Teaching Online? What About Plagiarism?
When you are teaching online, it can be challenging to know exactly what your students are capable of both in terms of academic performance and personal habits and tendencies. Without the face to face knowledge of a child, a teacher does not have the advantage of observing daily habits and activities, learning about the child’s home situation and generally getting to know the child well. This can prove to be a definite disadvantage when attempting to identify cheating behavior and plagiarism. In this article, we will discuss a few ways you can identify and deal with plagiarism when teaching children from kindergarten age to grade twelve online. Read on to learn more.
Do Kindergarten Children Plagiarize?
With very young children, plagiarism is not likely to be a problem unless the parents become excessively involved in the child’s work. Lessons for small children online are likely to be more game oriented, and little ones are far more likely to want to participate and show you what they can do.
Naturally, if you assign a simple task, such as labeling pictures with the correct names and the child comes back with a paragraph long description of each picture, you probably have a problem. The child’s parent may be doing the child’s work for him or her. This may not be plagiarism, but it is an issue that needs to be addressed. Communicate with the parents and make it clear that the child needs to do his or her own work.
Be aware, that sometimes children do go above and beyond in expectations. A gifted child may very well add onto lessons in order to make them more interesting and show what he or she can do. Be sure to double check and ascertain whether or not this is the case. Correcting a child for being gifted can have lifelong, debilitating effects.
Start Watching For Inadvertent Plagiarism Around Third Grade Level
By third grade, good readers may be reading far above grade level independently. Because of this, they may be finding excellent answers to questions. They may find treatments of topics that they agree with, admire and want to assimilate and share. This may lead to plagiarism. At this age, this is usually a case of imitation being a sincere form of flattery.
Fortunately, when teaching online you have the power of the Internet at your disposal. If a child turns in an essay that is far too perfect, uses vocabulary that you know the child does not commonly use and simply does not seem to be written by the child in question, copy and paste a couple of sentences, put them in quotation marks and do a Google search. If the material is plagiarized, it will probably come up at the top of your search.
If this happens, explain plagiarism to the child and alert his or her parents. Discuss how to do good research and how to quote and reference sources. Do not automatically assume the child “stole” the information. At this age, it is more likely to be a matter of simply not knowing.
Start Watching For Purposeful Plagiarism Around Fifth Grade Level
By the time they reach fifth grade, many children begin to believe that they can outsmart their elders. By sixth grade, this point of view is usually firmly established. This is when you really need to be on your toes about plagiarism because kids who will engage in it know what it is and know how to cover it by changing words in text and moving information around.
You can always run a few sentences through Google as described above to look for plagiarism. If this doesn’t turn up any duplicate documents, examine the content for meaning. Look for information that seems to be beyond the ken of the child in question. Information that seems to be unimportant to the overall focus of the document or information that is probably not important to the child is also a giveaway for plagiarism.
Isolate this information and ask the child to explain the concepts behind it to you orally. If the child is at a loss, this is a clear indication that the information was simply copied and pasted and not conceptualized and written about by the child. If your lesson plan allows for it, you should have the child research and write about these aspects of the information in depth, in his or her own words.
As with a third grader, you should inform the parents and discuss the concept of plagiarism with both the parents and the child. Stress the importance of doing one’s own work, and make certain the child knows how to give proper attribution to sources.
Teaching Online Is A New Frontier
In traditional classroom instruction, the teacher has the benefit of knowing the students personally. Online, your time is limited and the information you are able to gather about your students is sparse. For this reason, your ability to moderate behavior is very limited. Instead, always approach problems such as plagiarism from a perspective of simply imparting more knowledge to enable the student to perform the action correction. Ultimately, it is up to the student and his or her parents to use online education to its greatest advantage.