Stop Chasing High-Tech Cheaters

In classroom after classroom, all across the nation, students are being asked to memorize and regurgitate trivia at the expense of time spent learning what is essential in the 21st Century. As one letter to the Times editors asked, “In today’s information age, where a body of information in all but the narrowest of fields is beyond anyone’s ability to master, why aren’t colleges teaching students how to research, organize and evaluate the information that is out there?” Why, one must ask, would a journalism professor in 2006 be testing skills from the Remington typewriter and linotype era?


We need to face the facts. If I need a quick answer outside of school and can’t quite remember what I need to know, I will Google the topic, or I will call someone, or text someone, or e-mail someone. One of these sources will, if I know how to operate this technology efficiently and effectively, provide me with the essential information. That’s not cheating, that is life. Only in a classroom is this considered “wrong.” Everywhere else it is viewed as “intelligent,” because we all know that we cannot know everything. —Ira SocolStop Chasing High-Tech Cheaters (Inside Higher Ed)

The author makes a good point.

My wife thinks I have a poor memory because she says I forget important things. While I’ve never been good with names, I’m very good at finding things based on a clue or a half-remembered detail. When she sees the eight or ten overlapping windows on my tiny laptop screen, she sees chaos, but I see information.

I don’t carry the facts in my head; instead, I carry the processes that I use in order to get the facts that I need.

In defense of the journalism professor who issued a spelling test, it’s very true that you can’t get very far if you have to look up every word. But if the assignment is designed properly, those students who do have to use their spell-checkers will take up time that will prevent them from working on some other area of the test. But a spell-check won’t solve the “affect/effect” or “than/then” confusion; so that’s the kind of thing that it makes sense to teach.

Another telling quote from the article: “Just three days after publishing the ‘Cheating’ article the Times itself had to publish a lengthy retraction of a front page story. The prominent printing of false information could have been avoided, the newspaper’s Public Editor noted, had the news staff simply Googled its own articles.”

And to Socol’s confession, let me add that I rely heavily on Wikipedia when I first encounter new information.