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A Sign of the Times

December 1, 2008

Recently our High School PTO purchased a subscription to www.turnitin.com for our High School Staff.  This website checks papers for plagiarism.  According to the website, a scanned student paper is checked against over 12 billion web pages, 10,000 newspapers, magazines & scholarly journals and thousands of books.  The site can also generate a side-by-side report of a student paper and possible plagiarized materials.

With access to endless sources of information and the ability to cut and paste text – the plagiarism issue is very real for K-12 schools and also higher education.  Turnitin.com is used by many schools in the area and has been the “industry leader” for the past few years.

One of the issues that our High School Media Specialist, Ms. Ann O’Harris, noted recently is that, “It’s important to point out that the biggest deterrent to plagiarism is assigning papers and projects that require students to seek answers to a question, not just to seek information.  When we ask students to develop a question/argument and then support it rather than “scoop and shovel” information, our results will be more original and thoughtful.”

I agree with Ms. O’Harris.  We need to think about what and how we are asking students to produce information that assesses their understanding.  Turnitin.com is just another tool to help us verify that our students are gathering their own thoughts – not others.

The High School Staff and I would like to thank the PTO for supporting the purchase.

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