The Internet and Our Students

Date:         Mon, 24 Oct 2005 08:57:41 -0400
Subject:      Re: Online Translators
The Internet and its resources have to be embraced and included in what we do.  They are a fact of life that isn't going away anytime soon. 
My approach is to incorporate the online translation sites as another tool, like a dictionary, that is at the student’s disposal.  However, students need to be made aware that I will consider work handed in that is largely from a translator an act of plagiarism and will treat it accordingly.
As I spend class time teaching students to use a dictionary, I also teach students how they can use an online translator.  One activity that is helpful is to demonstrate the weaknesses of online translation. 
Type in a few sentences, especially ones with idiomatic phrases, into the translator and click translate.  Review the accuracy of the translation.  Take the translated sentences and copy them into a new translation request and ask that these sentences be translated into the original language.  Depending on the complexity of the original sentences, the second translation can often have nothing to do with the original sentences. 
What I explain is that online translators are tools to help you when you get stuck and need ideas but cannot and should not be relied upon for accurate and competent use of the target language. 
In addition, I often have students write as a class assignment.  If there is a great difference between what students can do in the classroom and what they can do as a homework assignment, I let them know that I have noticed and discuss their "writing strategies" with them. 

Date:         Thu, 27 Oct 2005 08:23:41 -0400
Subject:      Re: plagiarism programs
I have also used Google to discover plagiarists.  I usually put the link to the web site on the student's paper for the parents and guidance counselors (who will be eventually called in) to see so there is no question as to the veracity of the claim.
Most students probably would rather not plagiarize work if they had other strategies to get their work done.  For this reason, I also teach many lessons on how to paraphrase a text because not only is it an important life skill, it works wonders for students' writing.
At higher levels, I will take a text that has a structure that I want them to imitate (such as a newspaper article) or, at a lower level, has sentences I want them to imitate and ask them to reword the information, or to use the structure to write something with new information.
It also helps if the school has a very visible policy and other teachers talk about how to avoid plagiarizing.  When I tell students that plagiarism can get you fired or expelled from college, many do not believe me.  So it is important to have back up.

Date:         Fri, 28 Oct 2005 08:28:52 -0400
Subject:      Re: plagiarism programs--radical ideas
Using texts as models and paraphrasing or summarizing information is a great way to learn to write in a foreign language.  It prevents students from thinking in English as they are composing.  However, Bob's point that when texts are used as models, students should get into the practice of giving credit to the original text is well taken.  I hadn't thought about that.  I think that is a good practice to add to using authentic texts as models.

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