Kids spread cheating methods on YouTube

‘Hi YouTube, it’s me, Kiki,” the teenager said to the camera as she swiveled in her chair to jazzy background music. ”And today I’m going to show you how to cheat on a test – the effective way.”

She demonstrates her technique, slipping a small piece of paper with
the answers in a clear-tubed pen as she rationalizes her reasons for
cheating. (Chicago Sun-Times)

Kiki’s video includes a link to her blog, where we learn she is a community college student who wrote a few weeks ago, “I think I want to start being in the media right now. You know, being seen in movies and television.”  Well, you’ve got part of your wish, Kiki.

It’s hard for me to imagine what’s going through the head of someone who posts a video like this, but at the same time, I can’t help but feel amused. First of all, there’s a lot of stuff on YouTube, so it’s not surprising to find someone has posted a video about cheating.

Second, how many words can you put inside a clear plastic pen tube?  We’re talking about filling up the inside diameter, not the outside diameter.  Even if you have really good eyes, and can discern two lines of text, we’re talking about 20 words.  In the time it takes to watch Kiki’s video, you could say those 20 words to yourself 20 times over, or spend a minute making up an acronym to help you memorize key terms. (The YouTube article on how to cheat on a test with a fake Coke bottle label actually describes something that requires some forethought and talent, and users have rated it much higher than Kiki’s method.)

Since I teach small classes where each student is expected to contribute during class, and because most of my classes are writing classes, I can de-emphasize the “memorize facts and spit them back” activities, and instead focus on process. 

When I gave a vocabulary quiz last semester, I let my students bring in a one-page cheat sheet.  I figured that the benefit the student would gain from having to filter the material and decide what was important enough to go onto the cheat sheet would be more beneficial to their learning than cramming. But in that case, I wasn’t intersted in getting them to memorize any particular vocabulary words. Rather, I was calling attention to the process of deducing the meanings of unfamiliar words by having them break a word down into its components (prefix, root, suffix).  I also had them invent new words. (Examples I included were “post-cardiofractal” and “circumvore”.)

Along the same lines, I let students in Writing for the Internet consult their textbooks and even look on their classmates’ computers while they were doing an in-class HTML exercise. (My only stipulation was I didn’t want them to ask each other for answers.)  Again, I wasn’t asking student to memorize HTML, but rather asking them to internalize the technical steps that go into creating and uploading a web site, so that we can move on to the much more important issues of content and audience.

For my second time teaching “New Media Projects,” I have replaced routine “prove you can use this tool” quizzes with peer-focused screencasts.  Rather than have students prove to me that they can perform certain design and programming skills in class, I am asking them to use Cam Studio to record a video of them talking a novice through some steps that demonstrate their skills.  So far we have screencasts on Blender 3D (a modeling and animation tool), Inform 7 (a programming environment for text-based games, which I don’t think had been covered on YouTube before), and an open topic that’s simply supposed to be interesting to Seton Hill University students.  This phase of the course is designed to get students familiar with various unfamiliar tools. Of course there’s only so much they can learn in the two or three weeks we spend on each tool, but when each time they watch and comment on a peer’s screencasts, they’ll get a slightly different approach to using the tool.

(BTW, also quoted in the Sun-Times article is Liz Losh, whose path I cross on the blogosphere from time to time.)