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plagiarism: it’s the teachers fault

So, I get up this morning, get a cup of coffee, and run into this gem from The Times Online:

PLAGIARISM and cheating by today’s cut-and-paste generation of university students will never be stamped out unless lecturers stop spoon-feeding them a diet of handouts and PowerPoint presentations, a leading academic said yesterday.

Baroness Deech, head of the students’ complaints watchdog, said that the way in which education was now “packaged and delivered” just like any other product had dulled students’ sense of inquiry and spirit of adventure. One consequence was that they were more tempted than previous generations to cut and paste work from the internet and pass it off as their own, rather than to explore and find their own answers to questions.

“There is a culture of expectation among today’s students. They just take whatever is put in their hands, be it a handout or a PowerPoint presentation. That way you end up boiling down complex things to three bullet points.

“Students need to be told that their own thoughts about a subject are very important. They need to be challenged to respond in their own way instead of downloading, cutting and pasting,” she said.

“The weighing up of a range of views, the encouraging of non-conformity, the imbuing of intellectual tradition of inquiry are getting lost. If lecturers can imbue students with the view that they are searching rather than copying, then we might go some way towards tackling plagiarism.”

Computer use by students should be curbed to encourage them to seek out learning from a range of sources, she told a conference organised by the plagiarism advisory service JISC (the Joint Information Systems Committee), and Universities UK, representing vice-chancellors and principals.

Lady Deech said that hers was not a Luddite approach, and admitted that she was addicted to her computer. But she said that there came a time when students had to log out so that they could look at and listen to the world around them.

Taking down notes in longhand from a book in the library was better than cutting and pasting from the internet, she said, because it required students to “digest” material.

The accused are circling the wagons in their discussion at The Chronicle. And I’m revising my courses to remove all traces of PowerPoint spoon-feeding, and cracking open a new box of No. 2s to hand out on Monday. Think that’ll do it?