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Classroom Cheating in the Digital Age

Digital technology has made it both easier for students to cheat and for teachers to catch offenders, according to a recent piece in The Chicago Tribune—but overall cheaters maintain the upper hand.

According to Eric Anderman, a professor at Ohio State University who has studied student cheating, around 85 percent of high school students have cheated at least once. He told the paper that while it's unclear how "digital technology has affected teens' willingness to cheat," there's no doubt that "it has made dishonesty a lot easier." He also said that cheating is more likely to occur when teachers place a lot of emphasis on tests. However, when teachers emphasize "the learning more than the test, you get less cheating."

These days, students have endless opportunities for deceit, including posting homework answers on blogs, taking pictures of tests and passing them to other students, and going to websites that will answer math problems for them. High school student Aashna Patel told the paper that cheating is now so easy that there's social pressure for students to give out answers to one another. Student Tyler Raap said, "Teachers always give you the whole moral thing, but kids just want to get good grades."

The Tribune reports that some teachers try to catch students in the act of plagiarizing by relying on websites like turnitin.com, which screens millions of journal articles and archived student papers across the Internet for matches.

One teacher told the paper that she has her students turn in their phones before exams, while another said that he creates multiple versions of his tests—doubling or tripling his planning time—to prevent his students from texting exam questions to other students who have his class later in the day. However, Gary Anderson, an English teacher, said that he prefers to think up techniques that extinguish the possibility of cheating, such as requiring students to include examples of their own lives in their literary essays. "You can prevent so much plagiarism and cheating simply by the kind of assignments we do," said Anderson. "A three-page assignment you can find on the Internet isn't an assignment worth doing."

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