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The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

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The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

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JR introduces plagiarism-detecting software on Canvas

James Davis

Earlier this month, a handful of teachers noticed a new tool available on Canvas: Turnitin, an external software program that checks student assignments for plagiarism. DCPS recently invested in the Turnitin software, however there have been inconsistencies in which Jackson-Reed staff members have access to the tool. 

The tool scans work to detect content copied from the internet and similarities in student submissions with its internal database. The software is also able to detect AI generated work. With the ever present threat of dishonest work across schools, Turnitin is a tool that could help mitigate the issue. But, questions are being raised as to whether the tool will be effective.

Turnitin gives the teacher an overall percentage of what it recognizes from previous Canvas submissions, internet sources, and AI. “I think unfortunately, this type of software is likely to have a lot of false positives,” said Social Studies teacher Eduardo Canedo, “I’m not sure how much I can really trust it.” 

Questions also arise if the program is only resourceful for more open-ended writing. In classes such as math, student’s often get the same answers on assignments regardless of collaboration, rendering the tool useless. 

However, the tool also presents some benefits. “I think it’ll be useful in dissuading people from directly copying and pasting from the internet or sharing answers without [being] in a space that isn’t meant to be collaborative,” said English teacher Allison Conroy. 

Conroy notes that she can typically tell when an assignment has been plagiarized. However, with Turnitin, “It’s nice to have something [she] can point to.”

Teachers seem to struggle to find a balance between trusting their students and holding them accountable, as Canedo shares the same sentiment. “But I definitely fear the experience of, and I’ve had this, of questioning the honesty of a student and then being mistaken. And I know that that’s not a good feeling for the student.”

For the student, in order to have the ability to submit an assignment, they must check off a box saying they agree to the tools user agreements, and acknowledging that the work they are submitting is their own. 

As students at Jackson-Reed noticed the new software, some are yet to be convinced it will be all worthwhile. “ I don’t think it will cause much of a change in student behavior at all,” said senior Daphne Confalone, “at the end of the day, there are ways around every program, and students will find them.” 

Despite the possible advantages of Turnitin Canedo believes it isn’t enough. “Honestly. I think our cheating policy is bad.” Currently JR’s cheating policy allows for students to make up assignments that they had previously cheated on to up to a B. “This is a very small bandaid.”

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