I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Virtually Cheating

Oh, my:
But the design of the test had two potential flaws: first, students were informed in real time whether their answers were right or wrong; second, they could take the test anytime they wanted. Bob and several friends devised a system to exploit these weaknesses. They took the test one at a time, and posted the questions along with the correct answers in a shared Google document as they went. None of them studied, so the first one or two students often bombed the test, but students who took the test later did quite well. 
When we hear such stories of online cheating, the reasons for this behavior seem rather simple: It doesn’t take a criminal mastermind to come up with ways to cheat on a test when there’s no supervision and the entire Internet is at hand. Gone are the quaint days of minutely lettered cheat sheets, formulas written on the underside of baseball cap bills, sweat-smeared key words on students’ palms. Now it’s just a student sitting alone at home, looking up answers online and simply filling them in. [emphasis mine]
The post presents a very compelling theory as to why on-line cheating is so prevalent:
So if it’s not necessarily the fear of getting caught, what might the reasons for increased cheating be? Based on our research, I would propose that the primary reason is the increased psychological distance between the dishonest act and its significance, and between teacher and student. The difference a little distance can make is rather impressive. Take the results from a study of around 10,000 golfers who were asked—among other things—how likely golfers were to cheat by moving the lie of a ball by 4 inches through various means: by nudging it with the golf club; by kicking it; or by picking it up and moving it. What these golfers told us was that 23% of golfers would likely move a ball with their club while only 14% and 10% would move it by kicking it and picking it up, respectively. What this tells us is that the extra distance provided by the club allows for twice as much cheating as the unavoidably conscious and culpable act of picking up the ball and moving it. 
What does this have to do with cheating in online courses? Online classes are by definition taken at a distance, from the comfort of the student’s home where they are removed from the teacher, the other students, and the academic institution. This distance doesn’t merely allow room for people to get away with dishonest behavior; it creates the psychological distance that allows people to further relax their moral standards.  I suspect that it is this aspect of psychological distance, and not simply the ease of pulling it off, that is at the heart of the online cheating problem. [emphasis mine]
As we plunge into the brave new world of virtual charter, we need to keep this in mind. And it's one thing to have college-aged students deal with their own moral ambiguity; it's quite another to allow this to be foisted on to teenagers, or even younger students. Part of our job as teachers is to guide them in their moral development; that's awfully hard to do when we aren't even there.

And don't try to tell me that "The teacher is just a text or a tweet away!" There is no substitute for looking a student in the eye; every teacher and parent has lived that.

But if this push for virtual learning in New Jersey and elsewhere goes through, expect more of this:
We then entered a large room, converted from the school's library, with about one hundred 7th and 8th graders seated at tables, most of them staring at computers and doing multiple choice math problems. I watched as one girl, seemingly in a trance, looked at the screen, and hit A, B, C, D keys in turn, until she got the right answer to a multiple choice question and moved onto the next one. Sadly, no adult but me seemed to be paying any attention to this student to make sure she was trying to think the problem through.
There were also two or three small groups of students, sitting at smaller tables, with rather harassed looking teachers who were trying to teach math, but allowed to spend only about ten to 15 minutes together before time ran out and a signal was made for the students to move back to computers, or to another group led by a different teacher. 
Rose explained that in the room, there were four certified teachers, two college students, and three high school students staffing the room, though it was hard to discern this.  He said that each teacher specialized in teaching 25% of math skills, and every student was assigned to particular groups or math problems by means of an algorithm, calculated the night before, based on his or her performance from  the day before.
But what I saw was not personalized instruction and engagement, but many confused and somewhat dazed students, and much disruption, with kids bumping into each other during abrupt scheduling changes, as they moved around the crowded room at the same time. [emphasis mine]
One reason we need to develop critical thinking in students is so they can make smart consumer decisions, and think past the advertising that pervades our culture. Would that the people making our  education policy had that same ability.

Dave, are you looking at Frank's paper?


Commuting Teacher said...

Well, at least we're not Texas yet.

"The Republican Party of Texas wrote into its 2012 platform as part of the section on education:

Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority."

Deb said...

Sorry to tell you we are not far behind CT. At a recent event where Cerf spoke he explained why the use of data and testing were so important - "so teachers do not have to rely on instinct in their teaching"

Is there anything I really need to say about that? We are not far behind.....

Unknown said...

Duke, we should also note that they want to make this available to kids as young as 5 years old (kindergarten). My sister's friend who has both of her children (ages 5 and 8) in a virtual charter school (in Pa) reports that she does ALL of the teaching. As a matter of fact, she also mentioned that the person designated to travel to the homes to evaluate the students' use of the virtual school, told my sister's friend that she was surprised at how much time she spent with her children doing the work...most of the parents sit their children at the computer and leave them to their own devices. She's doing all of the work, teaching her children, and not getting a dime for it...sounds like a scam to me! SMH