By Amy Schott, Downingtown Middle School Science Teacher & Tech Innovator
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way!” We have all heard this old adage at some point in our life’s journey. We have heard it at home as encouragement to never give up, we have heard it as parents, and we have said it in all of our storied roles in our journey through the road of life. As we all know, this adage also applies to less noble causes as well. So, let’s dip into the world of cheating.
I have seen many different forms of cheating in my tenure as both a student and a teacher. I am sure that you have too…the stories we could tell! Remember when cheating involved writing in corners on the desks or cryptic designs on students’ hands? Or how about that time the answers were written on a tissue?! Wandering eyes? Something on the floor? Yeah, we have seen much more. Technology may be changing the methods used for cheating, but it is our vigilance and expectations that can help curb it. Let’s face it, cheating has long been the nemesis of teachers and that does not seem to be changing any time soon.
In my classroom, I set high expectations and those expectations are not limited to academics. They also include integrity, thoughtfulness, and critical thinking (to name a quick few). I let it be clearly known that cheating on any work is never acceptable (and then I wax on about academic honesty and integrity). I am certain that I am not alone or unique in these expectations. So, other than appealing to a sense of morality, how do I limit cheating (on tests in particular) in this technology-centric age? My answer…with a combination of old and new methods!
In grades 6-8, we have the iPads. For iPads, I use what I refer to as the “3 Ups” rule:
(1) Volume UP
(2) Brightness UP
(3) Screen UP.
This way I can HEAR a screenshot or any sound notifications and quickly and easily SEE what’s on the screen (and I can also see when their faces “change color,” which indicates that a screen has changed). When we used the laptops, I used the same basic premise but relied more heavily on my other strategy. The other method I employ is one that has withstood the passage (and test) of time. I call it the 2×2 and this is all about you, the teacher. It is the classic method of disrupting cheating in any era – 2 EYES, 2 FEET as you move around the classroom and keep a watchful eye on your students and their screens (sounds a lot like “active proctoring”).
The use of technology like Schoology speeds the grading process up (Schoology does most of it for us) and frees us from the stacks of paper to shift through, Schoology enables me to grade so much more efficiently and I don’t feel like I need to stick to my desk trying to grade as quickly as possible while students are taking the test. So, does my “3 Ups” and “2×2” rules work? So far, I have no more cheating than I did in the paper era. These rules are best combined with a little bit of test micromanaging (enabling/disabling, publishing/unpublishing on the test day, not allowing students to view their submissions until the tests are graded, etc.).
So, yes, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” works for all of us. On my end that means doing what I can to curb cheating while embracing technology. Oh, and, I can get some great step counts in on test days too!