Thursday, June 22, 2006


I worried about my students not reading books. Perhaps I should be worrying about them not reading handouts that I give them, telling them that they are VERY, VERY IMPORTANT. Today I collected some homework I had told a class was important for their grades. At the same time I assigned this homework, I gave them the handout on plagiarism and so on, which I mentioned here before. This is written in both Japanese and English, to remove any possibility of students saying that they 'didn't understand.'

Today I collected the homework. After getting home just now I picked up the first assignment and had a look, and the first thing I noticed was that it was plagiarized. This class does not have students who can write in complete sentences, although I wanted them to try, and this student had written something in perfect English.

I typed in half of one of the sentences, and Google obliged me with exactly one hit, from Wikipedia. My student had cleverly copied alternative sentences from the entry, perhaps in an attempt to trick me, or perhaps he just thought it was too long. I printed out the Wikipedia page, highlighted the bits he'd copied, wrote a big fat 0 at the bottom of his paper in red, and stapled it all together with another copy of the plagiarism handout. It will be interesting to see his reaction when I give it back to him next week.

For this homework, I had asked the students to write about their favourite band or musician. This student had written about Paganini. While I'm sure I have students who listen to classical music, I am fairly sure he is not one of them.

I just picked up the second assignment on the pile to see if it is any better, and discovered that this student has written the name of the musician twice, spelt differently each time. In the title it is spelt Bob Mary. In the first sentence it is spelt Bob Marlee.

And OH, BUGGER. He has used translation software! That is another thing in the handout I gave them. Do not plagiarize or use software translation, the handout says. If you do this, your score will be zero. I added, in parentheses, Also, you should know it is very easy for the teacher to notice.

I tell them that it is silly to use software translation because it does not make sense, so that even if I could not tell it was software translation (which I always can), I would give it a very low grade. Their writing is better than that.

Perhaps they did not read the handout, or perhaps they simply did not believe me. But I was telling the truth. What am I to make of sentences like these?

It is the maximum man of merit who made it known, and he is inscrutable and the influence on the music field is still inscrutable to the world of reggae young of 36 years old in 1981 though a life ... death... short. It is born in 1945 between mothers of British father and Jamaican people.

The class where I caught a couple of students plagiarizing a few weeks ago was a different, first-year class, and I am fairly sure they have read the handout and will not plagiarize again. Today's lot are second year students, and I am really annoyed with them. They should know better.

I don't think I want to check the rest of the assignments tonight. Two is enough. I must say, however, that if they all follow the same pattern my weekend will be only half as busy as I thought it would, although it will be twice as depressing.


Pookie65 said...

In todays society it's much simpler to "borrow" an idea than come up with something on our own. The internet, media, etc... have made it nearly impossible to expect originality anymore don't you think?

That said it would interesting to give your students 1/2 of a class session to come up with something original and then read it aloud the 2nd half.

Hope you have a great day, Auntie :-)

Faerunner said...

Symantec has some impressive translation software for Spanish-English translation, but I assume Japanese-English is much more difficult. It is sad that students in a university class have still not figured out that the best form of cheating is not doing it at all!

Good luck with your class :)

Robert said...

I don't understand why they don't realize how easy it is for us to find their sources? They're too lazy to plagiarize from a print source. Do they really think they're the only people who know what Google is?

And then again, on research papers last semester, I had a handful of students list Google as a source! I guess they really DON'T know.

Carrie said...

I am so glad I am out of the teaching game! At least with the Internet it is a whole lot easier to catch them than it was back in the old days (not that I was teaching back then). Though it is also a lot easier and more tempting to cheat as well, I guess.

Here's a story for you. My freshmen were supposed to do an essay about Romeo and Juliet. One girl turned in an essay about the Vietnam War. I was extremely puzzled and gave her a zero, of course. Her mother came in a few days later, screaming and throwing a tantrum. She'd written the paper for a college class and recieved an A on it so how could her daughter turn it in to a high school class and get a zero? As you can imagine, I was stunned. What is WRONG with people?

kenju said...

I can definitely see how that could be totally frustrating for a teacher. Hope the rest of them are better!

Youteeks said...

A small correction for a teacher. "My student had cleverly copied alternative sentences from..." I'm sure you meant alternate....

Badaunt said...

youteeks: You are absolutely right, of course, which just proves that I should not write blog posts when I am tired and bad-tempered.