Ramblings, citations and "brainwaves" of a college librarian in Toronto. 475 square feet refers to the size of my home, not the size of my office or library.

Our Academic Cheating Culture

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A recent NY Times student cheating story <http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/18/education/18cheating.html> explored the role of information technology as an infrastructure for cheating. Summarized by EDUCAUSE:

"Students have been caught using camera phones and instant messaging to cheat on tests; using a computer's spellchecker on a test that evaluated, in part, spelling; and listening to iPods with lecture notes recorded on them. Responses to the new breed of cheating have ranged from the high-tech--shutting off Internet access in testing rooms, requiring students to install an application on laptops that disables Internet access and prevents students from reading files on their computers--to simply reverting to tests for which students must handwrite their answers on paper. "

From my experience, alot of students are unwilling to allocate the learning work time necessary to succeed. Given the pressure to succeed, whether internal or external, they seek "short cuts". They expect reward for little effort. As they say on the TV reality show , SURVIVOR, its "all about reward baby!"

Faculty are unable to push back in environments that favor improved retention and graduation rates over academic integrity. Try to fail the 20 students in your class that you can prove cheated, and we're not talking about failure to cite here. Watch the blowback. At best you will be asked to give them another chance, on an new assignment or test. At worst, you can loose your job or get black balled within the department. Students have no fear of being thrown out of their program.

It is not the technology, its the "look the other way" culture in our schools. Don't get me started about how curriculums have been watered down in the last two decades to maintain retention rates. Unfortunately, funding is tied to enrollment, so every decision revolves around meeting this objective. "Looking the other way" with most cheaters is a great way to increase retention rates.

Makes me think of a favorite John Travolta movie line from Swordfish (2001) "Have you ever heard of Harry Houdini? Well he wasn't like today's magicians who are only interested in television ratings. He was an artist. He could make an elephant disappear in the middle of a theater filled with people, and do you know how he did that? Misdirection. "

Blame technology...sounds like misdirection to me!

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