Cheating Like It’s 1959

According to CNN, students are using iPods to cheat. And their methods seem pretty familiar.

Some students use iPod-compatible voice recorders to record test answers in advance and them play them back, 16-year-old Mountain View junior Damir Bazdar said.

Others download crib notes onto the music players and hide them in the “lyrics” text files. Even an audio clip of the old “Schoolhouse Rock” take on how a bill makes it through Congress can come in handy during some American government exams.

If a student has the test answers in advance, doesn’t the teacher have a bigger problem than the distribution method?

And why are they asking questions that can be answered by Schoolhouse Rock?

However, the larger issue is the tests themselves. If an assessment is that easy to cheat on, is it really a valid assessment?

In the real world, few people are expected to maintain a large body of information for recall on demand. Most will acquire data as they need it and their role is then to make the material useful.

So, on this government test, instead of asking students to list the steps of how a bill becomes law, let them listen to I’m Just a Bill and ask them to explain some ways that the process differs from what’s written in the Constitution.

Better yet, give them a long term project that also involves investigating current legislation that would directly affect their lives and writing their representatives.

Traditional assessments and assignments that require low level reshuffling of memorized facts do nothing to help our students prepare for what will be expected of them in the real world.

But the real news in this story is not that these devices are being used to cheat.

It’s that we have an educational structure enabling students which hasn’t changed in more than fifty years.

ipod, cheating, assessments

3 Comments Cheating Like It’s 1959

  1. Carolyn Foote

    I agree that is part of the problem. I posted about the article as well on my blog, because we had just taught a workshop to our teachers on iPods. I think like anything else, this is as much an instructional issue and ethics issue for the classroom as a technology issue.

  2. Brian B.

    I think this issue is more about assessment than technology. We (educators as a whole) have bought into the idea that we can assess learning through testing (NCLB!). This is attributable to many different reasons but perhaps the greatest is how easy it is – e.g., Teach a lesson, assign some homework, give a test, see the scores – pretty easy, eh? It’s much harder to get away from textbooks, worksheets, etc. and move toward authentic learning. Why don’t we read the Gettysburg address and talk about what it means instead of making students memorize it? Relate that to some publication from a more “southern” standpoint. Then determine learning through a rubric-driven project or discussion. Let them use the resources at hand to DEFEND their answers – and let others CHALLENGE them. If the resources they want to use is a podcast of the Gettysburg address – then let them. It’s not the technology here – it’s the pedagogy.

  3. Staff

    That’s what you get in a technologically advanced society. When we push students to use technology, we have to be prepared for them to use it against us.

    Personally, I think the iPod thing is pretty ingenious.

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