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As we read, study, and teach Shakespeare, we are surrounded lay ways that the electronic media enhance, and sometimes obtrude upon, our experience. We use word processors with their built-in spell-checkers, and sometimes use their outliners, dictionaries, grammar checkers, and style-sheets. Our students are hooked into the electronic world as they text their peers on their cellphones, email each other, and Google for information to settle an argument. There is no doubt that for the vast majority of students, the web is now the resource of first resort, far to be preferred to a trip to the library.
We can bewail this change, or we can use it. Because the web is the student's first resource, it can be a wonderful method of engaging our students, and teaching them the tools of critical thinking that they need to evaluate the ocean of information that surrounds them. In this essay, I will discuss two ways of encouraging students in the responsible use of online resources.
Unfortunately, one of the great concerns in both the online and offline world is the need to structure assignments that make it difficult or impossible for students to plagiarize. The ease of searching on the Web for essays on familiar topics, and the relative cheapness of the essays that are readily available from sites like AntiEssays, Go-Essays, GradeSaver, EssayRelief, 123HelpMe, and others like them make it increasingly easy for students to take short cuts in their assignments by getting someone else to do the work. I have discussed this issue in some detail in an earlier piece ("Plagiarize!," SNL. 52:2) and it remains clear that in structuring assignments of any kind it is important to beware of the temptations that students face. The challenge facing the instructor is how to shape assignments so that they provide a minimal opportunity for students to look for ready-made solutions; ideally, the assignment will co-opt some of the online techniques …