Thursday, September 19, 2013

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid

One of my students didn't have her homework today. She's pretty smart, and pretty eager, but not altogether that fluent in English. I asked her where it was and she struggled to answer. I checked a few other kids in the class and she came to me, brandishing her iPhone like it held the key to Life, the Universe, and Everything.

"It's here," she said.

And there, on the screen, was the homework that was due yesterday, homework that she actually turned in. I told her I'd already seen it and continued moving around the room. But soon she was back.

"This is today," she said.

And indeed it was, but I manipulated the image and it had the name of the girl who sits two seats away from her. I pointed this out and she got very excited. She started talking very quickly in her native language, of which alas I speak not one word. My kids are under strict instructions to speak only English, but with 90% of the class belonging to one language group it's a very tough rule to enforce. I do my best but it's not good enough.

A boy started translating for her and I started giving him a hard time. The gist of it was that she just photographed the homework to help with it. First of all, it wasn't a whole lot of help, as she was unable to produce the assignment anyway. Perhaps more importantly, cheating's become a whole lot easier. I can't count the times I've found kids copying homework right in front of my face. But I may have been fooled more than I think.

A lot of my students use their phones for translators, and I tend to cut them a little slack with that, as long as they generally pay attention. On the other hand, I occasionally catch kids texting. Now, it's likely as not that the kids are copying their homework from smart phones. I'm pretty surprised it's never occurred to me before.

So now, after five years without a raise, while facing an insane evaluation system that no one on earth even understands, there's just one more dimension to this, the most complicated job I've ever done. I'll keep up with the kids one way or another.

I always think the machines are tough, but we're tougher. But I've gotta wonder about that as I ponder what the next dimension of cheating holds in store for us.
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