Monday, April 30, 2007

Banning iPods to stop cheating

Schools have discovered that media players are being used for cheating in exams and have decided to ban them. Tim Dodd, executive director of The Center for Academic Integrity at Duke University, where cheating has declined over the past ten years says:

"Trying to fight the technology without a dialogue on values and expectations is a losing battle. I think there's kind of a backdoor benefit here. As teachers are thinking about how technology has corrupted, they're also thinking about ways it can be used productively."

How has Duke managed to reduce cheating then? Well they reckon it is because they and their students have created an environment where there is an expectation of academic integrity. Never underestimate the power of environmental norms. Whereas if you come at it from the opposite end by creating a set of rules which treats everyone as a cheat, the the probability is that the rules will be circumvented, bent and broken.

All five senses feed into the memory and facilitating an exam situation, for example, where kids who play music whilst studying could use that music as a memory aid in the exam without disturbing fellow students, would seem like an eminently sensible application of iPod-like gadgets. If we're really going to start integrating these technologies into our education systems we need to start thinking outside of the box of the 'ban it or they'll cheat' variety.

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