Monday, July 13, 2009

Clueless on Cheating

from eSchoolNews:
"A recent report commissioned by Common Sense Media about the use of cell phones and the Internet for cheating (see story) is representative of how students and adults can look at the same behavior or activity and have very different perceptions of technology's impact."
This should not surprise anyone. Teenagers are fundamentally different in how they perceive the world, assess needs and risks, and how they apportion time and manage their resources. They have always been different from the adults. Adults have always had to be the responsible ones, though the roles do sometimes get mixed. (I have no intention of talking about those parents at this time.)

Not everyone seems to understand this, however, and they are increasingly making excuses for teenagers and basing these excuses on "digital nativism."

This is a joke. I am just as capable as my students in using all these digital tools and I started on a PDP-8 with a punch-tape reader, for criss-sakes. Digital familiarity is not a psychological difference nearly as large as that driven by age and experience. I can use all of it. I just don't want to.

Call me old-fashioned. Call me old.

Tech toys are not an excuse for cheating and the availability of technology is not an excuse for not thinking. Students still need to think. As Dan Willingham put it in his terrific book Why Don't Students Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom, schools ask students to think and thinking is HARD. This fact is never going to change. Pretending that wikipedia copy-and-paste is ethical and desirable simply because technology makes it easy is itself a simplistic and ultimately incorrect argument.

Claiming that students who text each other for the answers to a test or quiz are somehow being digitally masterful is missing the obvious insight that 40 years ago it was a high-tech Bic pen and a piece of paper.
At the root of this digital disconnect is a fundamental difference of perception. Our students, who are not only digitally native, but increasingly mobile, view the world through a new lens that has been framed by a myriad of emerging technology devices and the use of such tools for increased communication, collaboration, content development, and connectedness. Their parents, teachers, and many other digital "immigrants" in education policy and media spheres are startled by the speed with which students are not only adopting these new tools, but adapting them to new, previously unforeseen uses. And quite often, the context of this adaptation is misunderstood by the adults whose lenses are not quite as digitally focused.
Context, my foot. New lens, my eyeball. "Previously unforeseen uses?" 99% of what kids use technology for is chatting. Just as we oldtimers used the high-technology of our time, the telephone, so much that our parents had to install a second line? How many of you had a sister? How many parents had to scream daily "Get off the phone, I need to make a call!"

Nothing new is really new, it's just packaged differently. The technological icing on the cake is sweet and not too sustaining. We'll adapt to different ways of doing things but we'll also come to understand how desperately wrong folks like eSchoolNews and the Techno-philiacs really are.

Cheating is wrong not because of my hurt feelings. Cheating is wrong because it's easy and doesn't lead to anything meaningful. Not every kid understands this but I've never let a kid decide things for me. I'm still the adult in the room, I hope.

If only I can get this damn blog thing working.

(Exit, muttering.)

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