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Answers on eNotesI was advised to add a new topic since I recently received an email...

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 7, 2008 at 8:21 AM via web

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Answers on eNotes

I was advised to add a new topic since I recently received an email from a teacher who was irate that I had answered a few questions she had given her students for homework.  All of the questions dealt with the same work, so the students must have gotten together to decide who would ask which question (they are only allowed to ask one in a 24 hour period).  So, the question I pose to you professionals is do you consider the help we give on eNotes cheating?  Are students who post their questions to us cheating on their homework, or are they just being resourceful?  Would you be upset if your student received help from this site or one like it?

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 7, 2008 at 8:22 AM (Answer #2)

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Is this site promoting the "I don't have to read the book" mentality that Cliff's Notes and Sparknotes sometimes encourages among students who are reluctant to read?

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted March 7, 2008 at 9:02 AM (Answer #3)

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I hate it when students ask for summaries because those really are "I don't want to read" questions. I try to always say something like "now go read the book," but who knows if they do. When they ask for poetic devices or explanation of a poem, I try to give a few examples, but I don't explicate the entire poem.

Here's my feeling on the matter: Why are teachers asking objective questions that ask for a factual answer? The best questions are the subjective ones that ask for a student's opinion or personal interpretation. If teachers are concerned about cheating, they can instruct their students to use any resource--eNotes, Cliffs Notes, etc.--as an aide but not pawn them off as their own work. As a teacher myself, I'd prefer that a student get help from eNotes than do nothing at all, which is what too many of my students end up doing when they don't understand a text.

If a student came to you after school for tutoring, wouldn't you give that student the same kind of help you give on eNotes???

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alexb2 | eNotes Employee

Posted March 7, 2008 at 11:46 AM (Answer #4)

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We thought very long and hard about how to approach the Questions and Answers section on eNotes. We saw sites like Yahoo Answers and others that were not providing high-quality answers from real teachers and were in fact causing more harm than good. The idea was to create a place where knowledge can be shared, and where books and topics can be understood. In short, a place to help student who come to us with their questions. We do not write essays, we don't tell students what to think or what to write, but we do assist them in their basic understanding.

In the age of the internet, where information is available in so many places, not all of them reputable, we think ultimately it is the teacher's responsibilty to create challenging questions that are not a checklist of the book's attributes. The goal behind eNotes Answers is to provide factual information that will ultimately further students' understanding of the work. Given the apalling state of most students' appreciation and understanding of literature, we feel that providing basic facts about the books can only improve the students' experience with the texts.

It does bring up a broader issue though, what type of questions should teachers be asking in the information age, when the basic facts are out there?

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted March 7, 2008 at 1:33 PM (Answer #5)

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We thought very long and hard about how to approach the Questions and Answers section on eNotes. We saw sites like Yahoo Answers and others that were not providing high-quality answers from real teachers and were in fact causing more harm than good. The idea was to create a place where knowledge can be shared, and where books and topics can be understood. In short, a place to help student who come to us with their questions. We do not write essays, we don't tell students what to think or what to write, but we do assist them in their basic understanding.

In the age of the internet, where information is available in so many places, not all of them reputable, we think ultimately it is the teacher's responsibilty to create challenging questions that are not a checklist of the book's attributes. The goal behind eNotes Answers is to provide factual information that will ultimately further students' understanding of the work. Given the apalling state of most students' appreciation and understanding of literature, we feel that providing basic facts about the books can only improve the students' experience with the texts.

It does bring up a broader issue though, what type of questions should teachers be asking in the information age, when the basic facts are out there?

You said what I was trying to say so much better than I could. Sites like eNotes don't just provide aid to students, but they challenge teachers to be more creative in their lesson planning. We can't keep using the same old study notes that ask for the same old answers to the same old questions.

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clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted March 7, 2008 at 9:27 PM (Answer #6)

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I love eNotes and I asked Amy to create this topic because I thought it would be interesting to see what everyone thought. Me personally, absolutely not- it isn't cheating. I agree with Linda though, I hate it when we get the kids who ask the "summary" questions. It bothers me even more because eNotes provides great summaries of all these stories, novels, poem, etc. They are so lazy they don't even bother looking at them.

I agree with Linda as well, why are teachers asking such thoughtless questions. I feel like kids who are bothering with this site are being resourceful for the most part, much like after school tutoring. I would rather my students get help from teachers on a site like this than copying each other's homework, not providing good answers, or not doing the work at all.

I love eNotes and I was upset to hear that Amy received that angry email. Teachers are supposed to share right? Why can't we share our knowledge with other teachers' students?

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted March 8, 2008 at 1:24 PM (Answer #7)

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I totally agree with blazedale and clane.  I think some of the prejudice lies in continual distrust of the internet as a research tool.  True, many students will attempt to cheat, but a good literature teacher will create content for her/his classes that will emphasize the thinking process.  If you want students to answer dull questions for which there is an unambigous answer, then don't expect them to look up this information in a traditional text.

We should be encouraging our student in the art of thinking; teaching how to think, not what to think.

I've been with eNotes for a long time now.  From what I have seen, most teachers are indeed on this path and I applaud the students who seek to know more.  They should not be penalized for using a research tool in an honorable manner. 

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted March 8, 2008 at 5:59 PM (Answer #8)

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I'll bet the teacher who wrote that message to Amy is just like one of my colleagues. I asked if she had any resources on Julius Caesar that I could use with my class. She brought me an armload of files and cassette tapes--nothing newer than 1990! Who even has a cassette player anymore? Now I'm not saying that good materials didn't exist back in the 90s, but our students don't think the way students of just 20 years ago did. Teachers must be willing to use the new technologies themselves, and they have to be able to recognize the difference between sites like eNotes that provide tutorial assistance and all the others that give canned answers to canned questions.

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cybil | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted March 9, 2008 at 8:02 AM (Answer #9)

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In my school, students are bound by an Honor Code; they must pledge all work that they neither gave nor received aid on their work. In an ideal world, then, none of them would cheat or use this site as a source of information. We teachers try to help them learn how to think critically and independently. I believe most of the English teachers in my department avoid the plot-based questions students seek answers to on enotes. It's not an ideal world, however, so I'm not so naive that I believe students never cheat. I do think our students would follow the school's policy: if you have questions about your homework, see your teacher. Most of us teach 4 periods in an 8 period day. Yes, it's an independent school with small classes; I am unbelievably fortunate! 

Having worked as an online volunteer teacher offering live help for many years for an internet service provider (you surely know by its initials), I know how many students have apparently had little actual instruction before they are assigned homework. I see my task as helping them to understand the literature and guiding them to an answer to their question. I've answered hundreds of questions, mostly from genuinely confused students. 

enotes offers so much resource information that a capable student should be able to answer most of his questions on his own. I don't like to respond to the plot questions either because  I do see that as doing their homework for them. 

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clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted March 9, 2008 at 12:51 PM (Answer #10)

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Like I stated in my earlier post, I went to a private high school. We had the Honor Code Pledge that we signed upon entry to the school and still the cheating ran rampant because of the intense competition and pressure many of the students were under. Your school sounds unique, Cybil, in that you might have more personal relationships with students and therefore less of a chance of cheating because they wouldn't want to let you down. :)

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malibrarian | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted March 12, 2008 at 3:29 PM (Answer #11)

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Is this site promoting the "I don't have to read the book" mentality that Cliff's Notes and Sparknotes sometimes encourages among students who are reluctant to read?

  This was my top concern when I first signed on as an editor of eNotes.  Jamie assured me that she would never work for a book-rag site, and that eNotes doesn't do what those other sites do.  To be honest, I have been concerned when I read some of the answers provided by editors because I, personally, feel like they've given too much information.  It seems like there should be times, particularly when a student asks something ludicrous like, "How does Macbeth die in Macbeth?", that an editor simply says, "You need to go back and re-read Act V, scene whatever."  But overall, I believe eNotes to be a top-notch site, and one that does not promote the easy way out so common to other sites.

I'm sorry that Amy had this experience, but I think it's probably something we should all prepare ourselves for.  Big bummer!!

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malibrarian | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted March 13, 2008 at 7:35 AM (Answer #12)

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Has anyone noticed that there are a number of questions being asked about "The Rocking-Horse Winner"?  To me these smack of students who have gotten together to each ask one question in order to get the answers for an entire assignment.  I answered one the other day, but as this wave has come in, I've decided not to touch these with a ten-foot pole.

Any thoughts from anyone else?  I'm not saying my way is the best way - I just don't know what else to do when I see something that seems to be such an obvious thing!

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jlcannad | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted March 13, 2008 at 7:47 AM (Answer #13)

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I don't see this as cheating at all.  Cheating is copying an answer, and that requires no thought on the part of the copier.  Here, students may receive two or three high quality answers.  That means that students have to look at the answers provided, read the supporting evidence and then decide for themselves which best represents how *they* interpret the book.  That's not cheating.  If this were a site that provided simple answers, one answer per question, no resources cited... I would SO not be here because that's not teaching a student anything.  But for a student to ask a question and have two or three professionals debating the possible answers... and to then ask the student to evaluate, choose the best answer, and put it in their own words... that's learning.  

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clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted March 13, 2008 at 8:20 AM (Answer #14)

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In reply to #12, I often wonder that when several questions come over about the same piece of work. I think they must be getting together to do that, but hopefully in the exchange of information these students are learning something.

In reply to #11, I would love to tell some students to go back and do some of the work themselves like reading! All we can do though is provide the best answer that we can and hope that they are learning something from us if they are unwilling to do the work themselves.

In reply to #13 I hope that students are taking our answers and making decisions for themselves rather than copying them into their own homework as if they have come up with them on their own.

In any case I think that eNotes is a great site because it offers students the opportunities to read further and discover more about literature than they may have on their own. I also think that the answers are good and complete and hopefully they provide the students with more information than their teachers might have time to give them. Perhaps it is spurring class discussion?

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Scott Locklear | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted March 13, 2008 at 8:27 AM (Answer #15)

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Hi everyone. If you come across a suspicious number of questions being asked about a single work, please don't answer any of them. Send a message to me and Jamie as soon as you spot anything. We'll evaluate the problem and delete the questions if necessary.

Thanks! 

Scott Locklear

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted March 13, 2008 at 10:36 AM (Answer #16)

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Hi everyone. If you come across a suspicious number of questions being asked about a single work, please don't answer any of them. Send a message to me and Jamie as soon as you spot anything. We'll evaluate the problem and delete the questions if necessary.

Thanks! 

Thanks. I've noticed that too. A few days ago, I answered a question about what happened in chapters 5 and 6 of Lyddie. Not an hour later, someone else asked what happened in chapters 7 and 8 of the same book. I think you all are right that kids are getting together. But if we phrase our answers in such a way that we give them enough hints to find the answer for themselves, wouldn't that be better than deleting the question?

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted March 14, 2008 at 5:33 AM (Answer #17)

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Hi everyone. If you come across a suspicious number of questions being asked about a single work, please don't answer any of them. Send a message to me and Jamie as soon as you spot anything. We'll evaluate the problem and delete the questions if necessary.

Thanks! 

Thanks. I've noticed that too. A few days ago, I answered a question about what happened in chapters 5 and 6 of Lyddie. Not an hour later, someone else asked what happened in chapters 7 and 8 of the same book. I think you all are right that kids are getting together. But if we phrase our answers in such a way that we give them enough hints to find the answer for themselves, wouldn't that be better than deleting the question?

Perhaps, but again, if you see anything suspicious at all, the best thing to do is to contact me (Scott) and Jamie

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malibrarian | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted March 14, 2008 at 7:27 AM (Answer #18)

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I don't see this as cheating at all.  Cheating is copying an answer, and that requires no thought on the part of the copier.  Here, students may receive two or three high quality answers.  That means that students have to look at the answers provided, read the supporting evidence and then decide for themselves which best represents how *they* interpret the book.  That's not cheating.  If this were a site that provided simple answers, one answer per question, no resources cited... I would SO not be here because that's not teaching a student anything.  But for a student to ask a question and have two or three professionals debating the possible answers... and to then ask the student to evaluate, choose the best answer, and put it in their own words... that's learning.  

  In the best possible world, that is what all of these students would be doing.  Unfortunately for Amy, who started this thread, that is not what happened.  She had a student take her answer and submit it as his/her own, which really angered the teacher.  Students don't always receive 2-3 answers - sometimes they only receive one.

Cheating is submitting work/answers that aren't your own.  If a student copies an answer from eNotes, that is what he/she is doing.  I agree that we should provide help for students who are sincerely seeking help, but as both Jamie and Scott have said, if we see something suspicious, then we need to let them know.  I don't believe anyone on this site wants to be party to handing out homework answers to kids who aren't even trying to learn.

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jeff-hauge | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted March 17, 2008 at 7:05 PM (Answer #19)

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I try to sense those times when a kiddo is tanking their end. On those times I try to dodge the simple answer they want. But it's tough, isn't it?

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted March 17, 2008 at 10:28 PM (Answer #20)

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Don't know if I'm doing the right thing, but I've started flagging as inappropriate any question that asks "how does this story end" or "who are the characters." Common sense and a little bit of effort are all it takes for students to answer that kind of question for themselves.

I'm also trying as much as possible to give students direction in how to find answers for themselves instead of simply giving the answer.

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clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted March 18, 2008 at 5:09 AM (Answer #21)

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I've been doing that too Linda. These students might as well write, "I read nothing, can you do it for me?" They are looking for a way to be able to participate in class discussions without being knocked down for not reading or answer study questions.

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Scott Locklear | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted March 20, 2008 at 9:27 AM (Answer #22)

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In reply to #20 and #21:

There are only a couple of instances when editors should flag a question:

  1. If the question contains profanity or offensive language of any kind.
  2. If the question is off-topic or has been posted under the wrong work (e.g., a question about Hamlet that appears under Macbeth).

If you are concerned about any other issue regarding a student question, please contact me or Jamie

Thanks everyone! 

Scott Locklear

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted March 20, 2008 at 6:37 PM (Answer #23)

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For those of you concerned about the "cheating" aspect, I encourage you to assume the best of students.   For those looking for character information, they may simply be looking to round out their understanding.  Imagine that you are 14 and are trying to understand the marital relations of a Scottish King, the politics of the throne and of warfare, etc. 

As for topics like, "What is the conclusion?", again, place yourself in those immature shoes.  I have freshmen and sophomore college students who still expect the traditional plot curve.  When they encounter works that are purposely ambiguous, they are at a loss to understand what the "conclusion" is supposed to be (I had this problem teaching "Oleanna" for example.)

That said, trust, but verify.  As Scott says, if there are any you feel is suspicious, ask one of us before deleting.  

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted March 20, 2008 at 6:44 PM (Answer #24)

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You're right. Thanks for putting it in perspective.

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leagye | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted March 25, 2008 at 1:10 PM (Answer #25)

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Answers on eNotes

I was advised to add a new topic since I recently received an email from a teacher who was irate that I had answered a few questions she had given her students for homework.  All of the questions dealt with the same work, so the students must have gotten together to decide who would ask which question (they are only allowed to ask one in a 24 hour period).  So, the question I pose to you professionals is do you consider the help we give on eNotes cheating?  Are students who post their questions to us cheating on their homework, or are they just being resourceful?  Would you be upset if your student received help from this site or one like it?

As an English teacher, I uncomfortable with some of the answers I see posted on this site, and even with some of my own answers. I've thought about this question many times and I am glad to see I'm not alone...One thing I rarely do in my answers is provide supporting quotes. If we give a student both an explanation of a plot device, character trait, etc., and then supply him or her with a supporting quote, the work is done. I would like to pose more questions that guide a student in the right direction, but I'm not sure I'd be fulfilling my duties as a question-answerer if I did that. The other side of this coin is the fact that many students who use the site seem to be very honestly trying to understand more about the story, passage, or poem overall. These particular students are being resourceful; others, in my opinion, are simply cheating. In addition to freshmen, I teach a senior AP English class and I encourage these students to use certain Web sites to better understand a particular detail or element IN ADDITION to thoroughly reading a text. But, using sites as a substitute for reading the original text is flatly cheating. 

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leagye | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted March 25, 2008 at 1:13 PM (Answer #26)

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I hate it when students ask for summaries because those really are "I don't want to read" questions. I try to always say something like "now go read the book," but who knows if they do. When they ask for poetic devices or explanation of a poem, I try to give a few examples, but I don't explicate the entire poem.

Here's my feeling on the matter: Why are teachers asking objective questions that ask for a factual answer? The best questions are the subjective ones that ask for a student's opinion or personal interpretation. If teachers are concerned about cheating, they can instruct their students to use any resource--eNotes, Cliffs Notes, etc.--as an aide but not pawn them off as their own work. As a teacher myself, I'd prefer that a student get help from eNotes than do nothing at all, which is what too many of my students end up doing when they don't understand a text.

If a student came to you after school for tutoring, wouldn't you give that student the same kind of help you give on eNotes???

I totally agree with your point about the "summary" questions. There are many questions I simply suggest ideas for, but don't follow the "directions" of the student exactly for this reason. Instead, I suggest areas for them to explore.

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted March 26, 2008 at 7:20 PM (Answer #27)

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My thinking is that we need more textual support, not less.  I don't like to feel like I'm helping someone cheat, but I also want verfication that our answers are accurate.  As limited as the response area is, I think it's kind of lazy to not back up what you assert.   And can't see, other than the laziest of teacher questions, how offering back up encourages cheating. 

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted March 26, 2008 at 8:16 PM (Answer #28)

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My thinking is that we need more textual support, not less.  I don't like to feel like I'm helping someone cheat, but I also want verfication that our answers are accurate.  As limited as the response area is, I think it's kind of lazy to not back up what you assert.   And can't see, other than the laziest of teacher questions, how offering back up encourages cheating. 

Thank you. That was my thought exactly. We sometimes forget that our students don't have our backgrounds in literature and in finding all the details. How many times have you asked what you thought was a very simple question to be faced with silence instead of answers? And then an "Oh, yeah" when you told them the answer? My feeling is that by using excerpts from the text to support our answers, we're teaching the students how to do the same thing for themselves.

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kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted April 1, 2008 at 6:49 PM (Answer #29)

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I have no problem with my students using Enotes.com.  I encourage them to, actually.  Good sources are truly a blessing, and Enotes is a great one for them to use.  I'd MUCH rather them come here to get great material than do a general Internet search on literature.  Usually, the results bring up a slew of FREE PAPERS sites that I DEPLORE.

I have to agree with previous posters that I find factual questions rather disturbing.  I would hope teachers simply aren't asking their students to answer a bunch of factual questions that require little or no critical thinking/analysis skills.  This is a scary thought to me!

I do not think using Enotes is cheating IF the student is here for "honorable reasons" as someone else referred to.

 

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kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted April 1, 2008 at 6:52 PM (Answer #30)

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jamie-wheeler stated:

My thinking is that we need more textual support, not less.  I don't like to feel like I'm helping someone cheat, but I also want verfication that our answers are accurate.  As limited as the response area is, I think it's kind of lazy to not back up what you assert.   And can't see, other than the laziest of teacher questions, how offering back up encourages cheating. 

I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU! 

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mejwestut | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted April 2, 2008 at 2:20 PM (Answer #31)

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Hello everyone--I am a newbie on this site and I love the information provided for teachers and students. We have the AVID program at our gifted magnet school and eNotes helps "even out" the playing field. Some SES kids just don't have the same access to quality information and learning experiences. eNotes helps my AVID kids hold their own in Socratic seminars and trust their opinions when writing a first analysis. I also use eNotes for my gifted ELL students who might struggle with unfamiliar literary genre's and terminology. 

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted April 2, 2008 at 2:46 PM (Answer #33)

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Hello everyone--I am a newbie on this site and I love the information provided for teachers and students. We have the AVID program at our gifted magnet school and eNotes helps "even out" the playing field. Some SES kids just don't have the same access to quality information and learning experiences. eNotes helps my AVID kids hold their own in Socratic seminars and trust their opinions when writing a first analysis. I also use eNotes for my gifted ELL students who might struggle with unfamiliar literary genre's and terminology. 

I'm so glad you responded to this subject. Sometimes I wonder if I'm handing answers to students on a silver plate, but I forget that what seems like a simple question to me might be impossibly difficult for someone else. It's good to hear your perspective. Thanks!

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rhetorike | College Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted July 20, 2008 at 10:07 AM (Answer #34)

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My experience with student plagiarism has taught me that the following conditions create plagiarism: 1) student's lack of knowledge and/or confusion about how to use resources, cite properly; 2) No, or little, experience with library use, inadequate research skills, the rigors of academia (i.e., writing a paper based on research takes time and effort; 3) redundancy on the part of the teacher.

The first two can be taught; the final one cannot, because it relies on the teacher's willingness or ability, given his or her strictures, to change his or her approach. Making every paper a new challenge, never relying on old paper ideas, and teaching students how to quote properly and cite sources properly, are the beginnings of how to avoid plagiarism.

I taught for years at a university that focused heavily on plagiarism concerns. However, I never once had a student plagiarise, and I can tell you why: each paper was written beginning from personal experience, and added to with research. The nature of the assignments make students want to do the research. Now, this is not hard to do, but it does require approaching teaching writing from a different perspective than the kind of rote learning that sadly, promotes the lazy desire to fill in the blanks on a piece of paper for a grade. Motivation, and rhetorical analysis, is key to this method of approach. It's not complicated, and it's not hard; it's just not an approach most in English departments are used to, I found.

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urzula | Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted March 6, 2009 at 5:29 PM (Answer #35)

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I recently found one of my students posted one of my assignment question on the Student of Fortune site.  Has anyone also had this experience?  Is anyone familiar with other sites that do the same thing as Student of Fortune?

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monalisa1990 | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 30, 2010 at 5:43 PM (Answer #36)

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My experience with student plagiarism has taught me that the following conditions create plagiarism: 1) student's lack of knowledge and/or confusion about how to use resources, cite properly; 2) No, or little, experience with library use, inadequate research skills, the rigors of academia (i.e., writing a paper based on research takes time and effort; 3) redundancy on the part of the teacher.

The first two can be taught; the final one cannot, because it relies on the teacher's willingness or ability, given his or her strictures, to change his or her approach. Making every paper a new challenge, never relying on old paper ideas, and teaching students how to quote properly and cite sources properly, are the beginnings of how to avoid plagiarism.

I taught for years at a university that focused heavily on plagiarism concerns. However, I never once had a student plagiarise, and I can tell you why: each paper was written beginning from personal experience, and added to with research. The nature of the assignments make students want to do the research. Now, this is not hard to do, but it does require approaching teaching writing from a different perspective than the kind of rote learning that sadly, promotes the lazy desire to fill in the blanks on a piece of paper for a grade. Motivation, and rhetorical analysis, is key to this method of approach. It's not complicated, and it's not hard; it's just not an approach most in English departments are used to, I found.

COMPLETELY TRUE and I'm a student! =)

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monalisa1990 | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 30, 2010 at 5:45 PM (Answer #37)

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simply... I LOVE ENOTES!! =)

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