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From smartwatch and smartpen... to smartcheat?

By Saskya Vandoorne, CNN
updated 11:53 AM EDT, Thu June 19, 2014
Radio signals are monitored and students are checked with scanners before and during the 2013 university entrance exams in China. The country has been pro-active in its attempts to crack down on high tech cheats. Radio signals are monitored and students are checked with scanners before and during the 2013 university entrance exams in China. The country has been pro-active in its attempts to crack down on high tech cheats.
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Cracking down on high-tech cheating
Cracking down on high-tech cheating
Cracking down on high-tech cheating
Cracking down on high-tech cheating
Cracking down on high-tech cheating
Cracking down on high-tech cheating
Cracking down on high-tech cheating
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • High-tech gadgets can be used by students to cheat in exams
  • Examiners are trained to look for leads and hidden electronic equipment
  • Some devices cannot be spotted, such as "invisible" Bluetooth earpieces
  • Teachers could become redundant, some argue, because of technology

New York (CNN) -- It used to be as simple as folding a piece of paper up your sleeve or writing on the inside of your wrist. But now, as students across the world ready themselves for exam season, cheating is going high tech.

With smartwatches, smartpens and Google glasses now on the market, the modern pupil has an array of gadgets to trick the sharpest pair of eyes.

Educators now need to spot -- not just keep up with -- the latest tech inventions.

"I do think wearable technology is going to be an issue," Larry Rosen, psychology professor at California State University, told CNN. The Educational Testing Service, or ETS, is likely to be "grappling with this for the SAT, GRE and other standardized exams that they administer," he said.

There are "unanticipated consequences" of rules that lag behind technology, Rosen added.

Governments are starting to respond to the high-tech threat, according to the UK Department For Education. Schools are expected to take "appropriate action" on cheating, it said in a statement, and report the incident to the exam boards.

I tell my staff we can't stop cheating, but I will find out about it
Taylor Ellis

The invisible threat

But some devices are near impossible to see -- such as the so-called "invisible" Bluetooth earpieces.

They work with a tiny microphone, which is synced to a Bluetooth cell phone. They can enable questions, whispered from exam rooms, to be answered from someone outside the room.

Taylor Ellis, associate dean at the University of Central Florida, heads its testing center and is familiar with the tactic.

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Examiners are trained to look for suspicious behavior and "if we observe a student waving their pen in front of the computer, or if I see them waving their wrist close to it, these are all signs that they're probably taking a photo of the screen," Ellis said. "That's when we intervene."

'Google Glass' more chic, less geek

The center is equipped with cameras so, once the exam is over, Ellis can review the footage to pick up any suspect activity he may have missed. "I tell my staff we can't stop cheating, but I will find out about it."

The future of smartwatches

China shows way to future

China has been at the forefront of the tech cheating crackdown.

Its schools and universities have been using technology to combat high-tech cheating for over a year. Among other anti-cheating tactics, staff members monitor radio signals and check students with scanners.

Such advanced technology could, some argue, make teachers redundant. "It's hard to find a teacher who's up on what's happening in the tech world," digital media consultant Shelly Palmer said. "They don't know about the latest wearable technology, you only see that in medical schools or in a research lab."

It's hard to find a teacher who's up on what's happening in the tech world
Shelly Palmer

Palmer told CNN a complete overhaul of the education system was needed. Factoids and long division is a wasted skill in today's society because in the future, a child will never be without a computer, he said.

"There was a time when you had to build a house and you needed the tools to do that, but most of us no longer translate mechanical energy into wealth, we don't plough the fields," Palmer added.

Palmer said children would be better served by learning with such high-tech tools, rather than being separated from them. These days, it's "intellectual property" that is translated into wealth, he said.

Read more: Keep kids from cheating in school
Read more: South Korea cheating scandal hits university bids
Read more: Allegations of widespread

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