Technology, Information and Plagiarism in the Classroom

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by Will Lion: http://flickr.com/photos/will-lion/2595497078/

Technology has led to a multitude of changes in the educational setting. A world that once seemed so large is now accessible to anyone with an internet connection. As a result, values are shifting. This shift can be extremely positive when we think about our students’ ability to grasp and internalize global issues such as pollution, poverty and war; where at one time we were isolated and the only way to learn about the events taking place across the globe was through dated history books and biased news reports, now we can learn about the world in real time, from multiple sources. Our students have unparalleled access to information, allowing the student to become the teacher and visa verse. With the world at their finger tips, students have a greater ability to reach out and make connections, in their community, across their country and even around the world. Many of our students really do think they can make a difference, because they have a voice. On the other hand, unbridled access to information, has led student’s to believe less in the value of gaining and retaining information. How many times have you heard, “Well if I want to know about it, I will Google it”? The problem is that we need a certain amount of background knowledge to make connections and use higher order thinking skills, to make information usable is much more than merely, “Googling” and regurgitating. This brings me to the topic of plagiarism.

Many students believe that plagiarism is acceptable, not because they want to steal other people’s work, but because the information is there for the taking. They do not see a reason to “make it their own”. This brings up the debate regarding ownership of information, in an age when more and more information and technology is becoming open source, some argue that no one really “owns” the information that is out there. Though I support open source technology and I truly believe in the sharing of information, if we merely take and borrow from others we are not analyzing and synthesizing, we are not engaging in critical thinking, in essence we are not using the unique skills that make us human. The only way to make information more than just disconnected pieces of data is to think about it in a new way, plagiarism limits our ability to do this. Plagiarism is both easier and harder than ever. You can find information on anything, and cutting and pasting takes seconds, but you are also much more likely to get caught because of modern technology (Bailey, 2009). So as educators what are we to do? Opening the doors to the world, introducing our students to new technologies and showing them the almost limitless amount of information available to them is not enough; we must also teach the value of the information they are accessing and the skills they need in order to process it. Thoughts?

Reference

Bailey, J. (2009, March 31). Famous Plagiarists: Could it Happen Today? Retrieved from http://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2009/03/31/famous-plagiarists-could-it-happen-today/

*I originally wrote this post on February 15, 2013 as a part of EDGR 602 – Concordia University, Portland, Oregon. 

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