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Posts tagged ‘plagiarism’

Paper Rater

I just ran across Paper Rater. According to their About page:

PaperRater.com is used by schools and universities in over 46 countries to help students improve their writing.

PaperRater.com combines the power of natural language processing (NLP), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, information retrieval (IR), computational linguistics, data mining, and advanced pattern matching (APM). We offer the most powerful writing tool available on the internet today.

As part of the development process, we put together a team of computational linguists and subject matter experts to develop a core Natural Language Processing (NLP) engine using statistical and rules-based NLP to extract language features from essays and robustly translate that into statistical models.

Okay . . . I’m not a┬ácomputational linguist but I think that means that Paper Rater can be used by kids to check their writing. I’m pretty sure that’s what it means.

Give it a try. Hand over to Paper Rater, hit the Use Now Free button, paste in some text you’ve written, answer a few questions (including grade level of author and type of paper you’re submitting) and select Get Report. Be sure to include the Originality Detection option to check for plagiarism.

You’ll get a handy report with suggestions for improvement. And it’s not just spelling and grammar. Just about any word processor does that. Paper Rater makes style and word choice suggestions as well.

I like this. Again, I’m not a computational linguist, but it seems to me that kids would find this useful. Write a rough draft, run it through Paper Rater, gets some ideas for improvement, write the final draft, check it again, tweak a few things and your paper goes from semi-incredibly awful to not too bad.

I’m a big believer in all sorts of feedback and self-evaluation so this sort of tool makes all sorts of sense to me. I would require students to not only use the tool but to print out screenshots of their Paper Rater reports when they turn in their rough drafts. Or if you’re going paperless, I would want a PDF along with their digital rough draft.

I also like that it seems to work pretty well on mobile devices such as iPhones and tablets.

I’m not entirely convinced about their plagiarism checker. I’ve tried it a few times and it did catch stuff from Wikipedia and free essay sites.

But it struggled a bit with more recent web pages such as news sources and blogs. But the fact that there is a plagiarism tool included is great for reminding students about the importance of intellectual property. It also gives you a soapbox to stand on as you preach about plagiarism and cheating.

Oh . . . did I mention that it’s free?

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Teaching your kids to cheat

I spent some time last week talking with a group of high school teachers concerned about the use of mobile devices such as cell phones and iPods in classrooms. One of the concerns raised was that handhelds can be used to cheat.

My response?

Your students are cheating. They’ve always been cheating. And they’re not going to stop cheating.

The difference in 2010 is that if we as educators try teaching in “traditional” ways, cheating becomes easier. Easier because if I’m a kid, there are all sorts of things online that I can find that help me cheat.

To get a sense of how much is out there, do a quick YouTube search for “how to cheat.”

Can and do kids cheat using handhelds? Yes. Can and do kids cheat without handhelds. Yes.

That’s the point.

Kids will always try and find ways to survive by doing less. It’s not really about handhelds so much as us rethinking how we do our jobs. Traditional forms of instruction will always encourage cheating by focusing on basic, low-level sorts of learning. And if we continue to use strategies that encourage simple rote memory and fill-in-the-blank sort of thinking, new forms of technology such as handhelds will make it even easier to cheat.

A recent Reader’s Digest article (and others) document the trend. It’s not going away. But we can work to change how we do our jobs, including the use of handhelds, so that cheating becomes more difficult and less frequent.

One of the first things we can do is re-think how we define the word. It’s interesting that people who play a lot of video games use the word differently. Cheat becomes not just a verb but a noun, as in – a cheat is any help when solving a problem. This help could be a web site, a video or another gamer. The idea being that working together is a good thing.

And while academic dishonesty will always be wrong, we should begin thinking about “cheating” in the sense of collaboration and cooperation. K-12 schools and our assessments should look more like that. We need to encourage kids to “cheat” in a positive way – working together, sharing resources and collaborating with outsiders.

What might that look like?

  • Student designed graphic organizers
  • Newspapers
  • Historical resumes
  • Comic strips
  • Illustrated childrens books
  • Public service announcements
  • Digital stories
  • Video games
  • Primary document analysis

All of these require high level thinking and collaboration between students without providing an easy way to cheat.

Jason Stephens and David B. Wangaard have a useful article titled Teaching for Integrity that shares strategies for preventing cheating. You can also find some handy tools and resources on my Social Studies Central site.

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