Saturday, August 14, 2010

Anna Forge: Technology and Cheating

Anna Forge is a guest blogger for My Dog Ate My Blog and a writer on online schools for Guide to Online Schools.

Technology and Cheating

Students are often motivated to one-up their peers and impress their teachers and parents. College admittance is getting increasingly competitive, and so are high school AP classes. Cheating has evolved with technology, and the days of writing answers on palms have been scoffed into history books by iPhones, bluetooths, wireless headphones, flashdrives, and even graphing calculators. There is no end to the tricks students will attempt to pull over teachers and professors. Luckily, teachers and professors have caught on and are tightening the reins on anti-cheating tactics.

Here is a list of common cheating tactics and how teachers are combating these efforts:

Electronic tests administered in ordinary computer labs used to be a breeding ground for dishonest flash-drive usage. A flash-drive is a small device that can be carried on something as inconspicuous as a key ring or inside a pen cap, and when plugged into a computer's USB port, users of the device can save word documents, web page URL's, and PDF files for quick and easy access, no matter which computer they're using. Lecture notes, test outlines, review outlines, or even previous exams can be saved on these handy little devices. If smuggled into an exam session without proper detection or supervision, students can take open-virtual-book tests, at their leisure.

Teachers and professors who caught on to this new trend in system manipulation came up with a genius idea and set it in motion in a few of the nation's colleges and universities. Penn State, according to U.S. World News and Report, boasts an electronic testing center that has significantly reduced cheating rates. Students are not allowed water bottles, electronic devices of any kind, large zip-up jackets or sweatshirts, front-facing caps or other headwear, and the computers' ports and internet capabilities have been blocked, disabled, or terminated altogether.

Testing "safe rooms" such as these are pretty expensive to implement, so most high schools or smaller colleges cannot afford to have them built immediately. There are other options, however, to use in detecting tiny handheld devices that educators might be prevented from searching for. Companies like CellBusters and Orion are headlining the development of technology that can "detect and prevent unauthorized use of cell phones and other bugging devices," and "provide[s] the capability to detect hidden electronic devices, regardless of whether the device is radiating, hard wired, or even turned on at all," respectively.

While testing rooms and CIA-level detection technology helps in preventing cheating during exams, what about electronically submitted work, or assignments that have been done outside teacher or professor supervision? With the development of the internet into the endlessly-giving-of-information-no-matter-who-you-are-or-what-your-motives-may-be machine, educators have begun utilizing electronic assignment sites like the Blackboard Learning System, which developed anti-cheating software called SafeAssign. Students turn in work via SafeAssign, and the software checks its originality against a database of already-written or published works. Attached to the student's assignment, an originality report is delivered to the teacher's SafeAssign account. The teacher will be able to clearly see signs of plagiarism. Similar to this software, and also a leader in anti-cheating software, is the, which has compiled a database much like SafeAssign in order to pinpoint unoriginal works.

So with all this technological advancement, students have had to resort to doing things the old fashion way. Well...sort of. Back in the old days, a bully could beat the crap out of the class nerd in order to procure a paper worthy of a decent grade; nowadays, a simple Google search--done without leaving the couch or putting down the chips--will bring up endless options for originally written college entrance essays, high school AP essays, college course papers, theses, and dissertations. However, if students can find these essays with a Google search…so can teachers.

Will the viscous cycle never end? Will this battle of epic technological proportions ever reach a cease fire? Will students some day have to actually put in effort for a reward? Only time--and perseverance of both parties--will tell.

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