TECHNOLOGY: The answer is right in front of you

Personal devices in the classroom cause answers to go viral


Graphic by Sophia Di Iorio.

Rachel Leucuta and Sophie Karrow

Chromebooks can be useful classroom tools. CTE teacher Andrew Himes uses an accounting program that allows his students to do their work efficiently and expediently. However, concerns still remain during assessments. Himes has experienced cheating with online tests and quizzes.

“I have caught students cheating during online tests. Now, I am more strict on watching students’ screens. I no longer walk the room to answer questions, instead students ask me at the back of the room while I watch the rest of the students’ screens,” Himes said.

When screens are not closely monitored students may use apps or extensions that allow them to message their friends for answers. For example, the application Google Hangouts is a way for students to communicate via instant messaging throughout the day. It can also be used to share answers during quizzes and tests.

“Whenever we are allowed to pull out chromebooks in class the first place I go is google hangouts. After tests if we are allowed to use chromebooks, I will quickly warn my friends of tricky questions while they are fresh in my mind,” student Eliza Jones* said.


Smartphones provide another form of cheating in the classroom. Smartphones allow for students to communicate during and after tests. They also have access to internet browsers that allow for students to look up information without the teacher knowing. The majority of youths have smartphones, making this platform of cheating easily accessible to a lot of students.

“89 percent of 12 to 17 year-olds will have a mobile phone this year,” marketing research firm eMarketer found in 2016.

One student confirmed that he keeps his phone out on his desk in all his classes.

“I mostly look up answers on Google when the teacher isn’t looking. It may be difficult to cheat using a phone in class, but it’s not impossible,” Jones* said.

Teachers have found ways to eliminate cheating with phones. DGN social studies teacher Karen Spahr-Thomas does not allow phones in class. Similarly, English teacher Matthew Greaney does not allow technology on desks during formal assessments in any of his classes.


With the recent advancement in the technology of calculators, they can now store information such as formulas or answers. This presents a challenge for math teachers as calculators are an important tool, but they must trust that students are honest and not saving formulas into their calculators prior to taking a test.

“I always input all of the formulas I don’t know into my calculator. There are so many formulas to memorize, and I’m never going to use these again,” Jones* said.

In order to combat this form of cheating, some math teachers chose to administer tests in two parts: calculator and non calculator. Giving a quiz or test without a calculator allows teachers to fairly evaluate students.


The Apple Watch is new technology, with features that can allow students to text one another or find answers online discreetly.

“Teachers think I’m checking the time, but I’m actually looking at answers. I’ll look the material up on my phone ahead of time and text it to my watch. Then I’ll look at the text during the test,” student Davis Johnson* said.


The ever-changing world of technology has given students the power to obtain answers in an easy manner.

“I cheat every once in awhile, but I know people who cheat every chance they get,” Johnson* said.

Teachers approach this problem differently. Greaney tries to appeal to the students’ morals. When a student cheats they choose to subject themselves to the possible consequences of their actions. Students know that cheating can lead to possible suspension and affect future academic plans. Greaney has found that students tend to refrain from cheating when they are reminded of the possible repercussions of their actions.

“I tell my students that their integrity is more important than their grades. If they have to risk their reputation in order to maintain their grade point averages, it’s not worth it. That being said, the only measure at my disposal for fretting out cheating is diligent scrutiny of student work,” Greaney said.

Some teachers ban technology during assessments all together. Science teacher Alan Kersey gives out different versions of his tests and has a “no phone, no Chromebook” policy during all assessments.

PE and health teacher Christine Tomek is also aware of issues surrounding online assessments on Chromebooks and finds that the best way to prevent cheating is to give formal tests on paper.

“My assessments are always on paper, not a Chromebook. I use Chromebooks for review games like Kahoot and Quizlet,” Tomek said.

As technology improves and becomes more prevalent in the classroom, technology used to monitor and prevent cheating improves with it. Educators can use the Hapara teacher dashboard monitor the tabs students have open on their Chromebooks. Databases like SafeAssign compare students work with other scholarly works on the internet to spot plagiarism. Students can use technology to cheat, but teachers can also use technology to combat it.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of our sources.