Has School Plagiarism Gotten a Whole Lot Easier?

Carrie Schmelkin : Gossip from the Hallways
Carrie Schmelkin
Web Editor, TMC

Has School Plagiarism Gotten a Whole Lot Easier?

Thumbnail image for school cheating.jpgLet me paint you a picture: Fifteen years ago, if high school freshmen were looking for a little “extra help” on their English papers about deconstructing social hierarchy in “The Great Gatsby,” in order to get that help (and by help, I mean cheat), they would have to dig up their older sister’s paper that she wrote four years earlier on the same topic and copy the passages they liked… by hand.

A process that was tiring, though it got the job done (if, of course, you had a different teacher than your sister).

But, fast forward 15 years later and cheating has gotten a whole lot easier and a whole lot faster.

I recently chatted with my fellow TMC co-worker Rich Steeves, who was a middle school teacher for nine years before venturing to TMC, about school plagiarism and how technology in the classroom has facilitated this frowned upon behavior.

“The Internet gives students ease of access to all sorts of information and coupled with the joys of COPY and PASTE, it makes plagiarism so much easier,” Steeves told me. “Though technology is a huge boon in education, it can have its dark side as well, and cheating is just one example of that.”

So how do 21st century students cheat?

Some of the main tools that practically beg students to cheat are SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, two educational technology resources that delineate for students pertinent themes and motifs found in some of the greatest novels. While wonderful teaching supplements, they are also a cheater’s best friends.

Read below:

“I remember one year, reading the summer reading assignment of one seventh grader and thinking that the sentence structure and vocabulary were a lot more sophisticated than what I expected,” Steeves said. “So I took a few lines from the piece, plugged them verbatim into my browser and, voila, the student had copied and pasted the entire piece from sparknotes.com.  Plagiarism is a huge issue with teachers in the Internet era where students can obtain entire papers online.”

And if SparkNotes is not your cup of tea, perhaps your trusty smartphone will do. Despite the steadfast rule of “No phones in the classroom,” those kids that manage to sneak their Android in the classroom can use it to not only take pictures of the test to send to friends who have the same class later, but they can also send texts to others about a difficult question on a quiz. A “license to cheat,” as Steeves calls it.

So what do we do? Forbid kids to use SparkNotes? Hope that Generation Y will get tired of cell phones in school? Of course not.

But as teachers you all can be a little bit more savvy, giving the kid who deserves a good grade that “A” but never being afraid to question a seemingly perfect paper either (or the kid who goes from 49s to 100s on pop quizzes).

And for all you students out there just remember – your teachers are much smarter than you think.

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