Aaron Sumner


Using technology to cheat in the classroom: An historical perspective

Last week I watched Doubt. I don't necessarily recommend the movie, but I observed something related to the notion that students' use of technology in the classroom must always amount to cheating. In the movie, Sister Aloysius (played by Meryl Streep) is touring the classroom of Sister Jones (Amy Adams), a young nun teaching in a Catholic school in 1964. Sister Aloysius notices that a student has dropped a ballpoint pen and berates Sister James for allowing students to use such devices, noting that they make kids lazy and destroy penmanship.

You might think a ballpoint pen isn't "technology," but I argue that, once upon a time, it was. A colleague of mine once noted that something's only "technology" if it came about after you completed your formative years–so for Sister Aloysius, the Bic on the floor was just like a cell phone or iPod today's teacher might spy a student sneaking into class. The challenge shouldn't be keeping kids from using these tools–because they will always find new ways to skirt the system–it's helping them leverage the practical ways these devices can be used for learning and exploration.

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