Thursday, June 10, 2010

The perils the plagiarist

As sure as the sun rises, kids are going to get caught by deadlines, and some of them are going plagiarize. By way of Stephen Abram's excellent blog Stephen's Lighthouse, comes a funny and fabulous anti-plagiarism video from Germany. Some sketchy sexuality kicks it out of the high school classroom and firmly into the college realm, but boy, does it get the point across with humor and relevant references to popular culture.

Helping students avoid plagiarism has to be part of our mission as librarians and information specialists. In addition to an academic honesty contract every student signs, our school also has a TurnItIn account which is a very efficient filter that puts kids on notice that their work is being checked. When I collaborate with teachers in planning research and multi-media activities I advocate (strongly) for the use of NoodleTools. This (surprisingly affordable) platform allows teachers to set deadlines for citations, notecards and outlines so students can't so easily miss deadlines and fall behind. I can check student sources and make recommendations. Interacting directly with students during their research process allows me to intervene and support students when necessary, and also support the teacher with expertise that may not be part of their content area or skill set.

In a recent project it was apparent that, despite admonitions that Wikipedia would not be allowed as a source it was being heavily cited. I discussed it with the teacher and worked with the class on how to check Wikipedia articles for recent changes and the history tabs to evaluate discussions around the content. We also talked about "mining" articles for scholarly sources that are appropriate for academic work. The citation process became a robust platform for teaching source evaluation, and students were engaging more critically with content. Their notes became more meaningful with sources they had spent time evaluating. And they were meeting deadlines. It was also really nice to be using Wikipedia constructively. Like Google, it needs to be explicitly taught and added to student's information toolbox.

Anything we can do to give our students and teachers the tools to avoid plagiarism is worth it - and that may include producing an in-house adaptation (sans sketchy sex) of this wonderful video. With proper credit, of course ;)

YouTube - Et Plagieringseventyr
Photo credit: R. Cicchetti

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