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What is plagiarism? Plagiarism, like cheating, is an act that directly challenges the concept of intellectual honesty. It occurs when a person….

hands in someone else’s work as their own. This applies to direct presentation of someone else’s work, a paraphrase of their work, or even direct inclusion of turns of phrase from someone else’s writing. In these instances, the plagiarism is most likely intentional.
cites sources improperly. Again, this applies to direct quotations, paraphrased ideas, and even turns of phrase. In these instances, the plagiarism may well be unintentional, but it is still plagiarism nonetheless.
What is the significance of plagiarism, within the K-12 classroom context?

Through intellectual honesty, appropriately recognizing and crediting each other’s ideas, we not only substantiate each other’s work, but together provide a stronger basis for the development of future ideas.
Plagiarism, whether intentional or not, directly works against principles of intellectual honesty.
We must actively foster intellectual honesty among our students if they are to become “caring, creative, self-reliant and contributing members of a knowledge-based and prosperous society.” (Alberta Education)
Intellectual honesty is at the core of advancement in academic scholarship at post-secondary and professional levels. For this reason, plagiarism at the post-secondary level is not tolerated and is subject to severe penalties.
Educators at the K-12 level must create environments for learning within their classrooms that openly promote and support the culture of life-long intellectual honesty. If plagiarism or cheating occurs at any time, consequences can include a course of action that will not only discourage future infractions but also educate and support the student in engaging in more appropriate behavior in the future.
Although meeting intentional (or even non-intentional) plagiarism head-on with punitive measures drives home the point that intellectual dishonesty is not to be tolerated within our culture, this might not address the larger issue of how students can learn to share their ideas with pride and with confidence, with the understanding that mutual knowledge construction is a good thing.
To promote intellectual honesty in K-12 classes is to promote courses of action consistent with the larger ethical values that drive our evolving society.
If you are a teacher or student concerned about plagiarism, this section of 2Learn.ca can provide you with some teacher-tested strategies and other practical resources

to explore and honor the reality of mutual knowledge construction
to minimize the chances of plagiarism tempting your students
to deal with students whose work you suspect of being plagiarized
to support students in the responsible use of web and other resources
to provide students with note-taking and paraphrasing techniques
to support students in proper citation of resources

In the past, we provided our students with opportunities to learn curriculum–with whatever guidance and support we could give them to keep that learning experience authentic, on track, ethically sound, and timely. We might not have taught concepts such as intellectual honesty openly, but we still modeled it.
When students conducted library research, we provided them with worksheets to help them maintain a list of resources and guides to help them format footnotes and a bibliography.

Plagiarism wasn’t such a huge issue for teachers because we were able to create learning situations that weren’t conducive to plagiarism. We have…

shaped the learning environments to promote student learning, providing a structure that minimized plagiarism by:
enriching the activities we engaged our students in by providing them with pre-culled resources that supported their exploration of a topic.
providing students with resources that are ethically sound–drawing from authorized learning resources, and integrating other resources, such as local newspapers, that are deemed appropriate by our community.
allowing our students opportunities to discuss and practise concepts as they familiarize themselves with new ideas and processes.
kept the work we have assigned our students “on track” by providing them with assignments closely associated with the curricular goals we meet.
dealt with suspected plagiarism. We are often familiar enough with our students’ use of diction and style to confront them when a submitted assignment appears in an unfamiliar voice–and in many cases, we’re already aware of the resources students turn to when looking for quick information to copy into an assignment. Students are aware of the consequences of plagiarism, and since the risk of exposure is significant, only a small number of students end up attempting to pass off other people’s work as their own.
Today… on the ‘Net, at home in the evenings, many students are spending time chatting with friends.

For better…
This can be extremely constructive: two or more students can work on their research at home in the evening, compiling web resources through their conversations and parallel resource investigations online. They have extended their classroom interactions both with resources and with each other into their homes, with ease.

For worse…
The culture of students on the ‘Net operates at many levels…it is as easy for students to pass around inappropriate information as it is for them to collaborate constructively.

Today… on the ‘Net, students can quickly access resource materials to support them in their research.

For better…
Students can tap into a world of resources that can provide them with timely and pertinent ideas and data to support their learning (teleresearch).
Because information and contacts are freely available, it is not a difficult task for students to link up and even converse with like-minded people, whose ideas they can use to validate and challenge their own thinking (telementoring).
Sifting through web resources, evaluating them for authenticity, quality, and usefulness before integrating ideas into their own work, challenges students to hone effective critical thinking skills within a real-world context.
Practise taking notes from web resources and citing resources correctly can better prepare students to tap into this new world of resources without falling prey to the temptation to copy them.

For worse…
Students can very quickly access inappropriate resources that they might not realize lack the quality and credibility of approved resources at school.
Students can very quickly access resources that they might choose to pass off as their own work. Simple searching on keywords in essay topics can provide students with other people’s work that they can easily copy/paste into their word processor, making some minor edits before submitting it to their teacher. It can become tempting for some students to plagiarize.

Today… on the ‘Net, there are even specific homework help and other resource hubs that provide students with onramps to resources.

For better…
2Learn.ca’s ABC @2Learn.ca, Kids Love 2Learn.ca and 2Learn.ca for Teens provide such onramps for students. Unlike other homework help sites, these sites provide quick onramps to the daily growing teacher-created curricular-focused resources at www.2Learn.ca.
2Learn.ca also provides practical resources and online tools to support students at various stages of the research process.

For worse…
Some resource sites are designed specifically to expedite student access to term papers and other resource materials that they can pass off as their own. Some of these sites provide materials for a fee; others are “free”.

The ‘Net itself provides ways of tracing information quickly and thoroughly.

For better…
Sophisticated search engines are adept at returning reliable results when you search on a specific phrase found in a composition, entering the phrase “in quotation marks”.
2Learn.ca’s Plagiarism Sleuth search tool provides a quick onramp to tested quality search-string searching on the web.

For worse…
Some sites are designed to support educators in identifying plagiarized material. For example, students can be called upon to submit work to a site that checks their work for plagiarized material before students submit their work for grading. The site then retains the student’s work in its database, so later submitted material can be checked against the growing collection of work. To what extent does this process protect the privacy and respect the owner of the original content?