Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cheating in the Digital Age?

     In this day of instant information access, what exactly constitutes cheating in school?  It's no longer a black or white issue. With plagiarism being the exception, do we need to look at "cheating" through a different lens?
     Plagiarism has been an issue since early man copied his neighbor's cave paintings. The protection of intellectual property in the digital age is as essential now as it was back in the day of card catalogs.  The biggest difference with the digtal age is cutting and pasting beats the heck out of having to retype someone else's work.  I've been a victim of theft myself by a professor who  lectures on intellectual property rights in the digital age.  Really!  Maybe she was trying to model just how easy it is to do? 
     The kind of cheating I think we need discuss is the "cheating" referenced in, "Teachers Put to the Test by Digital Cheats" in a recent posting on  The article includes quotes such as, "it's not easy to catch them" and "The kids can really get away with it."  Maybe these same teachers who are battling with their students need to step back and take a look at their assessments.  I don't see a lot of value in an assessment of student learning measured by multiple choice tests with content specific items that can be easily accessed with a couple of keystrokes on my smart phone.  We spend a lot of time talking about 21st century skills and learners but we are still subjecting them to 20th century assessments.  Is it cheating or simply using the resources that they have grown up with, important skills they use in their everyday lives outside of school?      
     Biology teacher Jason Crean states, "They need to think and solve problems...and the technology is taking away from that."  Really Jason?  Technology doesn't think or solve problems, people do.  Let's take a closer look at how we are assessing children and make sure we are asking them to think and solve problems, not simply locate information on the Internet.  If kids are passing our classes by looking up things online, or getting answers to an exam from their friends, then we are failing.
     You can read the piece form the Chicago Tribune below:

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