our students when it is appropriate. Just today I heard on the news that 62% of students ages 6-15 are more likely to find the answer to a question on Google rather than ask their parents. Upon asking my students about what was more accessible, the Internet or their parents, it is evident students rely more and more on the internet. As troubling as this might seem, we still have a responsibility to teach today’s youth how to be responsible digital citizens. After all, technology and digital tools are meant to enhance our student’s learning, they are not meant to be a toy plopped in front of them for entertainment purposes.