Today’s early #edchat on Twitter was about the use of mobile technologies in the classroom. During the course of discussion, someone mentioned that they worried about the rise of cheating with the use of mobile technologies in the classroom. I mentioned that maybe we needed to redefine cheating. In my mind, if a student is using the resources they have available to find an answer, and they are successful at it, we shouldn’t call it cheating…it’s smart! It made me think about “cheating” in general and why it happens. In my experience, cheating occurs when a student doesn’t feel successful in their learning. They may not have mastered the concept, or more commonly, they aren’t good at memorizing. Cheating on a test or a homework assignment reveals more about the classroom model than anything else. Cheating reveals a shallow test/quiz/ homework assignment that asks students to memorize and regurgitate facts. This isn’t learning. I would argue that if a student used their mobile device to find the answer, they are much more likely to remember and understand than if they had memorized the answer. We need to rethink the way the classroom is structured. We need classrooms that aren’t so focused on memorization and instead require deep, meaningful interactions with learning. When a child cheats, there is a lot that leads up to the decision. The child doesn’t feel adequately prepared and yet they want to succeed. How have we helped them to get prepared? What deeper learning has been made possible? What connections have we helped them make in their learning?
You know what cheating tells me? It tells me that my assignment or test was inadequate, it tells me that I didn’t adequately prepare the “cheater”, and that the “cheater” is more innovative and creative than a grade may reflect. It takes creativity to cheat, students have to put a lot of thinking into how to do it without getting caught. Students who cheat are thinking outside the box. They may not be good a memorization, but they are excellent thinkers.
Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning cheating. There are some character and value issues that must be worked through with a student who cheats. I just don’t think that the type of behavior we consider “cheating” is actually cheating. I think using resources to find an answer should be encouraged for every student. Kids who cheat are trying to survive a broken system. The kids who aren’t good at memorizing are stuck in the same system that prizes kids who memorize well. As a way of surviving and making it through school, the student believes their only option is to cheat the system. This shows us that the child cares about succeeding, if they didn’t, they wouldn’t cheat, they would drop out.
Maybe we should encourage “cheating” (and by cheating I mean using resources) for all of our students. If we are going to test students, let’s find out what they know and if they know how to hunt down what they don’t know. Don’t we do that in the real world on a regular basis?
Let’s redefine cheating. Cheating is when a child doesn’t contribute their strengths to a collaborative project. Cheating is when a child puts the responsibility of their learning on someone else. Cheating is when a child acts dishonestly in a way that takes advantage of others. Searching for an answer to a test using a mobile device is not cheating, it is a creative solution to a problem.