iPods and cheating, iPods and schools, cell phones and cheating

Schools Attempt to Redefine the iPod War

January 01, 2009 08:30 AM
by Shannon Firth
The prevalence of MP3 players has made it hard for teachers to keep them out of the classroom, but some schools embrace them.

MP3 Rules Being Relaxed

The questions of whether to allow students to listen to iPods and other MP3 players in schools has created friction between teachers and students in the past, but some schools appear to be retreating from the battle. Whitefish Bay High School in Milwaukee has joined other area schools in loosening iPod regulations. The administration feels that allowing students the chance to listen to music, podcasts, and books during their break or study hall helps them to unwind or concentrate.

However, schools administrators in neighboring Waukesha and New Berlin High Schools continue the iPod ban in their school to deter theft. Principals also say having a clear-cut rule eliminates tension between teachers who allow iPods and those who don’t. New Berlin superintendent Paul Kreutzer owns an iPod: “I get that kids like music and that they're mentally stimulated by it, but I don't have an iPod on my head when I'm in a staff meeting,” he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The potential for distraction is just one reason the players aren’t allowed in Wisconsin schools. The newspaper reported that all “two way-communication devices” were forbidden by the state of Wisconsin, not because they disrupt class, but because at the time the law was written, having a cell phone or pager implied a student might be selling drugs.

And iPods, like cell phones, pose another threat: cheating. Ethan, a high school student in Charleston County, S.C., who preferred not to give his surname, told the Post & Gazette, “I have heard about students downloading their notes onto their iPods as lyric files and using them to cheat.”
According to the Post & Gazette, in 2006 the Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth found that 60 percent of students in high school had cheated on a test that year.

Other schools have embraced MP3 players. In 2004, Duke University in North Carolina gave iPods already loaded with orientation advice to all incoming freshman. It has downsized the program, but school officials say iPods are loaned to its students.

Also in 2004, Grace Poli, a media specialist at Union City, N.J.’s Jose Marti Middle School, developed a program that used iPods to help non-native speakers in her school learn English. The school granted her request for 23 iPods. Poli told The New York Times that many bilingual students felt isolated and intimidated, but using iPods helped them to break away from their shyness.“You have kids who never said a word in English, and now they’re singing Black Eyed Peas,” she said.

By fall 2007, the program’s success prompted school districts around New Jersey to buy 300 iPods to use with students who have learning disabilities and behavior problems.

Though MP3 players have helped in some cases, teachers can’t ensure that students are learning from their iPods. Melissa Thompson, principal of Wisconson’s Waukesha West High School, where 437 students launched a Facebook protest of the iPod ban, told the Journal Sentinel: “Eminem unedited? Tell me the educational value of that.”

Opinion & Analysis: Do technology benefits trump risks?

Mike Elgan, a technology writer for Computer World, believes banning students from using iPods, fearing that they will use them to cheat, is backward thinking. Instead, Elgan argues that school administrators need to test students differently. Instead of teaching them to memorize facts, they should be taught to develop critical thinking: “By banning iPods and other gadgets, we're teaching kids to actually become iPods— to become machines that store and spit out data. Instead, we should be teaching them to use iPods—to use that data and to be human beings who can think.”

Many teachers feel the benefits of bringing technology into the classroom outweigh the risks. Pedro Noguera, a sociology professor at New York University who specializes in urban education, told The New York Times that teachers often use gadgets and new media to help students learn, from using video games in their lessons to designing YouTube projects where students broadcast novel excerpts as plays.

“You know the No. 1 complaint about school is that it’s boring because the traditional way it’s taught relies on passive learning. It’s not interactive enough,” Noguera told the Times.

Related Topics: Discouraging your child from cheating

Brenda Ridge, writing for the The Charleston Post and Courier, explores why students feel pressure to cheat. Sometimes they feel they must meet their parents’ expectations. In other cases, the problem is caused by poor time management. Ridge advises parents, “Try to reduce grade pressure… stress that you value him for who he is, not for his chemistry grade.”

Reference: Helping students to avoid plagiarism; legally download music


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