Armed with Blackberries, iPhones, and laptops, today’s students have a conduit to unlimited knowledge at their fingertips. They’re able to find out how many home runs the Yankees pitched in 1969, who won the Battle of New Orleans, and how many liters can go into a gallon. However, with great knowledge comes great responsibility.
Students now face the dangers of plagiarism. It is easier than ever and a bevy of wrong and misleading information is waiting for students online.
Teachers used to drag out encyclopedias and show students how much of a sentence they could use before it became plagiarism. Students would carefully count out words as they wrote their first research essays, certain that if they went one word over, they would be carted off to jail–or at least the principal’s office. In high school, they would begin to understand the philosophy behind plagiarism and stop counting words in favor of simply knowing when to cite their sources.
Information was limited, but that was almost a good thing, as it kept students honest. All of the sources students used likely came from the school, so they were vetted by the custodial librarians.
A Reliance On The Web
Today, students jump straight to the Web when they need information. They’ve grown so used to it by the time they’re in school that they’ve already formed opinions and usage patterns. Lessons about plagiarism become even more vital when students are surrounded by temptation. . Since they have so many difference sources to choose from, they may feel safer stealing sections of work instead of properly quoting and citing the information.
Even more frightening than limitless information with few filters at a young person’s fingertips is that a good percentage of that knowledge is racist, sexist or simply wrong. Many people use the internet to further their own (sometimes fanatical) views. Impressionable students running across a racist site may not understand that they’re coming from a biased, bigoted viewpoint. Hopefully, most of them will take it to their parents, who will correct any misguided opinions. The poison will still spread, though, which is unfortunate enough.
Getting The Facts Straight
On a different plane, students may also rely on websites that just have their facts wrong. They might grow up thinking that Texas is the largest state in the union or that all of Kentucky fought with the South during the Civil War. Of course, teachers can correct this misinformation, but once an idea is planted in the mind, it’s hard to change it. With the vast amount of information online, students are also likely to learn more from the internet than from any of their teachers.
Despite the dangers, online training has come a long way. If students are given a list of safe sites to navigate, they can easily write papers without help from teachers or librarians. They can access the information from school or home, so they’ll have more flexibility on when they write. It’s an added bonus that they don’t have to sit in the library with encyclopedias when you consider that the average student is involved in several after-school activities. Having the flexibility to choose when to study and research makes it easier for over-achieving students to keep up with their activities and their homework.
Students using the internet for research can be a mixed blessing. As long as teachers and parents properly guide and monitor children’s’ forays into the digital world, the internet can be an invaluable learning tool.
Jesse L. is a recent college graduate looking to make his mark on the world. Currently he is a blogger and a contributor at the Professional Intern. You can follow the Professional Intern on Twitter @TheProIntern.