Schools struggle a lot with the increased use of mobile phones by children. Many new regulations are in place to stop children from bringing mobile phones to school. At a primary school level, some schools ask the students to deposit their mobile phones at the office. In high schools, the phone devices are part of everyday life and a regular item in each class. In the past, teachers had to struggle with the low concentration and focus of the children. Now, they need to fight the attraction of the mobile phones as well!
With the introduction of mobile phones, one new problem that teachers to deal with is cheating on exams. In the past, students had to think of very sophisticated ways of writing cheat shits on paper, on their hand, the back of the ruler or the calculator. Kids today have a very handy way to keep the information and they use it well.
A survey conducted by a media sources with some common sense discovered that a third of teens with mobiles admitted to storing information on their phone, using it in an exam or texting their friends the answers while their friends are in the exam.
One big problem they found in the study was not the fact that kids were using mobile phone to cheat, but that they did not think it was wrong! 25% of the kids in the survey thought that using the mobile to read notes or text them to friends while they are in an exam is acceptable.
Is something wrong with kids today? What is wrong with their morals?
The second problem was parents. The parents surveyed were aware of the fact that cheating is so common in schools (76% of parents surveyed) but they claimed their kids were not using it for cheating in schools. Only 3% of the parents surveyed said they knew their kids cheated using their mobile phone.
Is something wrong with parents today?
Recipe for disaster
I was very concerned when I read this information. Cheating is definitely not good. But I think the problem starts with the test. In my opinion, many tests and exams are done in a completely wrong way – a way that encourages kids to cheat. I will tell you why. Tests are meant to measure how well the teacher taught the subject and not how well kids can memories things. Schools totally miss the point about testing when they get students to memorize enormous amounts of information. Information today is available with the click of a button and there is no point browsing piles of books and memorizing things when we only need the information for a very short time and most of it was never useful for us in the first place. As an example, what is the point of memorizing hundreds of cooking books if you can search for a recipe on the internet based on what you have in the refrigerator?
In education, it is very important to plant the seeds of what we want to harvest
– Ronit Baras
Not many education systems ask themselves the major question of, “why on earth do we send our kids to school and invest millions of dollars supporting them for 13 years of schooling?” (In some countries it is even more than 13 years!). No one thought to put “having happy, productive, creative, healthy, responsible and just citizens who know how to live in the world around them” on the schooling agenda. School systems generally do what they have always done. Most education systems still do what they did many years ago. It is only from time to time that some brave individuals do things differently. People who think that if we want our citizens to have those skills, while we drag them to schools and educate them, it is a very good idea to “plant in them what we want to harvest”. We have to give them the skills they will need later on in life.
Let me give you an example. For the past 10 years, students in school have needed to type up their assignments. My daughter’s first typing assignment was in grade 3. The school had touch typing sessions, but they were an average of 30 min a week for a group of 25 kids who had to share 2 computers. Sure, the education system can say “we ticked the box” of touch typing, but she only ever learned to type with 2 fingers! When Eden was in grade 12, she had to submit an assignment with 2 friends. The assignment was about 5000 words. The girls had collected all the information and were sitting at our house to type it up. The 2 girls took turns typing. And they typed at a speed of 5 words per minute! When Eden was 6, I made her do a touch typing program. She could touch type in two languages by this stage. She ended up typing the whole assignment herself. Can you imagine how hard it is for students when their inability to touch type slows them down so much? If those two girls had to type the assignment by themselves, they would have spent 16 hours typing! And yet we wonder why students are stressed and consider cheating a good option?!?
If you wonder what is wrong with kids today, I think it is their education system! They are part of an education system that does not teach them how to do things but still checks if they do them well.
So, who here has the issue with their morals?
Maybe instead of testing the kids on what they remember, it would be better to teach them ways to find information. Here is an idea: give kids a topic, teach them where they can find valid information and how to sift junk information from research based information. Teach them how to sift opinion from duplicates and how to re-write things in their own way without plagiarizing. Teach them to use this information, find applications for the information and actually use it to their advantage.
In my art class this week, one of the members told about her job interview. She was given a task to complete using a program she did not know. She freaked out and convinced herself she would never get the job as she struggled with it for about an hour. Every 5 minutes she would think to herself that she should just give and leave. In the end she completed half of task and left, not sure if she did it well or not. Two days later, they called to say she got the job. She immediately asked about this exam. They told her that learning how to use the program was easy and every person who worked with it for a day or two would master it. What they wanted to see was how well she could handle an unfamiliar situation and how well she could improvise and she had done that very well. Why can’t we have such creative and innovative education systems?
The art of testing
Testing is an art. Unfortunately most education system cannot even call themselves armature artists when it comes to testing. They put so much pressure on the kids and then complain when they find creative ways to cheat.
In my lifetime, I have been on the cheating side and on the helping others cheat side. In both of them, I had found moral justification for doing it. Fear is a great excuse and helping others when they are afraid was a good justification for me to be kind and supportive.
Cheating is always a sign of fear. The fear of the estimated unpleasant outcome is greater than the joy of the estimated happy outcome. Fear is such a strong debilitating feeling that it overrides our morals.
Even grownups cheat. They just pretend that their excuses are more valid. How many times did you complained about your own parents as a child? And how many times have you said, “That is not the same” when someone pointed out you were doing exactly the same thing? Fear overrides any value regardless of your age, status, knowledge or experience. The only difference is that grownups use better justification system to feel better about it.
Having better, sophisticated justification methods does not make it less cheating. It is even worse. Kids think they are cheating others – their teachers, their school. They consider these things to be outside source. What they probably do not realize is that they are cheating themselves. School is not forever and 20 years down the track, they will have completely forgotten. But when they cheat themselves, 20 years would make no difference. We cheat ourselves and we have to live with ourselves forever.
If we want to raise confident children who do not cheat, we need to plant the seeds of a confident system. One that does not fear being considered inadequate. When tests reflect that the children did not understand what they were taught, it is simply a way to improve.
If the system was honest, kids would never consider cheating. They would think of a test as more of an opportunity to show off their skills, abilities and talents.
If the system was open, kids would not need to memorize insignificant information that they will never need. The can come to school happily, to grow, evolve and learn.
If the system focused on kids’ wellbeing, they would not be afraid of not matching their parents’ and teachers’ expectations. They would feel proud, curious, adequate and motivated.
If the system was creative, kids would not aim to simply “pass” the test. They would constantly test and evaluate themselves.
Only after we reach this point can we start talking about morals.
Yours in frustration,