A Teacher's Aide to Catch a Cheater

Carrie Schmelkin : Gossip from the Hallways
Carrie Schmelkin
Web Editor, TMC

A Teacher's Aide to Catch a Cheater

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for school cheating.jpgCheating in class just got a whole lot harder for students.

This week, in an attempt to make sure that students are really getting the most out of school – and not taking short cuts by cheating on tests to get As – security expert and Berkeley Varitronics Systems (BVS) CEO Scott Schober unveiled PocketHound, a hand-held device that is capable of detecting unauthorized cell phone use (like cheating) in class.

“Students are tempted during exam time to do a quick search on Google for the answer that slipped their mind,” Schober said in a recent statement. “There is also a temptation to text their buddy sitting across the room asking for some assistance. Many students are so proficient at texting they don't need to look at the keyboard for more than a millisecond.  They hide their mobile phone under their desk, between their legs, or in their pocket, making it all the more challenging to catch the culprit.” 

In fact, cheating has moved beyond the halls of the school as individuals are cheating on everything from government exams to high school quizzes, particularly as everyone seems to hop aboard the smartphone bandwagon. Remember the days when students would write the answers on the back of their hands? Boy, how the classroom must look different now.

And with this new classroom comes new teaching aides, this time in the form of handheld devices. Specifically, the PocketHound, which can fit easily into a pocket, alerts teachers to cheaters by vibrating when unauthorized cell phone use is detected. It also has a row of blue LED lights that flash at the same time. The receiver is capable of continually scanning all cell phone bands and utilizing an algorithm constantly sampling the Radio Frequency (RF) noise floor to distinguish real cellular activity vs. ambient RF noise, according to company officials.

The premise of this device is brilliant. Cheating is an epidemic in schools – from kids Googling answers on their history quizzes to others passing along the answers to their friends who will be taking the test later. Perhaps if a teacher announced at the beginning of the school year that he had PocketHound and then asked a kid to Google something to show that he is not messing around, it would deter kids for the whole year from cheating. And that’s a step in the right direction because let’s face it, while kids may not realize it now, that corny cliché is true: they are only cheating themselves. Sure, some of what you learn in school in pointless (sorry teachers!), but the lesson you learn in taking tests is valuable; when you put your mind to it, you can learn something new.

Despite my being impressed with PocketHound, I am not about to give it an “A” though, which may shock some of you. The reason being that I think it takes away a level of responsibility from a teacher that he/she should possess. Call me old-fashioned, but what happened to the good ol’ “walk around the classroom to see if kids are copying or using their phones as accomplices?” Something tells me a teacher will be so dependent on his trusty device to alert him to a cheater that he will miss the simple chance to catch the kid on his own.

While PocketHound offers a solution to a vital problem in today’s society, perhaps it is more suited for specific environments – such as those taking their learner’s permit tests, those taking government tests, and those trying to pass a financial test for their dream job. But to show our kids that we have such little faith in them to be honest on tests (and little faith in ourselves to catch a cheater) rings a little sad for me.

But I could be wrong. And if I am, I’d love to hear from you!

For more on this topic and others, follow me on Twitter.

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1 Comment

Students have such ingenious way of cheating, one can not even imagine. I mean, I was a student no long ago, so I know, take it from me. Bu it looks like its high time teachers became technology savvy themselves, if they want to catch the cheater red handed :)

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