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Time to Redefine Plagiarism?

March 13, 2009

So, I assigned a simple task to my Grade 9 class yesterday.  Create a new menu for the school cafeteria.  They were to figure out how to use dot leaders in MS WORD and then come up with their own original menu.

It was interesting to watch the result.  Most of the class began to create their own menus from scratch but a few of them went online and Googled examples of school cafeteria menus.  About half of these students tried to replicate the menus on their own and the other half just began to cut and paste parts of  the menus they had found into their Word documents.

Does this constitute plagiarism?

In my opinion, this is not plagiarism as long as the students take what they have found, properly reference it (give credit where credit is due) and accomplish the task at hand.  These students have demonstrated an ability to find required information, organize it to suit their needs and publish it in a productive manner.

Clearly, these students would not be able to do this with copyrighted material, something I intend to cover with them today.  However, in this age of Creative Commons, many companies will find employees with these skills invaluable to their future successes.

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