Talk to any English teacher in any tech-focused high school in the U.S., and they will tell you that one of the essential components of their classroom is TurnItIn.com. Exactly what it sounds like, TurnItIn.com is a cloud computing-based site that lets teachers set up digital drop boxes for students to submit essays. But that’s just the beginning. Not only does TurnItIn automatically screen any student submitted essays for potential plagiarism and cribbed passages posted anywhere else on the web (from university sites and databases to news articles and transcripts), but the site has recently begun to work in more technology for teachers to give feedback, track revisions, and assign grades through the site itself.
Why is this a big deal? Mostly because, more than perhaps any other high school required subject, English classrooms have tended to lag behind their compatriots in science and math in using technology to incorporate innovative new lessons in the classroom. Part of this is the foundations of the subject; writing and reading still look to be the basic components of any high school English class for the future. However, student use of technology and their exposure to its incorporation in other classes has put pressure on English teachers to innovate their own material and methods of instruction, even if they have been established and proven for decades and even hundreds of years.
The implications of the technology and options available through TurnItIn.com are just beginning to be understood, and as the site adds more functionality and responds more and more to user experiences and requests, the possibilities seem endless. Aside from allowing for removal of many of the organizational headaches that used to plague the research or thesis paper process (anyone remember trying to keep all their source note cards organized? Yuck), TurnItIn allows for an additional platform for students and teachers to connect, both inside and outside of the traditional high school classroom.
Many English teachers that have become to adapt their classes to TurnItIn have succeeded mainly in taking existing academic processes in the traditional classroom (discussions, reading responses, research papers, bibliographies) and updating them to meet the technology now available to them, for free. Many of the dangers of the Internet in the English classroom (using Cliff’s Notes, copying passages from other writers and publishing those thoughts as their own, deadline misses) can immediately be nullified and supported by TurnItIn.com.
Much like many other industries that have made the jump, English teachers are just beginning to tap the potential of how sites like TurnItIn.com can simplify and enhance many of the instructional and classroom management practices they put into place inside their classrooms on a daily basis. Aside from that, sites like TurnItIn allow users to take advantage of the technologies their students are becoming familiar with at young ages, instead of attempting to block them from the English classroom. Student engagement, responsibility, and organization are just some of the areas that English teachers hope to continue to improve as they continue to adapt cloud computing options like TurnItIn to their classrooms.
By Adam Hausman