How I Use It
Of course, I use turnitin.com to teach about academic integrity and to check for plagiarism; however, what I like best about it is its discussion board tool. Online discussion boards for both my Algebra II/Trigonometry Honors class and my IB Theory of Knowledge class are a very important tool in my arsenal to provide a safe environment for the discussion of big ideas: How important is induction in the generation of results in mathematics? Is mathematics a human invention or a discovery? In what ways is an historian behaving like a scientist? Which is a better way to understand factoring FOIL or Happy Harry--Explain why!? I require all of my students to participate in these discussions by either providing one independent answer and at least one response to another student or by responding with another question. The questions-only boards provide a very interesting overview, or map, of the thinking in the classroom. They become a nice generator of additional analytical questions that we can discuss in class. I will often print entire discussions to allow students to see the line of thought outside of the electronic environment.
Making the same rules for socratics dialogs that I use for live classroom discussions apply to electronic discussions allows the electronic discussions to serve as almost a way to provide a scouting report to students on their thinking. We can replay the "game" in class to see where students may have changed the subject or responded without evidence.
This is a great tool. I have also tried to run this activity with Blackboard and with Google groups. Blackboard is too slow and difficult to use. Google Groups is really not very user friendly. The turnitin.com interface is extremely user-friendly without too many options and settings to fret over. It also provides a very safe and private environment for the students. The only thing I do not like is that I like to include outside experts in my discussion boards: other teachers the students have, friends who are college professors, working scientists or mathematicians. It is not easy for them to join the discussions on the turnitin boards. They must create accounts and join the class as students. Google Groups does make this a little easier.