The first time I ever heard of people cheating, it was Cyrano whispering sweet nothings into Christian’s ear to whisper to win Roxane’s love. Since then there has been a long line of people whispering answers to people in all sorts of ways. In fact some kids in China just got busted for whispering into microphones and walkie-talkies on a big exam a couple of days ago.
Chess isn’t free of these types of bad times either, in India a guy got busted for having a bluetooth device sewn into his hat, and he isn’t the only one, there are cheaters using a computers beat their human opponents everywhere (ish). But this isn’t a case of Chess getting ruined by computers, nor is it a problem of sliding ethics.
The thing is, cheaters have been around forever— if there is something where cheating is possible odds are someone will try. What’s changed are the methods, we no longer have only the low-tech cases like Cyrano whispering into an ear, or A-Rod smacking a baseball out of a glove, we also have people harnessing the power of silicon.
Confronted with the story of a jerk trying to pull a fast one with a bluetooth hat we know clearly he was cheating, we know he knew he was cheating, and that he deserves to be disqualified. So how is it that this question is less obvious when the conversation turns to the academic integrity of students? What’s more, how is it that anyone can claim the line between citation and plagiarism is even a little blurry?
Having taught at the college level for several years I can say without question that the students who cheat know they’ve cheated. They are not confused as to what is wrong and what is right. It often takes nothing more than a note asking for the student to come and talk to get an immediate and apologetic confession.
Writing about new concepts is tricky for students since they are forced to work through ideas they’ve just discovered at a fast pace, and that can lead to honest questions as to what needs to be cited and what doesn’t, or even questions as to what is their idea and someone else’s but those questions are non-existent in cases of cut & paste plagiarism. And when those legitimate questions do present themselves, at the college level, it is as much the more the students responsibility to seek guidance. Of course a responsible teacher should let the students know that this is their responsibility and go over examples of what is and what does and does not constitute academic dishonesty. Technology has changed the classroom in so many great ways, and while the methods for being dishonest have changed the rules of academic honesty have not. Students know this just like A-Rod knew he wasn’t allowed to knock the ball out of Arroyo’s glove, and just like Chess players know they can’t use a computer to tell them where to move.