As mentioned in my last post, academic dishonesty is not a new phenomenon. However, 21st century technologies are changing our perspective on this. As Armstrong (2014) stated, “Technology . . . is changing the way many students learn” (p. 40) with, “Educators . . . tend[ing] to resist major change” (Christensen, Horn, & Johnson, 2011, p. 112). Viewing this as a positive, Christensen, Horn, and Johnson (2011) further state, “this shift in the learning platform, if managed correctly – which means disruptively – is not a threat. It is an opportunity” (p. 112). It was with that mindset that I turned to rural educators for my own research, to provide them a voice. As mentioned previously, five common and interconnected themes emerged: (a) Purposeful Pedagogy, (b) Culturally Conditioned, (c) Blurred Lines, (d) Knowing Their Voice, and (e) Clarity and Consequences. With this posting, we will explore the second most dominant theme to emerge from the data gathered during the interviews – Culturally Conditioned (see figure above) – by listening to the voices of the educators.
In addressing the shifting dynamic in their classrooms, every participant emphasized a need to recognize how the changing culture affects 21st century teaching and learning. As one participant described it, “I do think it is a mindset and a culture thing, and I don’t think it’s just in schools” (Abby, interview, January 24, 2017). Whether the participants pointed to the technology, the rural setting of their schools, or other influences, the conditions they faced in their classroom highlighted the changing culture. The theme’s title was born out of this outlook and to the research indicating perceptions of academic dishonesty are culturally conditioned (Heckler & Forde, 2014).
In speaking to this changing culture that undergirds the academic dishonesty phenomenon, the participants first turn to their students, which is no surprise. As educators, this is an instinctive quality as they are the focus of our career choice. As such, Madison sadly noted, “The main disheartening thing that I see is it’s becoming more widely accepted among the students. It’s not a big deal to them.” (Interview, March 23, 2017). Audrey, in describing the nature of her students, stated, “Just the extremes that they will go instead of just doing it themselves baffles me every time” (Interview, January 10, 2017). Hailee described it as, “Kids think that if they don’t value it, it shouldn’t matter” (Interview, March 13, 2017). She laughingly added, “I think they’re counting on you to be as disinterested as what they are” (Hailee, interview, March 13, 2017).
Still focusing on the mindset of the students, Hailee described it as a “culture of procrastination” (Interview, March 13, 2017). Adding to that, she stated that today’s students,
“. . . feel like they don’t need to go anywhere – they don’t need to plan ahead. They can do it all the day before because all of the information is available to them without waiting – no matter where they are.” (Hailee, interview, March 13, 2017)
Allie put it slightly differently. She described the rise in this culture of academic dishonesty as, “either laziness . . . and then sometimes [it] is just panicking because you don’t know if you’re doing it right so you think they said it better than you” (Interview, March 20, 2017). Madison reflected that “I think it really comes down to them – it’s so accepted. It’s just not a big deal amongst their peers, not at all” (Interview, March 23, 2017).
Today’s students were born into a digital age where technology is part of their daily lives. According to Hailee, it is this, “The rise in technology [that] has enabled this, this culture of procrastination” (Interview, March 13, 2017). Many of the participants reflected on the changing classroom culture due to 21st century technologies. As Ryan described, technology created an easy path to academic dishonesty in that it is “more easily accessible now to have your hands on other people’s work” (Interview, March 1, 2017). In the mind of today’s students, as Chyann attested to, believe, “If it’s out there, it’s ok to use it” (Interview, January 28, 2017).
Adding to the technology impact on academic dishonesty, Sydney related, “It has definitely contributed to it a lot. I mean, they just want to take so many shortcuts because everything’s at their fingertips” (Interview, March 16, 2017). Audrey, reflecting on her experience since entering the classroom, stated:
“It’s definitely, I think, easier for them to cheat now because they are so much more technologically advanced than they were eleven years ago. Their access to it is so different – almost all of our kids have a cell phone. So, they can either Google something for themselves or take a picture of it for a friend.” (Interview, January 10, 2017)
Thus, a culture is created, according to Sydney, where “students who are academically dishonest . . . insist that they were not being academically dishonest. They genuinely feel like they were not being academically dishonest” (Interview, March 16, 2017). Adding to this, Beau stated:
“As with academic dishonesty, as with technology, I think that we will always be behind with that as teachers . . . because . . . kids are innovators, kids are smart. They’re going to find new and creative ways to cheat. I mean, I remember when the mirror on your shoe and answers under your desk was creative.” (Interview, March 13, 2017)
Each of the educators emphasized a need to recognize how a changing culture affects 21st century teaching and learning. Whether the teachers pointed to the technology, the rural setting of their schools, or other influences, the shifting dynamic they faced in their classrooms highlighted this changing culture. Similar to the first theme, the educators point to the importance of building strong, genuine relationships in their classrooms to counter this cultural conditioning. The practical implications for the classroom teacher is twofold.
First, with access to such a broad swath of data and information with 21st century technologies, the understanding of what is considered academic dishonesty is of absolute necessity. With technology now considered a legitimate learning tool in the 21st century classroom, there is a need for a definition and context of academic dishonesty within the digital age. As at least one participant of this study attested to the struggles teachers and students face in defining academic dishonesty within such a cultural environment, stating, “I feel like the digital age has kind of changed that definition a little bit” (Payton, interview, May 1, 2017). There is a need for a clear definition and practical guidelines concerning academic dishonesty in the digital age.
Secondly, as this study and previous others demonstrate, students entering today’s classrooms were born into a digital age where technology is part of their daily lives – radically changing their thinking and learning. As such, there is a disconnect between such learners and the traditional classrooms they are in – paving the way for academic dishonesty. The implications of this are that classroom teachers need to be proactive and purposeful in structuring their classroom and instructional practices – establishing learning that is relevant, engaging, and where they communicate with students, developing positive relationships. In addition, at some level – academia, K-12, state or national departments of education – there is a need for the adoption of 21st century teaching/learning models that meet the learning schema of a radically changing student demographic.
Christensen, C. M., Horn, M. B., & Johnson, C. W. (2011). Disrupting class: How disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns (2nd ed.). New York City, NY: McGraw Hill.
Heckler, N. C., & Forde, D. R. (2014). The role of cultural values in plagiarism in higher education. Journal of Academic Ethics, 13, 61-75. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10805-014-9221-3