Ask any college kid across the country if they’re willing to give up technology for a single day and you’re likely to get a resounding no. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter or internet capable smart phones play a major role in the daily lives of the younger generations. So much in fact, that many of them wouldn’t know how to function without the technology that they use to communicate, find information, entertain themselves or shop.
While some of these advancements have enriched lives through access to information and convenience, in many cases, they can be misused. One area that has been the subject of this misuse is in college and university environments. In fact, a recent report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that over half of a sample of college presidents said they noticed a significant increase in plagiarism over the past decade at their schools, and almost all of them said that they think technology has played a role.
A Tech Savvy Generation
What is it about today’s youth that is so different from other generations? Well, for one thing, almost every kid over the age of five knows how to use a computer and it’s even younger for a cell phone. In fact, in many cases, children are outpacing their parents in terms of knowing how to operate and control most technological devices. These are the kids of technology and as technology improves, so does their ability to use it.
Think of the different types of technology you use in an average day. The remote control operates the family television, the digital camera takes pictures and records family events, the computer shares images with our family and friends, even the GPS in the car tells us where to go. It used to be that programming the VCR was the most tech-savvy thing people did at home. Now, things are quite different. The younger generation is technologically savvy and on pace to become more so in the coming years.
The Plagiarism-Technology Link
Just a few years ago, if you needed information you went to the library or you asked a professional. Today, on account of the internet, access to information is immediate. In fact, within a few seconds, you can find almost any piece of data or tidbit of information by simply entering a search query into Google. The internet has opened the door to a whole new world of possibilities from online businesses to reconnecting with friends to research to entertainment. As a tool for virtually anything, the internet’s volume of data is endless.
Unfortunately, for college students, the temptation to use technology for shortcuts is very high. Not only is it easy to plagiarize by simply cutting and pasting, but it’s also easy to purchase fully written papers, reports, even PhD dissertations. In fact, for a small fee students can buy and download a professional college ready paper on virtually any subject. There are sites dedicated to nothing but providing academic papers to the next kid with a debit card. On many college campuses, the internet has changed from a tool for gathering information to one for stealing & buying information.
Two Pew Research Center surveys discovered the impact of technology on college behavior. The first survey was conducted by telephone, reaching out to a sample of over 2,000 adults over the age of 18. The second survey was conducted online, targeting the presidents of over 1,000 colleges and universities.
Over half of college graduates surveyed stated that they used some form of technology in class. For the presidents, almost all said that they use a smartphone daily, over a third reported that they use social networking sites weekly, and more than half work for universities that offer online courses. Interestingly, over 60% anticipate that sometime in the next ten years, more than half of the textbooks used in traditional courses will be digital.
Obviously, technology is not going anywhere anytime soon. This is generally considered to be a good thing, as the internet, smart phones, social media etc., have made life easier and in many cases, more entertaining. However, as a tool for promoting plagiarism, the internet simply provides too much freedom with too little regulation. College students are dependent on technology to function efficiently at the same level as their peers. Nevertheless, as technology becomes easier and more accessible, so does the temptation to be lazy and plagiarize work. Solutions need to be found both by using technology to support current peer review processes along with providing students with a proper guided framework of research and writing integrity.
TechNewsDaily Staff. “College Presidents Blame Rising Plagiarism on Tech Increase.” September 16th, 2011. http://www.technewsdaily.com/college-paper-plagiarism-rising-3256/