EDvice Exchange

EDvice Exchange is the Center for the Advancement of Teaching‘s blog. It serves instructors in the Temple community and other institutions of higher education. This resource provides effective, research-based teaching practices for your consideration and the comments forum will enable you to engage with CAT staff and other participants.

Like many instructors, I’ve always included a plagiarism policy on my syllabus. For years, this was my approach to plagiarism prevention. When plagiarism detection software such as SafeAssign came along, I began to incorporate it into my assignments and often shared reports with students as a way to increase their awareness of plagiarism and hopefully further prevent it. However, not long after I began using this tool, an incident occurred that helped me realize this approach was lacking. A student submitted a 15-page final research paper, which SafeAssign identified as over 85% plagiarized. I had never experienced this extreme case of plagiarism. I was livid. After a review of the students’ plagiarism report, it was clear to me that large portions of text were copied from other sources and throughout the paper she had simply gone in and replaced individual words or portions of sentences.

I immediately called the student in for an individual meeting to discuss the paper. Together we looked at the report and I asked, “do you have any explanation for this?” The student did not. I continued to probe her, but it wasn’t until I used the term “plagiarism” that she exclaimed, “I was paraphrasing—that’s okay to do!” After we talked some more, I came to realize that this was her understanding of paraphrasing. She had always been told that paraphrasing was putting someone else’s ideas into her own words and that’s what she thought she had done. At that moment, I realized that I had had been shortsighted. While I had spent almost an entire class session reviewing MLA guidelines for in-text citations, references, and format, I had never explained the differences between paraphrasing, quoting, and plagiarism or provided examples of each. At that point, I helped the student rework a few sentences in her paper. Then, I asked her to rewrite the rest of it on her own and submit it back to me the following week.

All of us at one point or another have fallen victim to “Shiny New Toy Syndrome.” We hear about a really cool new tech toy, gadget, or app and we have to have it because it looks flashy, or is the latest and greatest fad that makes us look “hip.” But soon after we buy it, we realize that it’s not exactly what we were expecting—maybe it doesn’t work as well as promised, or maybe it’s not really so useful after all. And so, after the initial excitement wears off, it sits forgotten and unused.

Having thousands of new education technology tools and apps available, it can be easy for “Shiny New Toy Syndrome” to strike when searching for resources to use in your courses. You might think, “My students will think my class is so cool if I use this!” or “Everyone is using this tool right now, I should too!” But before grabbing the first trendy-looking tool that comes up on Google or Twitter, slow down for a moment and consider: how is this tool really going to help my students learn? Even though a fancy new tool may seem like a sure-fire way to increase student engagement, if students think that the tool is ineffective or a waste of time, it could actually lead them to be less invested in your course.

 

Imagine a jet plane cruising down a road. It’s possible, though a clear case of underutilization of the technology. Now take that imagery and apply it to Open Educational Resources (OER). While they are available for adoption by faculty as learning content, the full potential of OER goes underutilized. How so? At the Open Ed ’16 Conference, held November 2016, I learned how faculty are taking on that challenge and finding new ways to create and use OER.


A keynote and multiple sessions explored open pedagogy as the next frontier in achieving a culture of openness in higher education. While the majority of faculty are just beginning to discover OER, as is often the case with advances in learning and the adoption of educational technologies, we can be inspired by the experiences of early adopters. At Open Ed ’16 those pioneers shared their insights into and experience with the open pedagogy movement.

As I listened to Dr. Saundra McGuire’s keynote presentation on metacognition at Temple’s 15th Annual Faculty Conference on Teaching Excellence, a troubling thought occurred to me.  I made it through two decades of schooling as well as nearly a decade of teaching at the college level without ever hearing the word metacognition.  No one ever taught me to read actively or to monitor my own thinking.  Why do we keep this stuff a secret?  Teachers and students need to know “how to learn”.  Fortunately, McGuire has made it her “revolutionary mission to make all students expert learners.”

Nota Bene: This is a true classroom experience I had during my undergraduate student days. Please fasten your seatbelts as we prepare for take-off.  
 
Picture it: a 900-seat auditorium at a major research university. My first day of introductory physics. My friends and I entered the massive lecture hall and settled in. Suddenly, we heard (and felt) a very loud rumbling noise coming from stage left. In a flash, we caught a glimpse of a man seated on what looked like a rocket-shaped go-cart racing across the stage. Applause, and then a collective sigh of relief. Surely this was not the “weed out” course we were warned about. Surely this was a professor who had thought about how to make this course meaningful and motivating. Surely we were going to get lots of practice and support. Well, turns out we were surely wrong.  
 
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