by Amirah C '09 A Symbol of Mistrust?

Many students at BSGE have been acquainted with the tool known as For those who have not, listen up and prepare yourselves for some helpful advice: plagiarism is wrong and increasingly harder to get away with. More and more monitoring programs have been developed to identify papers that have been plagiarized. is the active anti-plagiarism system at BSGE. is among many new online tools used in schools to monitor and scan student-submitted work for signs of plagiarism. More specifically, Turnitin compares papers submitted to the site from users to others submitted to the site along with documents on the internet. An article published by the New York Sun, entitled “High Tech War Against Plagiarism is Coming To New York” succinctly details what the site exactly does and how the results are displayed, “Within a few minutes, papers are scanned against every known Internet source and every other paper that has ever been submitted to the site. The program highlights passages in the paper and identifies its original source, in addition to giving it an overall originality rating.” is not the only anti-plagiarism program out there. Moodle, ANGEL, Blackboard, and WebCT are just a few of the others that have been produced.
Feelings about the Turnitin system, though diverse, often reflect skepticism on many levels. Questions concerning the accuracy of the’s scanning system have been raised with increased experience with this technology. Though John Barrie, president of iParadigm and owner of Turnitin states that a third of the works submitted on the site are over 25% unoriginal, many users claim that the site is not rationally accurate in its scanning.  “The stupid thing isn’t even 100% accurate!” recounts former BSGE student Nyomi Lindner. “Half the time, it would say 8% of my work was plagiarized because of popular phrases like ‘Civil War’ or even ‘the’. I knew I didn’t plagiarize.” With simple errors such as these, many students feel the very use of Turnitin’s technology is a waste of time and an unfounded insult to their integrity.
In addition to the chance of inaccuracies, the amount of effort required to access and maintain accounts on is also a factor that turns many teachers and students away. The common complaint among teachers involves the registering and security process. Teachers are required to obtain codes to secure a place for class entries and maintain the class account. Students have also noted some of the struggles and burdens that come with maintaining accounts and working with Kimberly Banjoko, an up and coming senior at BSGE, also knows of some of the unimpressive components of The rigid time constraints and technical difficulties annoy other BSGE students, aswell. “The only problem I’ve ever heard of is turning it in before the due time. If a lot of people decide to turn their stuff in close to the deadline at the same time, the programs slows or freezes. There’s a good chance you won’t make it and that sucks.” Issues such as these cause students and parents to long for the old-school method of a teacher with a pen. Many people see the use of this program as too heavy a reliance on technology.
Opinions of are not all negative. Though many students see the Turnitin site as nothing more than a spy tech tool, a significant number of teachers claim is a helpful resource and serves other helpful purposes. Teachers also acknowledge the chance of error within the system, but still can be helpful.  “It can be a good learning tool for students,” says English teacher Connie You. “When they put their writing into the system and receive the reports, they learn what plagiarism is. Most times, the system will pick up on incorrect citations or missing quotations.” Some teachers also find the site useful in the sense that it collects the work of students electronically—-no stacks of papers, no harassment for submissions, and no late work! A significant number of students are also proponents of as it has become a strategic part of their time management with schoolwork. Many of the current seniors, who were first introduced to as juniors, admit that submitting their work later in the evening to be more favorable than turning in the papers in class. Students and teachers, alike, admit to the advantages and disadvantages of using
The use of and other similar resources has proven to be tumultuous with the burdens of the site’s conditions and ultra-sensitive scanning.  With the advantages and burdens that come with its use, there is no real conclusion about it as a whole. However, students all over the world have accepted such tools as a necessary evil to ensure fairness in grades and continue to use the programs. With the growing popularity of similar tools, it seems the key to all of this is plain honesty as student, Mattheus Oliveira, suggests. “If you know all your ideas are your own, who cares about a computer that’ll validate just that?!”

By Mr. Lakhaney

TOK Teacher

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