Monday, June 19, 2006

Tech: Plagiarism and the net: new paradigms needed

News that one in five U.S. teenagers plagiarises from the internet? The nearest thing to a surprise is that the figure is so low.

This represents a very clear paradigm shift that the real world hasn't properly caught up with. The information is there on the internet, and learning can no longer involve simply regurgitating it. There are sites that have banks of model essays to download and crib; there are sites that charge a little more to write your essay to order.

But the easiest sin is to copy and paste something found on a web page. It happens, it will happen, it's inevitable.

Teaching needs to take this into account. Possibilities:
1) Show me that you can access the knowledge by reproducing it, with the links referenced;
2) Demonstrate in some other fashion that you are on top of the course work.

It's not enough to reproduce knowledge - you're just being marked on your ability to access it. Students should be able to prove - somehow - that they can make use of this knowledge: for example, by synthesising new knowledge or information, or demonstrating how it can be applied.

We are beyond the era where knowledge is a virtue in itself. Say you have perfect access to human knowledge. Now learn something.

That's the paradigm shift.

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