Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Does Facebook and Cheating Have Anything in Common?

Concern Over "Cheats Charter" on Facebook
by Karl Walderman
Published Sun 25 Jan 2009

Education chiefs have slammed a Facebook webpage that offers a "charter for cheats" by encouraging schoolchildren to swap their homework answers.

"Let's Cram" is a Facebook application that claims to help children study online and has just raised a massive $285,000.00 of funding in America to expand the site. But the UK Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and a teachers union reckon the site lets students complete coursework without learning anything.

Users are encouraged to create "study groups" for each subject and links can be posted to other websites that contain homework answers. The application also lets students know which of their friends are logged on at the same time so study notes and online chat can be exchanged.

Created by Santa Barbara-based computer expert Michael Lewis, the site is spreading like wildfire among UK Facebook users. Claiming the site is designed to "relieve stress" and help students with homework, Lewis reckons the application is a natural way to study in a social network. Michael said: "I wanted to make a place where students could go when they needed to get school stuff done, so I made the site. It's the social way to study."

"Let's Cram" is a place where you can go to post and answer homework questions, study with other students for upcoming tests, or just meet and hang out with other kids that are going through the same things that you are." I really think this could help make school less stressful for students everywhere."

One example on how the site works was a young female posted a problem asking "Can someone help me find all the zeros of this function: F(x) = x^3-27." Within 20 minutes someone had replied with the answer and complete notes on how to write down the mathematic working-out. Education chiefs have slammed the idea as dangerous, as children using the application get questions answered for them, resulting in them not learning anything.

A spokesman for the DCSF said: "We obviously discourage any pupil from cheating and would advise them to be very cautious if using the website." We would also remind students that they could fail their exams if caught cheating." A spokesman for Ofqual said: "All work submitted by a student as coursework must be completely their own work."

There are clear and serious penalties for those who plagiarise, copy or collude with anyone else so we would strongly advice pupils not to use any websites that promote this." If any student is found to have cheated they can be disqualified from their exam and will lose their grade in that subject. "We have provided teachers, learners and parents with further information on the rules of coursework and how to authenticate a student's coursework."

General Secretary for teachers union Voice, Philip Parkin, says the website is open to abuse and could restrict learning. Mr Parkin said: "Sharing knowledge and ideas is what education is all about. However, we cannot condone students copying work from other students into which they’ve had no input."

Students need to realise that copying the work of others is not adding to their own skills, abilities or knowledge." Teachers may well find them out if several students all use the same words and phrases, give exactly the same answers or start writing in a different style."

I found this article in a Liverpool, England newspaper and I thought it was interesting that "Lets Cram" could find the venture capital at this point in time. Are any of you familiar with this application? J.T.

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