Is Google Translate cheating?

Recently, I came across the idea that a student should not use online translators because it is cheating. But, is it really?

I’m not a fan of online translators and can’t stress enough to my students (of all ages) that online translators are not always accurate. Therefore I encourage students to review their notes and use what they have learned rather than rely fully on online translators. The speech goes something like this “First of all I will notice right away and second of all, it will make no sense! Trust yourself and use what you know!”

HOWEVER, as a speaker of Spanish (first language) and English (second language) I often resort to online translators in lieu of dictionaries, as a quick way to check the meaning of a word or to simply verify the spelling. If I use it as a tool in the writing process, then, how can I ban my students from using it?

The problem that I see is when online translators (and dictionaries) are not used properly, whether because the student is in a rush to finish a writing assignment or because s/he doesn’t have enough confidence in his/her knowledge.

Another issue that I often find in classes is the constant “How do you say.. in English?” even when asked in the target language, it promotes translating, which we want to avoid. Therefore, I always have dictionaries available for students to use as needed.

Today, I took advantage of technology and incorporated the use of an IPad. I downloaded the Google Translate App and set up the Ipad on one of the tables. As students worked on their projects, they took turns in using the IPad to look up vocabulary words other than the ones learned in class. An easel pad sheet with vocabulary as well as a chart with word strips was displayed; yet having the opportunity to use the translator allowed them to work independently. They also checked with me to make sure the words chosen were accurate, as instructed. But overall, it was engaging and effective.

So, why not incorporate translators as another useful tool instead of banning them completely?

On beautiful, brave and lucky mistakes…

I don’t know about you but if there’s a lesson I still need to learn is that it’s ok to make mistakes. It’s kind of ironic that one of my rules in class is “Confia en ti”/ “Trust yourself” yet I’m often filled with doubt on whether I’m making the right choices in teaching. Having a pretty creative mind, I’m usually sorting through ideas to be incorporated in lesson plans and thematic units. Yet, at some point in the process I stop to think of what I’m doing, self doubt kicks in, slowing the outcome as a result.

Luckily, a colleague of mine shared one of his lessons on, Guess what? Making mistakes!! Barry Ostrer, a fifth grade teacher, has devised a system to have students feel comfortable making mistakes and most importantly, learn from their mistakes.

Below is Barry’s message. Hope it’s as enlightening to you as it was for me. And if you end up using this information in your classes, please leave a comment below. I would love to hear your thoughts.

“It seems that some of our students are petrified about making a mistake. I was frustrated seeing only students who knew they had the correct answer raising their hand and participating in class discussions.

I set out to try to change this attitude by creating an environment where making mistakes was viewed as both OK and simply as a chance to learn something new. I use the attached PowerPoint slide deck to introduce this idea and have students re-evaluate their feelings about making a mistake. Feel free to use some of the ideas, and I am happy to help you customize it for your class.
In our math class, we categorize and discuss each mistake. And yes, my mistakes are handled the exact same way! We label the mistakes as brave, brilliant, beautiful, creative, important, lucky or silly. Over the years, students have suggested new labels (example “mini”), but the labels are always positive. I created magnetic labels that we put on the whiteboard to highlight the mistake and learn from it. We have fun with these labels and it generates a good and useful discussion.”
PowerPoint created by Barry Ostrer:

Copyright © 2015 Ericka Collado
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