Thursday, June 29, 2006

I'm a mind reader, that's how

Today in my last class I thought I'd get away early. I had a test scheduled, and it wasn't a very big test. I'd arranged another activity, but I was fairly sure it would not fill up the entire class.

I was right, but I didn't get away nearly as early as I'd hoped. I'd completely forgotten that this was the class whose homework I collected last week, when I found the plagiarism and computer translation. I realized, when we were halfway through the test, that I'd chucked the rest of the homework aside in disgust and subsequently forgotten all about it, which meant that I hadn't marked any of it yet. And I'd promised to give it back today.

After we'd finished the test, I decided to confess. I held up the handout I'd given them about NOT USING COMPUTER TRANSLATION SOFTWARE and NOT PLAGIARIZING, which is written in English AND Japanese.

"Do you remember I gave you this, a couple of weeks ago?" I asked, and half the class nodded. The other half looked confused. After a bit of shuffling around of papers they discovered they had it, too.

"And do you remember the homework you gave me last week?" I asked, and half the class nodded again. I reminded the other half by showing them what they had given me, and eventually they nodded, too, but still looked a little confused. (Did I really expect them to remember something that happened LAST WEEK?)

"Well," I said, smiling benevolently at them all, "When I got home last week I started looking at your homework. I picked up the first one," and here I waved it at them, "and it was COPIED! From the INTERNET!"

I called the student's name, and he blushed and came to collect his paper, which was stapled to a printout of the web page he'd taken it from and another copy of the handout about plagiarism. He was laughing in an embarrassed way. The rest of the class hooted, including the one whose homework I held up next.

"And THIS one," I continued, holding up the next one, "used COMPUTER TRANSLATION SOFTWARE!" I called that name, too.

The offender came to the front and took his paper, also laughing and looking abashed. Everybody cheered him, laughing themselves silly. What wonderful entertainment!

I told the two students that if they didn't want a zero for their homework, they should do it properly and bring it next week.

"Use your own English," I said. "I am not interested in what someone on the Internet has to say, and I cannot understand computer translation English. All right?"

They nodded.

I stopped for a moment, with my hand on the pile of papers I still had on the desk. The other students had relaxed. They thought I'd finished. I had caught their classmates CHEATING, how FUNNY - but they were all right. They continued to tease the two guys who'd got caught, who were staring at their papers in amazement, as if they'd never seen them before. Some of the others wanted to see them, to find out how I'd known.

I waited for them to stop laughing at their unfortunate friends. Then I carried on.

"After that," I said, "I didn't want to check any more. I only did two, and they both got zero. I felt bad, so I stopped. And then I forgot."

I waited for that to sink in.

"So I haven't looked at the others yet," I said. "Maybe there are more. If YOU used computer translation software, or copied your homework, do it again, properly and bring it next week."

There was a silence.

"What did she say?" said one student to another, sounding slightly panicked.

I wrote it on the board as well. If you copied your homework, or used software, do it again. I haven't checked yet, but YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.

Then I got them started on the other activity I had for them.

While they were doing that, I flicked through the other homework assignments, and instantly found two more computer software translations. Then a student needed help with the activity, so I stopped checking and got back to the job at hand.

In a small break, I went back to the board and wrote,

I found some more computer translations. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. Please do the homework again, properly. It is 15% of your final grade.

I went back to helping the students with their work. After a while somebody noticed what I had written, and turned to his friend, who was seated near the back. He waved frantically and shouted, in Japanese,


Aside: This student always speaks Japanese to me, and I always respond in English, but he doesn't seem to have noticed that I understand Japanese. Sometimes I pretend not to understand him, to make him use English, but often I can't be bothered. This makes me wonder whether he thinks he is speaking English when he speaks to me. I cannot understand why else he would admit to cheating RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME LIKE THAT.

"How does she KNOW?" he called to his friend, who was busily trying to ignore him and pretend his was not another paper that had been written with computer software translation. He was trying to be clever. In fact I'd had doubts about his paper (he hadn't written enough for me to be sure) and I could see he was mentally urging his friend to shut up, stop talking about it, maybe she hasn't noticed my one. He KNEW I could understand Japanese. He ignored his frantic friend.

Eventually I told the students that we'd finished and they could go. The cheating student pointed at the board.

"Am I safe?" he asked, in Japanese. "Is my homework all right?"

"What do you think?" I asked, in English, and laughed. I couldn't help it.

Another student approached with a real, actual, VALID question, and I started to answer him. The cheating student would not let up, though.

"Sensei! Sensei! I think you should tell us," he said, still in Japanese. "Who was it?"

I grinned at him. "You already know," I said, and went back to the student with the valid question.

"But SENSEI!" he persisted, loudly. "Is my homework all right?"

I got really impatient.

"Why do you want me to say it?" I snapped. "Do you want everybody to know?"

I waited, staring at him expectantly.

He waited, staring at me expectantly.

I didn't know what to do next, so I did the only thing I could think of. I turned to face the rest of the class, most of whom were packing up to leave.


Everybody laughed, and he grinned and shrugged at them in an Oops! I got caught! way. Then he turned back to me.

"Oh SENsei!" he whined. "I have to do it AGAIN?"

He sighed hugely, as if he thought I was being totally unreasonable.

Then he left.

As he went out the door I heard him telling his friend, who was waiting outside (and pretending all this had nothing to do with him),

"She knows!"

He sounded totally baffled and disappointed. "But HOW?"


pkchukiss said...

Plagarism is so passe.

Hot-linking is the vogue now. Not only do you offload the burden of writing to somebody else, you also use their resources to prove your point!

I've not done it before, but my Chinese teacher would make a severe wry face whenever she marks Comprehension questions. She would then grasp the offending paper, and rip it to shreds, but not after sending the guilty down to detention later in the afternoon. And the answer that invoked her wrath? "The answer is in the passage. Please refer to the passage for the answer."

Wiccachicky said...

That's so funny and disturbing at the same time. I don't quite understand why the students think it's funny to cheat. Do they do it just to get attention? Or are they really just that lazy? Usually the ones that cheat in my classes here are the ones who cannot honestly put together their own thoughts because they either haven't been to class or haven't done the readings - often a combination of both. They are never confused when I catch them at it though.

kenju said...

I am glad you had forgotten to grade the other papers. This way, you brought it home to them in a way that will really stand out in their minds, although that last guy sounds like a "dull normal". I don't think he'll every get it!

Lindsay R Casey said...

i wonder why people think they can get away with it. if it's that easy for them to copy or use translation services it's only logical that it would be just as easy for you to find them out.

Lia said...

I remember my total lack of shock when I discovered that there exist services that will take a class worth of term papers from a professor and compare them with the millions of term papers available free and for sale online. So first they sell papers to the students and then they charge the professors to find out who plagarized. Sad, really, but it's just gotten too easy to cheat.
Too few people still value honesty - they think you're crazy not to take advantage of the "available resources".

Robert said...

I've resorted to having many of my classes write their essays in class rather than letting them do it at home or in the library, where they have access to so many cheating options. I keep copies of their drafts and if the final copy they type and turn in is extremely different, it's easy to check. It's sad that we have to play cops, but they have no shame.