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news & tips

A collection of helpful articles on teachers and teaching

Cheating in the Digital Age

Are these test takers CHEATING?!?!I am simultaneously reading how our life in the Digital Age makes it both easier and harder for students to cheat on their schoolwork. They can buy papers and look up information on smart phones. They can use the cameras in their phones to take pictures of tests, and they can text each other the answers to the questions. But we also have plagiarism prevention tools, such as Turnitin, and we can search with Google for material we suspect was stolen and see where it came from. There are also wikis and collaborative online documents (like Google Apps) that allow us to see a history of the document to see who wrote what.

Maybe the answer to abolishing cheating isn’t in the catching; it’s in the avoiding a need for cheating. As long as there are tests, there will be cheating. So maybe the problem is the tests. As long as there are standard essays, there will be a market on the Internet for pre-written compositions. So maybe performance assessment needs to be the way to go, where the only essays are written in class, in front of the person assigning the grade.

Because we still primarily teach to the test in America’s schools, we are fostering a culture of knowing information by rot memorization. Not only does this not work, it’s impractical. And I don’t know about you, but with the sheer volume of information available these days, plus all the new stuff being created each day, I think today’s kids are getting a raw deal. There was simply a lot less to learn (cough) twenty-plus (cough) years ago when I was in school. Totally not fair for today’s kids. If anything, our students should be raising a ruckus that WE’RE cheating THEM out of authentic learning experiences.

My teachers could never have read a blog like this . . . because there was no Internet and therefore no blogging when I was in school. I think we can all agree that times have changed, right? So why haven’t schools?

In this information-overloaded society of ours, students need to know how to locate information, evaluate those sources as unbiased, accurate, and reliable, and then synthesize the information into whatever product of their learning they are creating. The tools are out there, too, for them to have a much more engaging medium than a trite essay. (Note: I was an English major, and I still love the good old essay . . . but once those college applications are done, most people don’t write essays again, outside of class assignments, for the rest of their lives.)

My students’ movies are due this week, and I am really excited to see their finished products. The content is actually digital photography, and the older students had to organize their examples around a chosen theme. There are several types of shots the students needed to capture, and they got to put it all together using Windows Movie Maker, with music, transitions, titles, credits, and a short reflection video of themselves talking about their work. (I prefer iMovie, but my lab computers are PCs.)

Given that the art form is visual, it makes sense to have them present their work visually, no? I can tell by watching their movies if they understand the difference between angle and perspective, among other things. There are a lot of skills within Windows Movie Maker that they had to learn, through a combination of trial and error and by watching videos I made to help them know how to use the program. They also have to ask each other for help, not only with setting up shots and filming their self-interview videos, but also with how to complete the various steps required in using the program itself.

Once they’re feeling confident using this medium, another teacher could come along and assign a project in which they teach the class some concept that interests them. They can make their own supplementary videos to use for instruction. They can add their own self-expression while also conveying the subject matter.

The best part? When a kid makes a movie and then reflects on it, you can tell if they cheated or not. If they took someone else’s material, you know right away when you ask them a question about it. When they talk about their own work, whether it be a photograph or an explanation, their sense of pride shines through. If they used something that isn’t their own, they can’t discuss it with confidence. And they learn that you will hold them accountable for their work. Plus, who wants to cheat when the assignment is as fun as making your own movie?

And I haven’t had a single complaint yet.

If you’re curious about this project, CLICK HERE to view my sample.

More videos related to this project can be found HERE and HERE.

Image credit: “Test takers” by Flickr user hyperscholar.
Some Rights Reserved — Creative Commons

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