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Cheating With Technology

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Category: Miscellaneous

Autor: anton 16 April 2011

Words: 2562 | Pages: 11

Cheating with Technology

Technological advancements have given today's society new ways of providing information and communicating. With these advancements come the good and the bad. In the academic environment, students have used technology as a productive way to study, read, and communicate, but have also implemented it in unethical ways such as cheating and getting by

without doing the work that is necessary to learn. The introduction of technology as a potential use for cheating and the instructors' needs for change are causing many issues to surround these problematic circumstances.

Effects of Introducing Technology into the Classroom

In recent years, there have been technical advancements in nearly every aspect of our day to day lives. With that in mind, it stands to reason that technology has made its way into our classrooms, arming our children with the skills they need to work with the new technology, as well as assisting teachers in the education process. The article, Customized Learning, A. Ellisor (2006), discusses how the use of an online search tool helps teachers, as well as students, locate "educational resources for various reading levels". This tool helps teachers to tailor assignments for the diverse learning levels of the children in their classrooms. Further, in survey results published in CIO Insights (2006) on Classroom Tech, 54% of teachers say technology has changed the way they teach and 37% of teachers use technology, daily, in their instruction.

With all the positive advancements in classrooms as a result of adding technology, one would expect that there would be some negative issues, as well. Children growing up with technology at their fingertips are beginning to realize that they can use this technology to make their lives easier, in every aspect. No longer is it necessary to go to the library to use an encyclopedia when students have the world wide web available to them 24 hours a day, and no longer is it necessary to study for a test, when, using technology, students can obtain the answers. As shared in pssstВ…What's the Answer? No problem. Some teachers worry high-tech electronics, mixed with old-fashioned sneakiness, are making cheating easier and more widespread than ever before, J.D Heyman, et. al. (Jan 24, 2005), students are using internet sites, camera phones, PDAs, and even a battery sized device called a KEYcatcher, which students use to learn their teacher's computer passwords and steal test answers to help them obtain better test scores.

How and When Cheating with Technology is Occurring

In this technological age, traditional cheating methods of writing information on hands or arms, whispering to a fellow students and passing notes have made way for enhanced high-tech cheating styles. Today's modern student has brought high-tech cheating to the academic world with such devices as programmable calculators, cellular phones, personal data assistants (PDA), and laptop computers (Richardson, 2002).

Programmable calculators provide students with the capability to store information, equations, and answers in the device memory for easy access during tests, quizzes and exams. The cellular phone text messaging feature allows students to get answers easily, even from someone outside the room. Personal data assistants have features like the programmable calculators where information can be stored in its internal memory, but some personal data assistants also have wireless access features providing access to the internet to look up the answers information needed. Laptops, mainly used by college students, have all the capabilities of the devices just described, wireless internet access, memory for storage, and instant messengers for direct communications.

From junior high school to college, students at all levels are using these types of devices to escape hours involved in preparing for tests, quizzes and exams. The technology used is easy to acquire, not hard to operate, and provides an effective way to cheat (Richardson, 2002).

Steps Being Taken to Combat Cheating with Technology

There are many ways to attack the problem of cheating with technology, but we are going to focus on three main points: Prevention, detection, and disciplining the offenders.

Preventing cheating before it happens is the easiest tactic. The strongest indication is that educating students properly and clearly outlining the institution's conduct policies and academic standards is the best way to prevent it from happening (Gross-Davis, 1993, В¶ 2). Setting up a strategy for students to succeed is becoming more popular among university staff members in an effort to eliminate stress and the pressure to perform. Classroom guidelines set at the beginning of a term, including banning electronic devices, distribution of multiple versions of an exam, and creating a controlled classroom are several other successful deterrents in the fight against cheating (Read, 2004, p.2).

Detecting cheating, whether it is on exams, in the classroom, or plagiarism seems to be continually one step behind technology. However, awareness in the classroom and multiple plagiarism detection services offered to staff members has eased the burden. Vigilant monitoring of the classroom during exams is possibly the oldest and best way to detect cheating. Online services, such as Turnitin (2007), have provided instructors tools to identify material that has been plagiarized.

Finally, enforcing discipline procedures according to the policies of the school is essential. Confronting the incident immediately with formal action maintains consistency among staff members and helps promote academic honesty (Gross-Davis, 1993, В¶ 2).

The Implications of Chasing Cheaters Using Technology

In academia, this increases the struggle between student and teacher. This struggle compiled with the growth of devices and their uses for both student and instructor, has helped technology cheating to become more prevalent. But is this truly a growing problem or has discovery methods improved because of technology?

Either in a high school or college environment, instructors are faced with more students and classes that they have per week. With each additional student, comes additional time needed to correct papers, address student concerns, and grade exams; not to mention preparing for and teaching the class in the first place. The time required for those tasks alone are enough to keep an instructor up late into the evening. Now add time needed to verify the originality of the material written in a student's paper, and what is left is an instructor whose overall availability, and sanity, has been greatly impeded upon.

Now say an instructor found an un-cited passage that has a remarkably similar structure and word use to that of an undocumented source. The student must have plagiarized, or did they? In a paper written for the Nordic Educational Research Association, one of the authors, Lars-Erik Nilsson, was referenced as stating "that no one that speaks is the first to use the words." (Nilsson, et al, 2004, p. 8) This reference is continued with:

When we try to express something, we take part in a hidden dialogue with what others have said before us. When we assimilate the speech of others it is not merely a simple transformation, we also adapt by giving the words the meaning we want them to have. The student who takes a text and alters some of the words is maybe taking the first steps on a long stairway, leading towards a new discourse and a personal adaptation to a subject discourse. The question of whose voice it is we hear when students write and speak is problematic to Nilsson. Seen from his perspective it is not so easy to speak about cheating and plagiarism. The process of developing a language of ones own (if even possible) on a subject area holds strategies where it is a necessity to use the thoughts and thereby the words of those who were before us. (p. 8)

It is with that thought that we return to the issue of whether or not a student learned the material, or copied the text with minor alterations. How many variations of the same material can be made before there are no other ways of stating it? If common language is used, we would be hard pressed to say that the student intentionally plagiarized. It is all normative judgment; judgment that is made on an individual to individual case. A comparison between all other written works from a student can help decide if a paper is written in their voice, or a patchwork of another's work.

Term papers are not the only issue of technological abuse. With the advent of cellular web browsing, text messaging, and notes filed into other electronic device; cheating during an exam has become more accessible. However, this is not a new phenomenon for students and instructors. Cheat sheets hidden in a pocket, notes written on an arm, or looking over another's shoulder are all pre-technological forms of cheating. (Richardson, 2002). Even term papers were once hand-passed among friends or used in multiple classes by one student. These came before downloading from the internet, and can still occur. The use of technology did not create academic dishonesty, but the deception, cunning, or even ingenuity of students, who have learned from their culture.

With the use of technology, some students have found a new way to cheat or plagiarize; but instructors have found a way to catch them, also. Sure it is easier to research what sources students used for their papers, but is the time used to copy sections into a search bar or scanned into an anti-cheating program actually finding more students cheating? Take this example from an Accounting class at the University of Maryland that was given in the article, Wired for Cheating, by Read (2004), where instructors posted a fake answer key prior to a final exam:

As some 400 students deliberated over their answers, the exam proctors sat and watched -- ignoring occasionally suspicious noises coming from a few cellphones, according to some of the test takers. When the professors then compared each student's paper with the false key, they found that a dozen tests matched the fake answers almost exactly. (p. 1)

About 12 of 400 students were found to have cheated; that is only 3%. Does that really sound like an alarmingly large or growing problem? The University of Maryland example illustrates that it is the technology that is finding more academic dishonesty and not purely the cause for it. Could it be seen that those students are just using the tools and resources available to them, and provided by the instructors, albeit in that case of incorrect answers and academic dishonesty. What of those electronic devices, computer programs and software, and internet information? Nilsson (2004) states that they "would concede that from a socio-cultural perspective it can be argued that artifacts that act as memory extensions could be seen as legitimate aids and that exams should be about other things than recalling something that has been memorized." (p. 8)

Let's step to this cultural use of technology. In that article by Read (2004), they referenced a survey conducted by a Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching research assistant, Jason Stephens. In Stephens survey, he finds that the majority (two-thirds) of students have cheated on an exam, in at least a small way, with or without the use of an electronic device. Stephens is quoted in the article as saying, "Students can say, 'Why should I be forced to memorize a fact or a formula when I'm going to have this information at my fingertips online?" (Read, 2004, p. 4-5)

What of business? Books can be written by a ghost writer, with no recognition afterwards. Video news releases are pre-made and sent to news stations for them to air as their own. Musicians lip-sync to their prerecorded songs. Journalists use the AP wire to create their stories. Could this be seen as plagiarizing? They are using someone else's work, or using their own work time and again. There are few, if any, repercussions to these industries that cut corners in their work, and use the tool and resources that are out there for them to use.

If the information is out there, that is acceptable for use in any other enterprise, then why should not students use it and learn from it? What we consider cheating or plagiarizing, is looked at differently in other cultures, as in the previously mentioned industries. "Particularly in Asia, students are encouraged to memorize and reproduce respected authors as a sign of intelligence and good judgment." (Miall, 2005, p. 174) So as exchange students filter through this academic system, cultural difference have to be addressed in order to create a common background. Our standards can be unknown, or misunderstood by these foreign students.

Whether global, professional, or school culture, confusion of what is or not plagiarism comes forth. Exams for example, Nilsson (2004) argues that if students do not provide textbook answers, they fail the test; or if writing exam essays with text quotes, students are not expected to list their source. (p. 8). So how are students supposed to memorize and assimilate class material for exams, then later remember every source they learned from when it comes time to write a research paper. There is this double standard of plagiarism that exists within our environment, between exams and written work and the "real" world.


It is true, advancements in technology have greatly enhanced the learning of students from grade school to post graduate, but it has also created additional worries for educators. Cheating with technology is the natural progression of adding such technology and will require new techniques of tracking and catching those who choose to cheat. As we have seen, cheating is still occurring, just in more advanced forms by students who have evolved with the technology.


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