It’s 6am here and after prepping once cup of fresh coffee, I flip the laptop open to check the weather… and next thing you know am getting pinged in Australia from my colleagues in Australia. Stephan, Robyn, and Alex want to talk about a breaking story there in the Sydney Morning Herald, Phone a friend in exams.
Apparently, the Presbyterian Ladies’ College (remember ‘college’ there is high school here), is experimenting with allowing students in certain Year 9 exams to be able to use their mobile technology during exams.
A SYDNEY girls’ school is redefining the concept of cheating by allowing students to “phone a friend” and use the internet and i-Pods during exams.
Presbyterian Ladies’ College at Croydon is giving the assessment method a trial run with year 9 English students and plans to expand it to all subjects by the end of the year.
An English teacher, Dierdre Coleman, who is dean of students in years 7 to 9, is co-ordinating the pilot which she believes has the potential to change the way the Higher School Certificate examinations are run.
Ms Coleman said her students were being encouraged to access information from the internet, their mobile phones and podcasts played on mp3s as part of a series of 40-minute tasks. But to discourage plagiarism, they are required to cite all sources they use.
Is that radical or what? So Stephen, Alex, and Robyn wanted to talk about it and also roped in Michael Coghlan (and it is well past 11:00 PM there- see how hard Australian educators work?). We bantered about what this meant, if it would be a meme that lasted longer than “edupunk”, the nature of exams themselves, implications if poorly social connected students would suffer (“phone a friend? I dont have any friends!”), and more. I expect a rowdy Talking VTE podcast soon.
As Robyn noted, the newspaper article was actually nicely balanced, and there is a bit more clear background provided in The Truth is Out There by Chris Betcha who works at this school.
Where else but school are we given problems to solve and expected to do so in utter isolation? Isn’t all the workplace desired skills about collaorating, solving problems as a group? Has anyone in a job recently been required to go into a locked room, given a pencil and a bubble sheet and expected to solve a company problem?
And it would be easy to sensationalize what it means if students in any exam can whip out their phones; that is not what I read is being done. The experiment at PLC is carefully woven into a part of the exam that is not sounding like it was multiple guess approach on what sounds like an essay exam on the Olympic Games. From the Sydney Herald article:
Ms Coleman said the assessment task was set after students had read Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech and Dickens’ book, A Christmas Carol, as studies in persuasive language.
“They weren’t marked on their information about the Olympic Games but on whether they used persuasive language effectively to make their argument.”
So what my colleagues in Australia are curious about (and I) is what people over hear think of this concept. What does it mean to allow (or not allow) access to mobile technology? Are we too conservative/paranoid about “cheating” to ever change the 19th century approach to measuring learning by exam? While technology evolves, while culture shifts, while the world either flattens or changes shape, is the examination method written in stone to be what one can regurgitate onto paper?