Had caught wind of this student-vs-admin-vs-technology story last week sometime, but failed to look into it beyond the headlines until tonight. Fortunately, a good story with a provocative twist seems to come back around for another glance.
Story: A Virginia high school required all students to submit essays and a range of written assignments to a nonprofit anti-cheating web site, Turnitin, in an effort to stop plagiarism.
The only catch? A group of students -- calling themselves the Committee for Students' Rights -- from the school circulated a petition demanding that the administration re-think the demand. The school, after the story hit headlines around the country, 'eased off' its requirements that 'all' students submit their work to the cheat-finding website, instead only demanding that 9th and 10th graders in English and social studies courses follow the original order.
The school/admin/district response to the controversial protest:
"This is not backing off," said Fairfax County schools spokesman Paul Regnier. "We're not saying we're not going to do this at McLean. We believe our legal status is adequate, and we expect that it's going to be used. It's being used all over the world."
The student response to a less-than-complete reversal:
"It seems they pretty much changed the policy so they don't have to deal with the people who are protesting it," said Nicholas Kaylor, 17, a senior. "Until there is a clear opt-out option for everyone, we're not going to back down."
The 'odd' wishy-washy 'adult' response that not only smacks of losing student trust further but also gaining zero credibility if it actually works while teaching practically nothing:
McLean Principal Paul Wardinski said the school will use the service as a teaching tool, not a "gotcha." Students will submit drafts to the service and will be able to make changes before turning in their work for a grade. But freshmen and sophomores who refuse to use the service will get a zero.
A zero for refusing? Are you kidding me?
Even if the intentions are good, even if a single kid gets 'caught' and 'learns a valuable lesson' and the sun still sets in the west, the ability for the school to legally give a single kid a single zero because they refuse to submit to an outside software tool with variable reliability once a single parent contacts a single lawyer...is about as meaningful as that 'zero' when all is said and done.
Perhaps the bigger lesson is being missed, administrators.
you've just seen a group of kids actually be engaged, thoughtful, real-world learners...in spite of your lack of confidence in them. And when, when, when are we going to realize that kids tend to cheat less and less when the assignments are more and more authentic, customized, engaged, and based on something authentic?