The Rise Of Techno-Cheating & Fall Of Memorization
- July 17th, 2009
- 8 Comments
I’m doing an interview on Monday related to the Common Sense Media survey released in June about teens using tech to cheat, and thought I would use a post to sort out some initial thoughts about the results. Just to recap, here are the main findings nicely summarized in eSchool News:
According to the poll, more than a third of teens with cell phones (35 percent) admit to cheating at least once with them, and two-thirds of all teens (65 percent) say others in their school cheat with them.
Of the teens who admit to cheating with their cell phones, 26 percent say they store information on their phone to look at during a test, 25 percent text friends about answers during a test, 17 percent take pictures of the test to send to friends, and 20 percent search the internet for answers during tests using their phones.
Also, nearly half (48 percent) of teens with cell phones call or text their friends to warn them about pop quizzes.
What’s more, just over half of students polled (52 percent) admitted to some form of cheating involving the internet.
Twenty-one percent of students say they’ve downloaded a paper or report from the internet to turn in, while 50 percent have seen or heard about others doing this; 38 percent have copied text from web sites and turned it in as their own work, while 60 percent have seen or heard this; and 32 percent have searched for teachers’ manuals or publishers’ solutions to problems in textbooks they are currently using; while 47 percent have seen or heard this.
Even more concerning is that many students do not consider this behavior as cheating. Only about half of students polled admit that cell phone use during tests is a serious cheating offense, and just 16 percent say calling or texting friends to warn them of a pop quiz is cheating; instead, they believe they’re simply helping a friend.
Students who cheat using the internet generally view plagiarism as more serious an offense than other types of cheating, yet more than a third of teens (36 percent) said downloading a paper from the internet was not a serious offense, and 42 percent said coping text from web sites was a either a minor offense or not cheating at all.
Most of the media have picked up on the disconnect between what we consider cheating and what teens consider “helping a friend” or using their phone to reference past notes or other answers. While the helping a friend response feels like a creative spin on what they know is questionable, this generation has certainly grown up learning to depend on the internet for instant answers (just as many adults have). It might feel like a waste of time to have to memorize information we can all easily find by typing key words into Google or Wikipedia. Accessing the answers digitally during a test may just seem like an extension of how they do their homework. Maybe they think being able to FIND the right answer is just as valid as being able to memorize the answers in advance.
When I interviewed an English teacher for Totally Wired, I remember her talking about the lack of teaching about what plagiarism actually is at her school. My guess is that some students literally don’t realize copying and pasting text from the internet for a paper is plagiarism. Still, students I interviewed also told me stories about how easy it was to use “the technology excuse” to get out of situations like not having completed assignments. Instead of “my dog ate my homework,” it’s “didn’t you get it? I emailed it to you?” when they really didn’t.
Are today’s teens bigger cheaters than teens from previous generations? Have we as a society become more comfortable cutting corners and being less ethical? According to Josephson, it sounds like the answer is a resounding yes. But I would also argue that teens aren’t raised in a vacuum. They are learning behaviors modeled not only by their peers but by adults and our society as a whole.
As for the role of technology, it appears to be amplifying this behavior (making it easier and faster for more teens to cheat), though I would also question the paradigm of memorization and challenge educators to focus on developing the important 21st century skills around searching smarter and thinking critically about information sources (i.e. information literacy) as well.