Those darned kids!

Students cheat on exams. There’s just no getting around it. No matter how secure teachers think they’ve made their examination processes, there will always be a subset of students who try to find a way around any security procedures and give themselves an advantage, either by hook or by crook. These days, technology is making it even harder to prevent such cheating:

Devices including iPods and Zunes can be hidden under clothing, with just an earbud and a wire snaking behind an ear and into a shirt collar to give them away, school officials say.

“It doesn’t take long to get out of the loop with teenagers,” said Mountain View High School Principal Aaron Maybon. “They come up with new and creative ways to cheat pretty fast.”

Mountain View recently enacted a ban on digital media players after school officials realized some students were downloading formulas and other material onto the players.

“A teacher overheard a couple of kids talking about it,” said Maybon.

Shana Kemp, spokeswoman for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, said she does not have hard statistics on the phenomenon but said it is not unusual for schools to ban digital media players.

“I think it is becoming a national trend,” she said. “We hope that each district will have a policy in place for technology – it keeps a lot of the problems down.”

Using the devices to cheat is hardly a new phenomenon, Kemp said. However, sometimes it takes awhile for teachers and administrators, who come from an older generation, to catch on to the various ways the technology can be used.

Some students use iPod-compatible voice recorders to record test answers in advance and them play them back, said 16-year-old Mountain View junior Damir Bazdar.

Others download crib notes onto the music players and hide them in the “lyrics” text files. Even an audio clip of the old “Schoolhouse Rock” take on how a bill makes it through Congress can come in handy during some American government exams.

(Link via AttuWorld.)

Heh. Actually, I can see how that would help. I still remember “I’m Just A Bill” to this day:

(Yes, that was just an excuse to post the YouTube video for “I’m Just A Bill,” which is my favorite Schoolhouse Rock song of all time, with the possible exception of “Conjunction Junction.”) In any case, this is how it’s apparently usually done:

Kelsey Nelson, a 17-year-old senior at the school, said she used to listen to music after completing her tests – something she can no longer do since the ban. Still, she said, the ban has not stopped some students from using the devices.

“You can just thread the earbud up your sleeve and then hold it to your ear like you’re resting your head on your hand,” Nelson said. “I think you should still be able to use iPods. People who are going to cheat are still going to cheat, with or without them.”

Still, schools around the world are hoping bans will at least stave off some cheaters.

A teacher at San Gabriel High School in West Covina, Calif., confiscated a student’s iPod during a class and found the answers to a test, crib notes and a definition list hidden among the teen’s music selections. Schools in Seattle, Wash., have also banned the devices.

One thing that always amazed me, even when I was in high school, is the ingenuity that was devoted to cheating. My perspective was to ask why these kids didn’t put half that much effort into actually–oh–studying and learning the material, rather than in elaborate ways to bring the material into class with them or arrange to communicate answers to questions between each other.

Yeah, I guess I was a bit of an old fart, even at age 16. Just ask my family and friends who knew me then.