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Digital Tools Raise Questions About What Is and Is Not Cheating

Technology tools, such as cellphones and social media, are making it easier than ever for students to access information—and also to cheat, says an article in THE Journal. But part of the problem may be that today's students, who have grown up with technology, don't always know what is and is not digital cheating, the article says.

And although technology is providing different ways for students to cheat or plagiarize—by taking pictures of tests and sending them to other students, for instance, or by copying and pasting information from Wikipedia directly into a research paper—technology is also being used to detect and fight wrongdoing by students, the article says. Software programs that lock down Web browser windows and create a secure testing site have been around since before 2000. And many software programs, like Turnitin, allow teachers to check student papers against online content to detect plagiarism.

But some of the best ways to prevent cheating are low-tech solutions, such as having a teacher walk around the classroom during a test, rather than sitting at his or her desk, the article says. Or making sure to set clear expectations for when students are allowed to work with their classmates and when they are expected to work independently.

In fact, a greater emphasis on collaboration in today's classes has given rise to confusion about what exactly constitutes cheating, said some of the students interviewed for the article. If students are allowed to collaborate in the classroom, does that mean they're allowed to work on homework together over Facebook after school? It's not always clear, and students don't always know to ask, the article says.

For more information about the confusion between cheating and collaboration, read this commentary by Eugene Bratek. Or check out the results of a Common Sense Media poll about how students use technology to cheat. In addition, my colleague Christina Samuels explains how experts at a testing integrity symposium recommend protecting students and schools from cheating scandals.

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