Cheating as Learning?

I could not resist Kevin Hodgson’s, Meandering Mind and his invitation to Steal This Poem! I love the way he pulled the #Rhizo14, Cheating as Learning quest into a creative commons type of challenge to remix and remash.

For me cheating, learning and ownership mix together and influence one another. In XPLRPLN I grappled with the concept of whether a Personal Learning Network (PLN) can be owned and I claimed that while you might use a possessive term such as ‘my daughter’ in reference to a relationship you do not own or possess your daughter. You simply have a relationship.  Networks are all about relationships, not static property. So a PLN is not about ownership. I just read a review of Ronald Burt’s, Neighbor Networks. It parallels my view that one does not own a network but rather you own your actions, who you are and who you become through your interaction with your network.

How does cheating as learning relate to all this? Well, it seems to me that cheating is viewed as stealing or using something that does not belong to you. You use someone else’s answers, or writing or, or, or . . . I think cheating is relational. It is completely dependent on who is making up the rules. The dominant party calls the shots. If you are stealing or using something that does not belong to you it implies that ‘it’ belongs to someone, someone owns it -voila we are talking about ownership! Ownership is about building fences or defending fenced in areas and learning is about removing barriers (i.e. fences). Ownership and learning mix like water and oil. Schooling and ownership have far more in common than learning and ownership (but that is a discussion for another day).

However, I do think that courtesy, consensus and credit play a large role in this conversation. If I use your material, I need to credit you. If we agree upon the rules rather than you unilaterally setting them (consensus), then I need to have the courtesy to follow through on what we agreed to. It is not all a free for all and self-discipline, and courtesy are extremely important.

Thank you Kevin (@dogtrax) and thank you Tanya Lau for bringing Kevin Hodgson’s challenge to my attention.

. . . my response to the challenge

The Stealing of – Steal This Poem 

Take these words

Hear behind

Behind intent to where you woke up and stretched

Elastic ownership

Literary yoga

Steal this poem

NO — go on now –
make it your own
Break it / Fix it
Rip it apart / Remix it

I pick blue

Blue to cheat and repeat

A musical genre

Defy my intent

Banjo picking and slide guitar

Feel it in your bones

How can my movement be your meaning?

until all meaning is spent

I rest in the pause between cheating and knowing

and then use your tools and tricks
to rebuild it

Knowing my sense and feeling my bones

My structure of YES

Cheat my meaning in ways
that make sense to YOU –

Wearing my QWERTY filter and flow

That only I know

Tinker against type
don’t believe my hype
I’m a painter not a poet
using words as ink as I write

Words as colour and image

A dance of relationship that refuses to be shackled

Whether you appear and participate or I crib

From my own reservoir of forgotten memories

Floating like jetsom down the spine of

My internal library

I refuse to shackle this work
to paper or screen
or that nebulous world in-between
in hopes that maybe later YOU’LL appear;
watching my words tumble down the spine of my lies –
made up only to be broken / spoken / a token of truth

Broken and spoken as in a dream

Borrowed from whom?

No, you’re no cheater
you’re a seeker
a keeper of stories in this literary landscape
just like me

I stole a sip from the stream as it flowed

Cycle of life

Water-like words to nourish and flourish

I give to be read

 So, go on:
Steal this poem
Give it a home
I’m already off writing something else
and I’ve left these words all alone
waiting here for YOU

About Maureen Crawford

I work as a researcher and educational consultant. My undergraduate degree is in industrial design so design thinking has long been part of my process - emergent connectivist learning resonates strongly with me.
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11 Responses to Cheating as Learning?

  1. mtmaher says:

    Dear fellow Maureen, this is an awesome steal and I love the sound of your words on the page. I woke to hear your voice and about literary yoga, internal libraries, I stole a sip from the stream as it flowed and many other beautiful images. Thanks for adding to my magnificent sunrise. I agree that our networks are not our own:) to be fenced up and protected. It takes work to keep them open and often constant reminders to what seems contrary to human nature. Reminds me of Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall”-“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” etc….Peace!

  2. dogtrax says:

    I find it intriguing to include the crossed out words of mine, as if they were lost buoys of ideas, so that you can build your own poem. Thank you so much for taking the time to dive in and rip the poem in new directions.

  3. tanyalau says:

    Hey Maureen! so glad you joined the arts & crafts tent at the crazy rhizo14 festival!
    Love this – I could hear Kevin’s voice in your poem – it would make a great audio piece (don’t tempt me now…!) I love your link into the visceral, the physical, movement, music, dance.
    It’s interesting what you say about ownership, cheating and learning and relating this to PLNs and ownership. I had a niggling thought at the start that there was a relationship there…I was thinking more along the lines of cheating (especially in learning) implies:
    – there is one correct or appropriate answer
    – individualism – individuals submit answers. This implies ownership

    This is all in contrast to collaboration, which implies collective, rather than individual ownership. Thoughts of ownership are now inextricably tied to PLNs for me (thanks for that… ; )). This is where I get a bit stuck. I wonder if, with learning – you can and do own your OWN learning (and by implication are responsible for developing, maintaining it) and you can own the outputs of your own learning….but what of collaboration? Is that co-ownership?
    There does seem to be something here for me that’s a little different between ownership of learning and networks. But really, I don’t know – I’m just thinking aloud here.

    In terms of ‘stealing’ and attribution. I think there’s a material difference between ‘stealing’ – genuine stealing (which is taking someone’s work, and replicating exactly, without attribution) and ‘remixing’ or adapting or being inspired by someone else’s work to create something new. I wonder whether it really is necessary to attribute if you’re remixing. Obviously it’s nice, it’s courteous to do so, but – is it really cheating, or stealing?
    And then there’s ideas. Can you steal an ‘idea’? Can you ‘own’ an idea? (or does stealing and ownership only apply to tangible manifestations of ‘ideas’ – products, work, art?).
    No answers, just questions.

  4. Thanks Maureen. It’s great to hear your thoughts on how we decode the learning environment. I agree with some of the other comments here, that cheating is such an amazingly difficult term to define. It’s as relative as any word in the language, isn’t it? Packaging ownership, to borrow from Tanyalau, creates a paradox of time and thought. I appreciate the generation of thought and what we feel as ownership over our own ideas. However, there’s a point at which I wonder how much better we could be (without getting too altruistic) if thoughts were shared openly – thus negating any chance of “cheating” by “stealing” someone else’s. It brings me back to what we’ve been studying about the nature of relationships and connections. In any relationship, who “owns” the connection. If either party were to leave, exert control, or otherwise force some sort of disconnect, the result would simply be nothing.

    • Sean,
      Thinking about cheating is akin to thinking about weeds. How so you ask? Well I spent one summer on Baffin Island in an Inuit community and the kids asked me to explain the concept of a weed to them. They were particularly interested in dandelions. So I started off by saying that a weed was a plant that you didn’t want to grow. Right off the bat I was in trouble . . . they were incredulous that there would be a plant you didn’t want to grow. Living well above the tree line every plant is considered precious. Then they got the brilliant idea that to fit the category of weed must mean that the plant was poisonous! Well . . . maybe, sometimes, but that is not a defining factor. Now they knew I was crazy – a plant that grew of its own accord, was edible AND yet you didn’t want it to grow???? We carried on for a while but it sure put things into perspective for me! So, what is cheating and why if it is effective why would you not do it? We all have lot’s of normative references to discourage us cheating but it does beg lots of questions.
      One of the things that I am slowly unlearning is my inclination to want to only show finished work. I am resistant to sharing 1/2 baked ideas, yet in order to be able to collaborate there is no point in coming to the table with a fait accompli.
      It is a real challenge, and delight, for me to try and wrap my brain around looking at learning from a whole new perspective.

  5. oleurrutia says:

    Hi Maureen,
    In the evolution of language, ‘stealing’ or ‘cheating’ are evolving in the same way as ‘hacking.’ We now see words used like: lifehack, cheats, or ‘it’s a steal.’ All used in the positive sense and meaning an innovation, an easier, cheaper, or better way of doing things
    In terms of learning, I remember playing old school video games with the customary three lives. Once you die three times, you have to start over from the beginning. Newer games allowed you to save to a stage that allows you to re-start where you lost your last life. And this is the type of situation where learning is best. Correcting mistakes, adjusting for errors and not having to suffer re-doing something that has been done before. There is no substitute for hard work. But if work is smarter, hard work produces more results.

    • Very interesting Leo,
      I knew that the term hacker was evolving but I had not put it into this context. I am fascinated by language and its evolution and you have really added to my thinking with this comment.
      Schools are just beginning to catch on to the re-start rather than repeat idea. We now have high schools thinking about what they term as credit recovery, meaning if you failed to make the mark and get the credit as an alternative to repeating the whole course you get credit for the units you have already passed and simply complete units that you either failed or did not complete. I wonder if gaming helped to move some of this thinking along.
      COMM 506 if you would like to explore cheating as learning a bit more check out #Rhizo14 – there is some very interesting conversation going on there!

  6. tanyalau says:

    Interesting comments here – love to watch how the conversation evolves – see, Maureen perhaps this is what can happen when you post half baked thoughts!
    Introducing the idea of words evolving in their meaning is an interesting point, particularly in reference to ‘cheating’ or ‘stealing’ – although perhaps their meaning may be evolving in certain contexts, these still largely have negative connotations currently. It will be interesting to see how this might change over time…
    Pretty sure I have seen references / discussions on language in relation to this type of thing in other rhizo14 blog comments …don’t ask me to find them now though! (It’s been a bit like that – transient blog hopping and comment skimming. Lots of interesting stuff, just a lot of it and too much and too deep to process at once! It is also interesting how attribution – or not- has been shaping up in this context. The volume of content, with much of it embedded in comments and discussion threads on multiple platforms – blogs, G+, Facebook, P2PU forums, twitter – has made attribution much more of a challenge….and I feel, perhaps less relevant?

  7. Tanya,
    I see your point, you could spend all your time and effort trying to credit and track rather than do and extend. I still like the idea of crediting wherever and whenever possible – common courtesy. Nevertheless there is a point where the lines blurr. When does something move from being your idea to being mine, it is possible that we both came up with the same (or very similar ideas) independently of one another and then we get back into that tricky concept of ownership.

  8. Pingback: INTERNET POEMPATHY | Thinking Out Loud

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