Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Do Smart Phones Lead to Rampant Cheating on Tests?

  • Overall, 35 percent of students said they had used their phones to cheat during school.
  • Twenty-six percent of high school students saved information from their notes and textbooks in their phone and accessed those digital files during exams, and more than half of student respondents said their classmates did the same.
  • Seventeen percent of students said they had used their smart phones to take pictures of test questions and answers and sent those images to classmates.
  • One in five students said they had used their phones to search the internet for test answers.
  • And even after using web-accessible smart phones to share tips and answers with friends during tests and quizzes, one in four students said they didn’t consider it cheating.
The preceding data was published by academics at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and by the education technology website Common Sense Media and reported in eCampusNews by Dennis Carter.

It's disturbing to me that 25 percent of students don't consider the use of smart phones during a test or quiz as cheating. Do they not think they have an unfair advantage over the other 75 percent of test takers? What reasons would make them think this isn't cheating? At first glance, I thought of laziness and even fear of failure (ultra-competetiveness), but those are probably the reasons behind the eleven percent who cheat and know they are cheating and just don't care.

Why has the definition of cheating been "blurred" for the teenage population?

So what is it about the 25 percent? Is it lack of ethics or have we sold some students on the fact that knowledge is always at their finger tips because of technology so why commit something to memory if it is that easy to access the information? I've had the latter discussion with a colleague and I can see the point, but I'm not sold on this argument on its' own merit. I really wish the study could have questioned the reasoning behind their thoughts and I think this would have made the study even more enlightening.

Now that we have identified the problem with smart phones and cheating, I hope that we can start identifying the reasons for this behavior and then the solution(s). In the meantime, I hope you will follow the the CareerTech Testing Center's recommendation to ban the use of all smartphones and mobile technology during the testing process.


  1. As a student myself I do not use my smart phone to cheat or anything like that. However I do think that it is a real help in my university life, if I do not understand a phrase or anything in class I google it and see what it is. Also

    Also nowdays I have never once sat an official test where I have been able to keep my phone on me...

    Smart Student

    1. Dear Smart Student, You are a smart kid if you don't cross into that realm of trying to get something for nothing, cheating. I applaud you for using your device as a purposeful tool that enriches your academic endeavors.

  2. This is very thought provoking and unbelievable. The fact that 25% of the kids didn't think they were cheating just shakes me to my bones. Where are their moral compasses? Where are the test monitors? Where are the parents? I'm not so naive that I don't think kids don't try to cheat one time in their school careers however, your blog doesn't allude to the fact this was a one time deal. Both my kids cheated and got caught, they take after their mom that way, do something wrong and the whole world can tell. The point is, they were punished, at school and at home. We simply didn't allow or expect this type of behavior. Teachers, why are you passing out an exam and not monitoring your room? This isn't your free time. Set parameters, set expectations, set punishments. Cheating isn't really a one person deal, all of us are involved. If a student gets away with cheating once, why not do it again. We could make it mandatory that all answers be looked up on the smartphone or other electronic devise, if it is something they have to do, would they stop doing it?
    I remember a sitcom where the student took time to look up and write all the answers they thought would be on a test onto their hands, shirt sleeves and the bottom of their shoes. Surprise, they didn't need to use any of their cheat helps, just the process of planning to cheat prepared them for the test. Too bad, they were caught and punished anyway. Lesson learned? (Wish I could remember the name of that show. Might be a good one to show kids.)


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