E-school News reports today:
A new poll conducted by the nonprofit organization Common Sense Media suggests that students are using cell phones and the Internet to cheat on school exams. What's surprising, however, is not just the alarming number of students who say they cheat, but also the number of students who think it's OK to do so.
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.
First of all, where are the teachers in the classroom administering the tests? I think cheating is not that easy if teachers are paying attention while they administer tests. Surely you would notice if they have out an electronic device. Some readers are quick to blame the technology and say "why are phones in school" and that they should be banned. Cheating has been around for ages before we had cell phones. Don't blame phones for students behavior. Cell phones have a very useful place in the classroom as mini-computers that can be used for research.Reading a text message is not that much different than reading a note. Teachers watching for phones out during a test is no different than watching to see if they have a "cheat sheet" on a piece of paper.
More importantly teachers should re-evaluate their tests. If tests are really at high-level thinking requiring analysis, evaluation, synthesis, and application then they should be "cheat-proof." It is much easier to cheat on multiple choice or fill in the blank than on a test that actually requires thinking, interpreting, and students writing their own opinion. I agree with Alan November who said that tests should be open Internet. But it requires a new way of thinking for teachers and students. This open test would actually be more difficult because it would require higher level thinking rather than just rote memorization. Students would have access to all of the "facts" on the Internet, but then would have to use them to answer a more difficult level of questioning.
I personally lean toward no traditional tests, but use projects, blogs, and other forms of writing to assess student learning. For example after my students build and launch hot air balloons made of tissue paper, they must write a letter to Leon Gambetta explaining to him how to escape from a siege of Paris (1870). In the letter they must explain how to build a hot air balloon and why they fly. My 8th grade students write evaluations of all of their projects on their blog explaining their experiences for each project. Of course if it was up to me I would eliminate grades all together but that is another discussion.
Finally also disturbing to me is that students do not view this as cheating. Morals are in decline in our country and many students will do whatever it takes to get ahead just to get a good grade. I often ask ethical questions as "opening" writing assignments to students and many of them see little wrong with cheating, stealing, or lying if they think that they will not get caught. Many students admit they would take a stolen ipod from a friend or lie to get out of trouble and see nothing wrong with it. Therefore we need to teach students why cheating is wrong on top of monitoring them from doing it.
In summary, authentic learning experiences with authentic assessments with open resources makes cheating impossible. So what do you think?