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Technology & Cheating Among High School Students

by Ralph Heibutzki, studioD

By some estimates, about 85 percent of high school students have cheated at least once during their academic careers, Ohio State University professor Eric Anderman notes in the "The Chicago Tribune." Cheating has never been easier for high school students raised on the cut-and-paste convenience of file-sharing, smartphones and text messaging devices. The situation forces educators to become more technologically savvy themselves to ensure the integrity of class assignments, examinations and term papers.

Common Methods

High tech cheating takes many forms, whether it's patronizing online term paper mills, or copying and pasting source material to complete a writing assignment. Other popular tactics include programming answers into wireless calculators and covertly sharing text messages or photos of test answers, reports "The Chicago Tribune." For students looking to lighten their workload, homework sites like WolframAlpha provide answers to complicated problems. Students interviewed for the newspaper's August 2012 report also had no trouble finding complete worksheets online.

Influence on Behavior

Technology's influence has eased the stigma of cheating, though not always for the reasons that educators believe. Often, students view cheating as a way of helping each other to get through classes they regard as meaningless or to achieve long-term goals, according to "The New York Times." The pressure of maintaining grade point averages or getting into a topflight college prompts students to share advice -- and, frequently, full sets of answers -- through private Facebook message sites or collaborating on take-home examinations.

Notable Trends

With so many technological options at their fingertips, students can cheat in ways that educators could never have foreseen, the advocacy group Challenge Success notes in a 2012 white paper. One notable trend is the booming interest in sharing answers and images through mobile devices. According to Challenge Success, 35 percent of 1,000-plus teenagers surveyed by the Benenson Study Group used cellphones to cheat at least once, and 65 percent knew of peers who'd done likewise. Such figures illustrate the challenge that schools trying to address cheating face.

Strategies and Responses

To stop cheaters in their tracks, local districts have had little choice but to join the technological arms race. Anti-plagiarism software is now a common response for detecting the misappropriation of texts, for instance. Other districts are investing in surveillance technology and programs that continually reshuffle questions to deter cheating test-takers. According to "The Chicago Tribune," many schools now ask students to submit digital photos of themselves before taking college admissions tests -- which reduces the opportunity of paying someone else to do the job.

Other Considerations

Not all cheating is instigated by students. The linkage of standardized test scores to administrators' and teachers' career fortunes is blamed for instigating rampant cheating in many districts. Teachers may change answers, provide test materials beforehand, or let students exceed the allotted completion time. Deterring such collusion often forces administrators to take extraordinary measures. One example is Kentucky, which administers six versions of its state tests -- instead of just one -- to curb illegal copying and sharing of answers, "The Educational Forum" reports.

About the Author

Ralph Heibutzki's articles have appeared in the "All Music Guide," "Goldmine," "Guitar Player" and "Vintage Guitar." He is also the author of "Unfinished Business: The Life & Times Of Danny Gatton," and holds a journalism degree from Michigan State University.

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