Last year, Mt. Hebron was one of a select few schools used to pilot the “Bring Your Own Device,” or BYOD, Policy in Howard County. According to the regulations of this policy, students are now permitted to bring and use their own personal electronic devices, including smart phones, laptops and tablets, to school.
Not only may students use their devices during their free time at school, but they may also use them when a teacher authorizes it for a particular class activity. In fact, classrooms have already shown the benefits of utilizing technology. Class sets of tablets can be used by students to engage in research and activities on sites like Socrative and Edmodo.
Before, with just two mobile labs available and only so many computers to use in the media center and general purpose lab, Mt. Hebron was more limited as far as how many students could use technology in their studies at any given time.
But with great power comes great responsibility. Students with access to online databases face temptation that could compromise their academic honesty.
Unfortunately, some students will find any way to cheat. And with unlimited access to technology, the information is readily available in the students’ pockets or backpacks. They now have the unencumbered aid of the mighty Google Search and the help of the notorious Wikipedia.
According to a random sample of 50 students, 28% of Mt. Hebron students admitted to having used their phones to cheat on a test since the policy has been relaxed.
“Devices are so accessible now, so I would think that rates of cheating have increased,” said senior Kenny Brossoie.
It seems that BYOD could be the source of a new problem, and teachers who use technology in their classes seem to agree.
“I think it’s a lose-lose situation for us as teachers because students would use their phones either way,” said Math teacher Ms. Natalie Rau, who piloted the policy in her classes.
Ms. Rau is among many teachers who note that although the policy allows students to use their phones during passing time and at lunch, it is very common to find a student surreptitiously (or blatantly) using his or her phone during unauthorized class time.
Science teacher Ms. Christina Rosendorf uses the program regularly for her Physics classes.
“I mostly use BYOD for class activities like researching things and defining terms,” said Ms. Rosendorf, “but a lot of what I use it for is in my general classes when we do notes.”
Ms. Rosendorf admits, however, that she caught more students using their phones to cheat before the policy was enacted.
“I think teachers are more uptight and watchful now than ever,” agreed sophomore Julia Shanley.
At its core, the BYOD Policy accomplished what it set out to do; that is, it provides more opportunities to advance students’ understanding of technology’s role in education by integrating it with their own personal learning.
Senior Jake Norton is a member of a satellite Differential Equations class that uses tablets to videochat with a teacher based at River Hill High School.
“It’s a great opportunity,” said Norton. “We have more study resources available to us, so students can really be in charge of their own learning.”
Cheating always has been and always will be a problem in schools for a plethora of reasons. When students feel that the pressure placed on them to perform on exams outweighs the consequences of being caught red-handed, they cheat. Whether students write equations on their arms or use their phones to look them up, cheating is still cheating.
“If teachers set the expection prior to an exam or an essay, then students might be reminded of how they have been trusted to make the right choice,” said Spanish teacher and National Honor Society Sponsor Ms. Leslie Ammann.
Ms. Ammann also clarified that it is better for students to learn about the importance of academic honesty before they get to college, where the consequences can be much more serious.
Cheating will never be completely eradicated, so it is up to the students themselves to decide what role technology will play in their education. As the policy makes its way through other schools in the county, different effects may be observed.