Kristiansand teaches students how to create academic work with integrity, following upgrade to Google Workspace for Education Plus

Reading, writing, and academic integrity

Since 2008, schools in Kristiansand Kommune in Southern Norway have given digital skills the same priority as reading, writing, math, and oral presentation skills—viewing them all as essential areas of learning from day one of each student’s journey. The digital skills that students learn also help them sharpen other skills deemed essential in Norwegian schools: collaborating with fellow students, and giving and receiving peer-to-peer feedback.

Kristiansand’s schools were one of Norway’s earliest adopters of Google for Education tools. The schools began using Google Workspace for Education Fundamentals in 2010, and later on, adopted Google Classroom. Erik Fredheim, who’s both a teacher and an information and communications technology (ICT) advisor for Haumyrheia school, started using Education Fundamentals himself a decade ago, and believes the Google solutions were the perfect choice for the municipality.

“We wanted a system that could be used easily across all the different technologies we already had,” Freidheim says, noting that at various times, Chromebooks, iPads, and Windows PCs and laptops have been in use in the district.

Indeed, the overall strategy for deploying technology in Kristiansand schools is built around the idea of enabling access to teaching and learning tools from any device, and giving teachers and students more freedom to choose which tools they’ll use. After testing several learning management systems over the past decade, the municipality chose Google Classroom. “Even without us pushing Classroom, over time, it was adopted organically,” says Ole Wongraven, Kristiansand’s ICT advisor for schools.

Plagiarism prevention as a learning experience

Even with Google solutions in place, one challenge remained: how to review student work for plagiarism, and how to teach students to take on the task of reviewing their work and adding proper research citations. Before Classroom was adopted, the municipality’s schools used an LMS called itslearning, which included some plagiarism review tools. But the LMS was costly as well as difficult for students to use; in addition, the plagiarism tools were mainly designed to catch students plagiarizing content after the fact, not teaching students how to avoid plagiarism.

Pedagogically, originality reports are different from the previous anti-plagiarism tools we were using,” says Wongraven. “Catching cheaters was the only objective before. Now we can use originality reports to teach students how to properly cite sources, and students can use the tool to learn better writing.

Ole Wongraven, ICT advisor, Kristiansand

Classroom has the originality reports, which help students properly integrate external sources into their writing – while making it easy for instructors to check for potential plagiarism. However, access is limited to 5 originality reports per educator under Education Fundamentals.

“We wanted to promote the use of Classroom to more teachers, but absent more access to originality reports, it was becoming a tough sell,” says Fredheim. When he and Wongraven learned they could offer students and teachers unlimited access to originality reports by upgrading to Google Workspace for Education Plus, they suggested the municipality go for the upgrade.

Friedheim agrees that teaching students to take charge of the integrity of their work is a better solution than detecting plagiarism when a project is already complete.

“When I’m correcting term papers, I use video in Google Meet to give feedback,” explains Fredheim. “Students can invite me to a Google Doc, and using originality reports, we can work on papers together. So, instead of catching them after the fact, I can teach them how to avoid plagiarism in the first place.”

Says Wongraven, “This is the kind of feedback-driven learning that we value and want to expand.”

Education Plus helps schools prepare for the future

Like many IT leaders in the education space, Wongraven sees positives in Kristiansand’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of technology adoption.

“We’ve had to move every teacher onto the technology path,” Wongraven says, especially teachers who were hesitant to use technology tools pre-pandemic. “Some of them have had moments when they suddenly realize the potential of tools like Education Fundamentals and Classroom, and say, ‘Oh, now I get it.’ Once that happens, they are off and running.”

Going forward, Kristiansand ICT leaders plan to tap into the capabilities of Education Plus to further improve digital solutions for teachers and students. “Norway has recently updated its national curriculum standards, so we must make some updates to comply with that,” says Wongraven. “We’re excited about finding new ways to use digital tools to teach critical thinking.”