Literature Professor, Maddox Academy, Mexico
Linda Ocampo teaches language and literature at Maddox Academy in Mexico City, an institution known for its high standards and commitment to values-based education. When she first started teaching there, she assigned her students an essay to write and was alarmed to discover that half of the content had been copied from the Internet. More surprising, she says, was that when she confronted the class about it, they didn’t understand the problem. “No one had ever told them it was wrong,” she says.
Ocampo was familiar with Turnitin from teaching at universities. She thought it might be just the right tool to use at Maddox to check student work for originality and to teach them how to reference their sources. She downloaded the app on her iPad, and suggested to school authorities that they buy it for the whole school. No one took the issue too seriously until a group of students were embarrassingly disqualified in an external contest because of plagiarism.
In addition to advocating for the use of Turnitin, which her school now uses, Ocampo also launched a campaign to help raise awareness about the severity of plagiarism and importance of academic integrity. She had her students create posters to hang throughout the school about intellectual honesty, and more recently hosted a short-film contest in which students shared stories about real and possible consequences of plagiarism.
Instead of using exams to evaluate her students’ writing, Ocampo has them create a literary anthology, with plagiarism as the theme of the first text. She also uses Turnitin to check all her students’ work and to teach them how to research, reference the work of others, and use their own ideas to write. She says they like the digital format of the feedback, and they now realize that it’s not about punishment but learning.
“We have been able to create a culture of integrity and honesty,” says Ocampo. “For the first time in five years I’m not finding any plagiarism, and all my students are using APA referencing correctly.” Also for the first time, her students have won international literature contests and many received university scholarships for their writing. Because of Ocampo’s success with her students, Maddox Academy is expanding its use of Turnitin with Ocampo designated as the teacher-trainer.
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