Need a source? Cite yourself.

fourth grade student was given a lengthy assignment that required much Internet “research.”  I put the word research in quotes since the word was used, but not necessarily in the spirit of its traditional meaning let alone its direct implications in science.
The student spent many hours searching Internet sites for the various facts necessary to complete the assignment. This was not the usual webquest task, but more like a term paper with a seemingly unlimited number of questions. As each answer was found, a website citation was required to be included with the content gleaned from the Internet.
Finally the student hit a wall. Although hard to believe, there seemed to be no information on the Internet about the very specific topic in question. At least none easily accessible with Google.
This so-called student of the twenty-first century, like many others when faced with a digital challenge, simply engineered a digital solution. In this particular case, the question on the assignment was entered into the Ask.com website where it was offered up to the world as one in need of an answer.
And in true web 2.0 form the same student then went ahead and submitted an answer to the question!
Now, with answer and citation in-hand, the ten-year old student soldiered on with his homework providing the answer and necessary web citation.
The story could end here except the student and assignment were not in a vacuum. Many other students were also working on the same assignment scouring the Internet for specific information at the same time. And with ask.com a popular site for answers, it’s easy to imagine that other diligent fourth graders will also cite the answer as found on “the internet” wholly unaware that the answer was supplied by a fellow student possibly only minutes before. While the debate about the appropriateness of such websites like ask.com is one for a later time, it was clear in this assignment that use of the website was acceptable.
Yes, this is an obvious case study in digital citizenship, the read-write web, academic honesty, and even plagiarism (see Plagiarizing Yourself in the Chronicle). It is also a case study in creative problem solving.
Interestingly this same forth grader appeared in this very blog one year ago when he pushed the limits on another assignment when in third grade.

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2 Responses to Need a source? Cite yourself.

  1. Alice Ryan says:

    I must say Kudoz to the boy!!! I think that there is real value in finding unexpected and unique ways to meet the criteria of assignments when it seems almost impossible. It would be really great if the teacher could also take and point out that not everything you read is true, not everything that you find online is written by a specialist in the field. I also must point out that his answer was right and that too is awesome!

  2. Patty says:

    I agree! KUDOZ to him!! However this is the point where the students need a lesson (possibly by the media specialist) on how to identify reliable/accurate resources.

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