Our Government Tech blogger, David Gewirtz, posted an article yesterday about Turnitin, the anti-plagiarism service used by countless universities and, increasingly, secondary schools. He noted that their usage policy was, at the very least, off-putting and a close read certainly suggested that students give up intellectual property rights by using the service.
This makes for a bit of a conflict since many schools require students to use the system, meaning that students have a choice: surrender your rights or don't pass the class. Further analysis, as David points out, suggests that the usage policy is probably just poorly written, rather than particularly evil or Draconian. Still, there's a pretty simple solution for the whole problem:
I should couch this by saying that I love Photoshop CS5 more than my dog. And if you happen to be reading this on a mobile device that doesn't render that lovely bit of Photoshop goodness, the message is, "Stop Freaking Plagiarizing!".
Because guess what, kids? As long as you keep Googling your essays, papers, and research topics and then cutting and pasting text, we're going to need services like Turnitin. As long as you keep rephrasing the same tired ideas with gentle tweaks to the language, we're going to need services like Turnitin. As long as you keep buying essays on the Internet, we're going to need services like Turnitin.
Want to avoid this level of scrutiny? Write your own bloody papers. Who knows? The $40,000 a year education might teach you something more than Googling 101 or Advanced Cut and Paste. The very fact that Turnitin exists and is deemed necessary by so many educators fires me up. Regular readers will know that I'm all about Google. It's a brilliant resource, as is Wikipedia and the other billion or so pages of non-junk on the web. However, students should be able to not only find information, but differentiate the good from the bad and then use it to form their own ideas, in their own words.
Turnitin exists because of massive laziness enabled by the Internet. How about some massive higher-order thinking enabled by the Internet? Let's put Turnitin out of business. Please?