How to Stop High Tech Cheating – John K. Waters

How to Stop High-Tech Cheating

Cheating isn’t a new phenomenon, of course, but never before have teachers had to cope with such powerful tools and enticements. Although technologies such as adaptive testing, which gives different questions to each student, and test-response analysis, which looks for test-answer irregularities, are emerging, the most effective current strategies for coping with the problem depend primarily on awareness, understanding, and a relatively low-tech set of best practices.

Here are five straightforward strategies from the experts:

1) Prohibit cell phones in the room during a test. The modern smartphone is “the lock-pick of cheating,” says Doug Winneg, CEO and founder of Software Secure. The devices can store large databases of test answers, send and receive answers among friends in real time, and connect to Wikipedia. If the school policy allows students to bring cell phones to school, consider collecting them at the door on test day.

2) Proctor exams properly. That means walking around among the desks, not sitting at the front of the classroom. “Left unchecked, this generation cheats; properly proctored, they don’t,” says Winneg. Cell phones open a huge door to the internet, but they fit in the palm of your hand and are easy to hide. It’s just not enough to tell students to put them in their backpacks or even to confiscate them at the door–students might have another hidden away.

3) Establish a clear set of rules. It’s obvious, even to digital natives, that texting test answers to each other is cheating, but how about reaching out on a social network for help from a classmate on a homework project? The line between collaboration and cheating is truly a blurry one for students using online educational resources, Winneg says, and policies vary from class to class. Teachers who understand the potential for confusion should draw a clear line with written policies and those policies should, if at all possible, be schoolwide.

4) Demonstrate the difference between research and “search”–literally. Let students look over your shoulder while you research and write a short paper, recommends Neal Taparia, cofounder of EasyBib. “When you learn tennis, you’re seeing someone swing the racket and you can really see what’s going on,” he says. “But students never see how their teacher would like them to go about discovering sources, connecting the dots among sources, and developing their own ideas. If you could teach that by example, I think it would be a unique step in the right direction.”

5) Focus on developing information literacy skills. “I think most K-12 students think that plagiarism is just handing in someone else’s paper,” says Dorothy Mikuska, a former high school English teacher and founder of ePen&Inc. “But the idea of citing sources and properly attributing them is not something that they necessarily connect to plagiarism.” Another important issue, she says, is citing the right sources. “You have all this user-generated content out there, but students don’t differentiate.”