I’m a cheater

Smartphones - making cheating easier?I just read this post, where it is stated, that “smartphones¬†are the next classroom computers”.

I definitely agree that using smartphones in education is one of the viable paths we should currently be exploring. These tiny, yet powerful “pocketable computers” provide us with a wide array of possibilities, which, if used cleverly, can obviously contribute to more dynamic, authentic learning scenarios. This presupposes a willingness to challenge existing structures, though. If we just cram smartphones in the classroom in support of current practice, little will be achieved.

Technology is not the ultimate saviour of education.

People, using available tools in creative and reflected ways, are.

The above was not, however, what said post really made me think about.

No cheating?No, it inspired me to think about cheating, by promoting this as one major problem in using smartphones:

Because of the negative ways students use cell phones in class, like cheating or texting, some teachers say they’re wary of the idea.

We all know of this concern.

When the walls of the classroom are broken down, ignored as they are by especially digital media, the traditional ways of thinking about and assessing student progression is fundamentally challenged.

When everything can be found on Wikipedia, how do we test our students?

Does "helping" equal "cheating"?

For several years, the “solution” has been one of creating artifical borders. We’ve been desperately clinging to our old ways, creating a classroom that is becoming increasingly isolated from the surrounding world, and all in order to be able to test and measure students. We’ve been forced to do so, because of the predominant “if we can’t measure it, it’s worthless”-dogma.

Use appropriate tools!I can’t help but think about how I myself work and learn. I see no borders, no boundaries. I use the tools available to me, find the information I need and solve the problems I’m faced with. I may read a blog post, which I stumbled upon via Twitter, where I afterwards return to discuss said post. I visit Wikipedia to get an overview, before I may even find a relevant book on the shelf. I mail a friend, we talk on Skype and perhaps I write something here.

No problem, no learning process exist in isolation, and I’m thus always involved in an informational ecosystem much, much larger than whichever situation I’m currently finding myself in.

If I were still in school, I would clearly be accused of cheating, as I’m not really adhering to any particular set of rigid rules.

In many ways, what is considered “cheating” in school, is considered “creative, innovative problem solving” outside school.

I don’t have any glorious solution to this problem, yet I’m urgently aware, that we must revise our idea of cheating. When students are “cheating”, they are very often only doing what every single one of us would do; only difference is, they’re in school, we’re not.

They’re using a wide array of “tools” to solve problems.

Instead of our ultimately doomed attempts at preventing this, we should be actively encouraging it. We should be designing learning contexts, where the old notion of cheating is no longer valid, but where the learning process requires students to use tools interactively (after all, that is considered a key competence by OECD and others).

simoncrookWe generally need to shift our focus. That which can easily be googled (by cheating) may not be the most interesting in a learning perspective. On Twitter, simoncrook recently wrote, that “if students can Google the answer, rethink the question”. If we pose questions which can be answered by a simple Google search, we pose the wrong questions. Why not shift the focus from factual knowledge towards using tools to solve interesting, relevant problems, which approximate real world problems? Or better yet,¬†addressing¬†actual real world problems.

But administration demands us to maintain the rigid testing, you say? Let’s be creative within existing structures, but let’s simultaneously work to change those structures.

Nothing is carved in stone; it’s all just a matter of perceptions, and perceptions can change.