On the Topic of Cheating, Learning and Deception


Classroom Cheating

Over in the #rhizo14 learning space, the topic for the first week is all about “cheating as learning,” which is a fascinating way to get started with an inquiry conversation. Imagine my surprise when, as I was spending a few days mulling over this concept, this issue of Time for Kids comes to my classroom during the week. It’s all about cheating in school.

Is that strange or what?

Now, as far as I know (and really, we don’t really know unless someone is caught), not too many of my sixth graders cheat on test and projects. But the article opened up an interesting conversation with my students about why kids would cheat (not them, of course — ahem). They articulated worries about grades, and expectations of teachers, and the need to prove themselves and keep up with friends. Even at this young age, they carry a lot of weight on their shoulders most of the time.

An interesting element of the article centered on the the areas between “cheating” and “collaboration.” Check out this great quote from the Time for Kids article:

“Teachers assume it’s independent work unless they tell you otherwise. But students assume it’s collaborative work unless you are told it is not.” — Tricia Bertram Gallant, co-author of Cheating in School: What We Know and What We Can Do.

That was a real eye-opener for me … because I think it is true. Students are natural social collaborators (look at how they flock to social networking sites) and during work times, they naturally gravitate towards each other. Am I always crystal clear on what is acceptable for collaboration and what is not? I think so, but maybe not. It’s a matter of perception and point of view, and perhaps one person’s view of  “cheating” is not everyone’s point of view.

Video Games and Cheat Codes

We’re also wrapping up our science-based video game design unit, and what I find so interesting is that “cheat codes” is part of the DNA of gamers and gaming communities. I have a few students who walk around with magazines about how to hack Nintendo games to find Easter Eggs, gain access to hidden levels, and more. Just Google “cheat codes,” and you are bound to come up with a wide array of responses.

Gamers don’t see this kind of cheating as negative. They see it as sharing expertise, and helping others who get “stuck” in a game to succeed. But if this were the classroom, and one student was “stuck” on a test, it would not be acceptable practice for another student to hand out “cheat codes” for the test, right? Of course not.  We see this a lot with our work on our gaming site (Gamestar Mechanic) where you have to make your way through a series of Quests in order to gain experience with game design and earn publishing rights. Many students turn to classmates for advice, help and even beating levels for them. This is acceptable practice for both sides: the giver of experience and the receiver of help. But you can see where the dichotomy of ‘the world inside school’ and ‘the world outside of school’ are often in conflict for students.

Faking It on Facebook

Finally, I am in the midst of reading a fascinating book. Fakebook (subtitle: A True Story. Based on Actual Lies) by Dave Cicirelli is all about the author deciding to play a trick on friends by creating a fictional story of his life and sharing his experiences on Facebook. In this fictional life, Cicirelli quits his job and hikes west, gets in trouble the Amish and who knows what else (I am about a third of the way in).

Cicirelli’s observations of creating this fake world that real people believe is happening (it’s on Facebook; it must be true) are very poignant, as he mulls over when does this kind of cheating of other people’s beliefs in him go too far and what does it say of him, the writer, as he creates this real-time social-networking digital story. It’s a fascinating experiment that he undertakes, using trust of friends and families as a storytelling device (and being dishonest about it.)

Peace (in that gray area of life),

#Rhizo14: Steal This Poem

As I work my way into the first week of a P2PU course around open learning and Rhizomatic Learning, I’ve been thinking again about who owns what in the digital landscape. This connects to the theme of “cheating as learning” in the first week and about the ways in which Terry Elliott and I have been remixing our words this week. I have another idea related to my classroom to write about another day.

Yesterday, during a writing time with students, I started this poem, trying to get at the heart of what it means to be a writer releasing a work into the wilds of the Internet. It became a nod towards Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book and the open culture of remixing and making meaning on your own terms. I tried to “perform” it in a the rhythm of a slam poem, with short rhymes and lines, and a quick pace.

I’d love to think of some cool way to represent the poem digitally beyond the podcast but my brain is empty right now. How about you? Wanna take my words and remix them? Wanna steal my poem? The invitation is there to do what you want with my words, including ignoring me.

Take a listen (you can download the file from Soundcloud, too):


Steal This Poem

Take these words
Steal this poem
NO — go on now —
make it your own
Break it / Fix it
Rip it apart / Remix it

Defy my intent
until all meaning is spent
and then use your tools and tricks
to rebuild it

Cheat my meaning in ways
that make sense to YOU –

Tinker against type
don’t believe my hype
I’m a painter not a poet
using words as ink as I write

I refuse to shackle this work
to paper or screen
or that nebulous world in-between
in hopes that maybe later YOU’LL appear;
watching my words tumble down the spine of my lies —
made up only to be broken / spoken / a token of truth

No, you’re no cheater
you’re a seeker
a keeper of stories in this literary landscape
just like me

So, go on:
Steal this poem
Give it a home
I’m already off writing something else
and I’ve left these words all alone
waiting here for YOU

Peace (in the poem),

Enter the Rhizome: Roots Take Hold

I’m checking out a new P2PU offering by Dave Cormier (whose work around open learning has inspired many) around Rhizomatic Learning. It’s a term I heard folks using during our Making Learning Connected MOOC but I have not yet come to fully understand it. I had the sense that it means a circular learning pattern — where ideas spark ideas spark ideas — and there is a keen unfettered world of discovery to be had, if we can only be open to anything.

Or, you know, something like that.

So, in I go.

First, Dave’s great introduction is here but I popped it into Vialogues to add some comments. I invited others in, too, but we’ll see if anyone takes me up on it.

Earlier in the week, I read some posts by Dave and looked up the word (online, of course) and then began to consider Rhizomes in terms of a poem. Here you go. (The poem looks more polished here).

Rhizomatic Journeys: Roots Take Hold
By Kevin Hodgson

buried here
beneath the ground …
… roots take hold …

fingers like fibers
reaching out ….
… roots take hold …

interests collide
paths, align …
… roots take hold …

we move in starlight, together,
here in this undiscovered country
navigating without maps or stars
or compass points north

we close our eyes
sensing if not seeing …
… roots take hold …

move into the unknown
community as nodes …
… roots take hold …

discovery as learning
learning, discovery …
… roots will take hold …

we learn our way, together,
here in these distant connections
nurtured with passion and interest
our compass points north

And I did a podcast, of course.

You come, too.

Peace (in poetic understanding),

PS — Terry Elliott took my poem and did something cool with it. I’ll share that out tomorrow. But I am starting to envision rhizomatic thinking in terms of my own views around remix culture and collaborative learning, and how the threads — though disparate and global — can begin to come together to make meaning out of the parts.