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Digital story telling stops plagiarism!

June 21st, 2010 by Graham Attwell

There’s an interesting aside in an article in today’s Guardian newspaper on the so called problems of plagiarism. Why do I say so called? Whilst I would agree that practices of buying and selling essays are a problem, these practices have always gone on. When, many years again pre-internet days, I was a student at Swansea University, it was always possible to buy an essay in a bar. And I would also argue that a side benefit of cut and stick technologies is that standards of referencing in universities today is much higher than it was in my time as student. Indeed at that time, you were expected to buy your tutors’ textbooks and to paraphrase (plagiarise) their work. Plagiarism is as much a social construct as it is a technological issue.

But coming back to today’s article, reporting on a three day international conference on plagiarism at Northumbria University, the Guardian reports that “The conference will also hear that the problem of plagiarism at university could be reduced if students used “digital storytelling” – creating packages of images and voiceovers – rather than essays to explain their learning from an imagined personal perspective.

Phil Davies, senior lecturer at Glamorgan university’s computing school, said he had been using the technique for two years and had not seen any evidence of cheating. “Students find it really hard but it’s very rewarding, because they’re not copying and writing an essay, they have to think about it and bring their research into a personal presentation.”

Another approach is to focus on authentic assessment – or rather assessment of authentic learning tasks. In this case students are encouraged to use the internet for research but have to reflect on and re-purpose materials for reporting on their own individual research.

In both cases this goes beyond dealing plagiarism – it is good practice in teaching and learning. And I wonder if that might be a better starting point for the efforts of researchers, developers and teachers.

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