We had an interesting case of plagiarism come up recently. A teacher gave students a writing assignment based on what they had learned from a movie they had watched in class. After collecting the papers, the teacher noticed that one of them had some interesting phrases that did not sound like they would naturally come from the student who turned in the paper. So, like many of us do, the teacher typed a couple of sentences into Google and found the web page that contained much of the writing assignment that the student had turned in. She then followed up with the usual information about “you need to cite sources” and “this is plagiarism”.
What’s so strange about this particular case? All of this occurred in the classroom during the twenty minutes that the students were given to write. Clearly, the student must have accessed the internet via a cell phone, searched for some keywords, and written down parts of a passage from a website.
I was a bit stunned that this could happen, but in retrospect I shouldn’t be. Smart phones are literally putting the Internet into our pockets, so why should students’ habits online be any different whether they are at home or on the go?
All of this technology can obviously be a very good thing when used appropriately. For example, many students have dictionary apps on their phones which makes a useful resource very accessible. But occasionally “checking the dictionary” is not just checking the dictionary and it is becoming easier and easier to confuse the two. This experience served as a good reality check for us. We are now more keenly aware of how easily students can access these resources and how important it is to teach them how to use them appropriately.