The other day, I took part in the #ukedchat discussion on Twitter. A couple of days later I was quite flattered to read that one of my tweets in that discussion had been awarded tweet of the week (I didn’t know there was such and award). The tweet that was nominated went along the lines of …
The first thing we need to get across is that collaboration is not the same as cheating
What I’d like to do in this short post is to explain what I meant and why I tweeted it.
Those of us educated in the 50s, 60s, and on toward the turn of the century will be familiar with the notion that trying to copy what someone else has written in an exam and then passing that off as your own work, is cheating. Quite rightly so. Two, or more, people in an exam exchanging their answers with each other is also cheating. Neither of these scenarios, however, describe collaboration.
Collaboration in learning is not new; many of us will have worked with others in school on projects, topics or even in team sports. A fairly recent innovation, though, is the ability to use education technology to support collaboration. Whereas, previously, a computer or software might have been used by a single person at a time, it is now possible for several people to be using a program or a service at the same time and to share their work with each other. We are not talking about one person telling another person the answer; we are talking about people sharing insights, sharing findings, sharing experiences and working together toward finding an answer, and not necessarily the same answer.
In the eyes of some teachers, some assessors and certainly some examination bodies, this is akin to cheating. They are wrong, it is not cheating; it is people working together to help find answers, solve problems and develop team or inter-personal skills.
Moreover, the collaboration that can be facilitated via educational technology is not restricted to in class or even in school use. Technology enables learners to work with learners in other institutions across the world. This enables cross-cultural or multi-cultural solutions to be explored. There may, however, be some institutions and some professionals who feel threatened by this. Even if they may have set the original task or question for the learner, it is as if they, the institution or professional, are no longer in charge of the learning that takes place and are unable to predict the outcomes.
So the use of collaborative technology might be regarded as an affront on traditional teaching methods, and consequently viewed with suspicion and labelled as ‘cheating’. But, surely not? Haven’t good teachers always encouraged elements of working together in ways I mentioned before? Of course they have, it is just that times have changed and approaches to education have changed but, maybe, some of these changes have yet to be widely accepted. Which is why I say that we still need to get across the point that collaboration is not cheating.