Monday, July 2, 2012

Plagiarism Teaches the Teacher

School's out for the summer, but my mind's still humming with all the things that occurred in the last three months. AprilMayJune feels like a single month that flies in the blink of an eye. I suspect JulyAugust will go just as quickly. I have lots of reading to do, pleasure reading, in addition to The Choreography of Presenting by Kendall Zoller and Claudette Landry (thanks Moses for the gift!), Evidence to Action by Karen Hume (which I won ages ago at a Hume workshop), and Literacy Smarts by Jennifer Harper and Brenda Stein Dzaldov (courtesy of Jennifer Dinsmore over at Pembroke Publishers, who heard from Dr. Elizabeth Lee and Mary Macchiusi that I might like this book). I've got writing projects to do for Together For Learning as well as my research study, and I've got tons of scrapbooking to keep me busy. While I scrapbook, I reflect on the events. I didn't take a photo of this particular event, but it did make me think.

One of the final assignments for Grade 7-8 Media Literacy was a Photoshop assignment. This was the description of the task on our division wiki:

The TDSB ICT strand for Term 2 2011-2012 is "Creativity and Innovation" ("create original works as a means of personal or group expression, such as photo editing ...").
Your job is to create an image, using Photoshop or related software, that is "fake".
You can make it related to your fake website assignment or something just of personal interest to you (e.g. you hanging out with One Direction).
This task will be marked out of 10. The rubric and mark scheme is below.

You can see some sample Photoshop mash-ups from this link that relates to the recent flooding of Union Station.

Category  Level 4  Level 3  Level 2  Level 1 
Creativity /5 Digitally altered photo is very creative.
- atypical or amusing
- very enjoyable to admire, expressive of views/feelings
Digitally altered photo is creative.
- somewhat unique or amusing
-  enjoyable to admire
Digitally altered photo is somewhat creative.
- typical topic
- slightly unexciting to view 
Digitally altered photo is slightly creative.
- Photoshop previously by others and mimicked
- boring to view 
Technical Prowess /5 Digitally altered photo is expertly composed 
- very convincing (cropping hard to see)
- colours, backgrounds, layers, all work together
Digitally altered photo is composed well
- quite convincing (cropping only seen through zoom)
- some parts of photo work together
Digitally altered photo is composed moderately well
- slightly unconvincing (can see where inserted / altered)
- some parts work against the message 
Digitally altered photo is composed poorly.
- very unconvincing
- clumsily executed 

Please post your Photoshopped images on the "Grade 7 Photoshopped Images" or "Grade 8 Photoshopped Images" page on the wiki. 

I was really pleased with the quality of the work that students produced and shared via the wiki. There were some rumours floating around that some of the submitted assignments were not made by the students that shared them. I did some investigating and it turned out that three assignments (two for this task and one for a separate Media Literacy task) were plagiarized. Thankfully, it was quite easy to prove that the images were stolen - a simple Google Images search turned up the evidence - but it was disappointing to see that some students decided to take this course of action. I met with the principal, classroom teacher, and student and different consequences were administered (based on the TDSB progressive discipline model of scaffolding punishments). All perpetrators received a zero on this task. As we met and discussed this infraction, I thought about the part I played in this: was there anything I could have done differently to prevent this? I cynically joked to my principal that "this teaches me not to differentiate my learning tasks", but in all seriousness, I think there could've been a way for me to design this task to reduce the possibility for plagiarism.

  • I could've asked for the two individual photos to have been submitted, in addition to the final, merged product
  • I could've insisted that a picture of themselves had to be incorporated into the final Photoshopped product (because how many items would have them directly in it?)
  • I could've narrowed the focus for the topic or insisted that a few sentences that explained how the product was "a means of personal or group expression"
  • I could've taught a few more lessons on digital citizenship and the ethics of using other people's work (not just text, but images and sound) without permission - actually, this would be good for staff too, since some adults involved in the consequence delivery didn't consider this kind of plagiarism as "serious" as if the students had copied and pasted text
Although I'm not happy that some students cheated, I'm glad that I learned something from the experience that I can apply to future task designs. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Diana! Excellent lesson you created here.
    Thanks for sharing! May I use it next year?

    I also had plagiarism rear it's ugly head by a group of students a couple of years ago.

    I went through the same policy and procedure but
    rather than give a 0 evaluation...
    I had the group stay after school and do over the lesson while I was able to supervise them more closely. I saw it as a teachable moment. The students claimed I did not clarify that it was an individual task, even though I allowed them to consult each other in groups. In this class, after 3 weeks of working, of the 7 groups, this one particular group was the only one who copied each others work, and made this interpretation of the assignment. Even the parents came to lobby on behalf of one of the students. Misunderstanding or blatant cheating? I'll probably never know but at least I know I did more than my fair share of the teaching: from prep, lesson, evaluation, accomodation then to second evaluation of said lesson.

    Indeed, we must introduce the Digital Citizenship preamble to every lesson, or mention it at the end of every lesson, with consequences for the non-conformists.