Ian Blyth – It's Just a Thought

My thoughts and opinions

Plagiarism

Posted by Ian Blyth on 18 January 2008

The BBC is reporting on plagiarism in schools.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7194772.stm

Plagiarism is deemed to be a bad thing bad the only way society can improve is by building on the knowledge of others. In the days before computers reading books was the only way to get the information and there was a limited number of books one could access compared to the information now available on the Internet. Doing a hand written piece of work or exam was a way to test that pupils could get the information and regurgitate it. Whether that is learning or even useful is another debate. I remember a teacher once saying that it is not important to remember everything – only that you know where to look to find the answer. And in these days of search engines and vast amounts of information that was prophetic.

At university when we handed in papers the professors expected a list of references and if if it was too short there was trouble. There was a need to research the subject before we could sensibly write about it. They were not looking for an original piece of work but that we could find the information, digest it and produce a report based on the subject using these references.

With the Internet it is easy to find information. Whether that information is correct and definitive is another matter. As society has changed with the rise of the Internet so should teachers and their teaching methods. They should now assume that their pupils have access to the vast resources of the Internet and the learning is that they can find the right info and sensibly interpret it. The trouble is if you find a really good article that summarizes the issue it is hard then to put that into your own words. Teachers need to look at how they are examining their pupils and methods that were fine in the 20th century may no longer be valid in the 21st. Can the teachers and the government rise to the challenge or will they fall back onto easy measurable metrics, which may or may not be relevant, to assess pupils and schools rather than look at how best to educate them.

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