Oct 12 2006

Our Readers Talk The State Of The Web

Readers discuss the problem of plagiarism and the Web and the need for reliable data storage devices.

Curbing Plagiarism

I found a recent Report Card section that contained statistics noting how much time students spend online quite interesting. I primarily teach high school juniors, and the junior curriculum includes the “dreaded” research paper. Statistics show that students have an ample amount of time to adequately research papers instead of resorting to plagiarism.

It’s surprising to me how many students really don’t understand exactly what plagiarism is. Even some 11th-graders believe doing research means copying out of a book and turning it in.

To combat this problem I personally review and explain early on about documentation, paraphrasing and plagiarism. I also explain the difference between regular Web sites and those sites that are educationally sound. For example, here at Boca Ciega High School, we encourage our students to use EBSCO, an online research database. All of the articles on EBSCO have been approved and are reputable.

Unfortunately, from time to time, I come across an assignment that I know has been written above the capabilities of a particular student. I have gone online and typed in phrases, quotes, etc., from the assignment and found Web sites containing those same words.

Once I actually had a student print right from the Web site and turn those pages in without even changing the words or deleting the links from the Web site.

Like most students who plagiarize, she didn’t understand the severity of the incident. It saddens me that students today believe all research is done with a simple click of a mouse. Most students truly have no idea how to conduct research using books, periodicals, etc. For my research paper, I always have the students use the Web as a last resort.

Jewell Farrar, English teacher, Center for Wellness and Medical Professions, Boca Ciega High School, Gulfport, Fla.

The Skinny on Portable Storage

I found Alan Joch’s article, “A New Era in Storage” (Cutting Edge, Spring 2004), very timely for our school district, as more and more of our data is stored and edited in a digital format.

Croswell-Lexington Schools, like many Michigan schools, has tried to find solutions to ease student data management relative to the Michigan Literacy Progress Profile (MLPP), a set of investigative tasks a teacher can use to guide instruction.

After a very successful venture developing a standards-based report card using Microsoft Excel, our staff was ready for more use of spreadsheets. I was part of a small team of teachers and administrators that designed an MLPP management system that was not only efficient, but also flexible enough to grow with us, without extensive redesign.

Over the last three years of using these digital tools, far too many teachers have come to my classroom with floppies in their hand and tears in their eyes because they lost data saved on a floppy disk. I agree with the article’s quote from Dr. Hartness: “Floppies are so unreliable and their space is so limited…Flash drives are so portable. I can put one on my key chain and carry 128MB of storage in my pocket.” Flash drives have become as prevalent as red pens in our district.

Thank you, Mr. Joch, for spelling this out in a way that even the holdouts can’t argue with.

—Jeffrey R. Dahl, second-grade teacher and building technology coordinator, Croswell-Lexington Community Schools, Croswell, Mich.


I recently received my Spring 2004 issue of your publication and, as the technology administrator for a district with seven schools and 3,000-plus students, this issue was chock full of items of interest to me.

I particularly like the fact the articles are written for the technology professional but include information that is relevant for all facets of the education community. I shared the articles on formative assessments via technology and grant writing with my assistant superintendent, the statistical report card with my principals, and the article on removable storage with my school-based technology coordinators.

Although I am tech-savvy, the articles provided me with further justification for the implementation of distance-learning and widespread wireless networks, and gave me yet another way to explain to my staff the future of storage devices. (I have a watch that has the “thumb drive” built-in!)

Thank you again for a useful publication!

—Kathleen Schrock, Administrator for Technology, Nauset Public Schools, Orleans, Mass.

Reader Spotlight

Donald Trump, watch out. There’s a new breed of businessman—and woman—being groomed at Cypress Ridge Elementary in Clermont, Fla. With the help of Microsoft Office applications, the school’s 620 students are venturing beyond the traditional three Rs: Instead, they are running profit-and-loss statements, balancing checkbooks, and learning about supply and demand under the school’s innovative School-to-Work Technology Program.

“I believe students need real-world situations,” explains teacher Lori Byrnes, who piloted the business simulation program for the county five years ago. “With this program, students are learning life skills that will help them in any career they choose, and they also are learning technology skills that they need in everyday life.”

The recipient of two national awards, the program takes pint-size entrepreneurs and introduces them to big business. Each grade runs its own “company,” with the program structured so that kids who might not even have mastered their ABCs can still invest in—and benefit from—the curriculum.

Kindergartners grow seedlings as part of managing a florist shop, which then sells its wares to parents on various holidays. The Cypress Ridge post office is managed by first-graders, who oversee a variety of direct-mail campaigns initiated by the school’s companies as part of their business marketing strategies.

Second-grade students divide their time between two businesses—an auction-based toy store and a software company—while third-graders wheel-and-deal behind the school’s most profitable venture, a business that recycles ink cartridges, as well as run a consignment toy shop. A printing company that produces products such as business cards, stationary and key chains is run by the fourth-graders, while fifth-grade students manage a production business that not only creates videos for a variety of endeavors, but also administers the school’s Web site and staffs a tech team to update and maintain its computers.

Byrnes’ “classroom” is actually a multimedia lab that doubles as a storefront setting, complete with 30 computers, printers, scanners, video equipment and other technological aids. Students use a variety of software programs to manage their business projects, including MS Excel to graph income and profits, MS PowerPoint to produce advertisements, MS Publisher to create direct-mail postcards and MS Front Page to publish the school’s Web site.

The program combines an imitation money system, which the students use in their various school-based companies, with actual cash that is generated by their for-profit businesses. One of those businesses yielded more than $1,000 last year, Byrnes reports. But the practical benefits of the program far exceed any revenue gains that may be generated by the blossoming young executives.

“They learn how to save money, how to set goals for themselves and how to work as a team,” she notes. “They also acquire useful business skills.”


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