Technology is bringing enormous change to education, shifting the classroom landscape for students and teachers alike. Among other developments, the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) recommends that digital instructional materials should completely replace traditional printed materials by 2018. The nation’s top education official, Arne Duncan, also has said schools must go digital in order to keep the United States competitive in the global marketplace.
Certainly, classrooms already have been greatly enhanced by the introduction of technology such as tablet computers, interactive whiteboards and e-readers. However, there are possible negatives associated with the evolving technology, including the prospect of cheating become more prevalent.
A study by Common Sense Media in 2009 (PDF) found that 35% of teenagers acknowledged using their cell phone to cheat at least once. Today, the increasing capabilities and portability of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices means students can more quickly and efficiently access and share information. That also holds true for cheaters who want to use the same devices to search for answers online or send test answers to classmates.
Paper “cheat sheets” once concealed in a student’s back pocket are being replaced by digital cheat sheets stored on a smartphone.
More Youngsters Going Mobile
A growing number of youngsters are using mobile devices – and using them more often. A 2012 report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 23% of children ages 12 to 17 have a smartphone; the percentage rose to 31% for ages 14 to 17.
The Pew Internet report also found that the median number of texts sent daily by youngsters ages 12 to 17 increased from 50 in 2009 to 60 in 2011. Indeed, texting is second – or even first – nature to most students today.
Obviously, with the tremendous potential for cheating, it’s more important than ever for teachers and school administrators to ensure that test-taking procedures are strictly enforced. The use of smartphones and other mobile devices must be prohibited during exams, and desks and chairs should be arranged to give test proctors clear sightlines of students.
Students and parents should be informed well in advance of testing dates that such precautions and safeguards will be implemented. The consequences of violating those rules should also be spelled out clearly.
The potential for plagiarism also has increased as a consequence of technological advances. Cheaters now have access at the touch of a thumb or the swipe of a finger to countless sources of information. Whether it’s cutting and pasting someone else’s work or purchasing essays and research papers online, the Web is ripe for abuse.
At the same time, technology also offers greater options for guarding against and identifying plagiarism. Online programs such as Turnitin and Copyscape allow teachers and school administrators to check students’ work for improper duplication.
Old Problem Goes Hi-Tech
Classroom cheating certainly isn’t a new problem. But the tidal wave of technology is forcing educators to rethink how they monitor testing and guard against digital dishonesty. When cell phones first arrived on the scene, it was much simpler for schools to forbid the few students who had the devices from bringing them to class. Now, however, smartphones seem ubiquitous in schools. Indeed, teachers are incorporating the use of such mobile devices into their lesson plans.
New tech challenges will continue to surface in the testing room. Will Google Glass, the search engine’s science fiction-like glasses that have been described as a “wearable computer,” be the next weapon in a cheater’s arsenal?
There likely will be no easy answers to the problem of digital cheating. Regardless, teachers and parents must continue to emphasize the difference between right and wrong. Students need to understand the value of thinking for one’s self and the thrill of learning for learning’s sake – not simply for a grade.
Elise Redmann is currently a junior at the University of South Florida where she is earning her Bachelor’s degree in business advertising and international business. She works as a writer with Dominican University where she covers topics on education for every age. You can follow her @EliseRedmann on Twitter.