Wednesday, April 11, 2012

When technology helps cheating

Just over a year ago Rodney Van Meter reported from Japan on a failed attempt by a student to cheat on an exam with a cobbled-together array of off-the-shelf hardware. The assortment of hardware, human intermediaries, and communication mechanisms were "implausibly Mission Impossible-esque", according to Mr. Van Meter.

Indeed, the reporting at that stage including various imaginative scenarios up to and including camera-equipped eyeglasses and message-by-drumming from outside the classroom. The reality turned out to be much more mundane. Of course, this was days before the big earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, and so got pushed off the front pages.

Turns out that he got away with doing the most obvious thing: holding his cell phone beneath the desk, and posting questions directly on a bulletin board where people often discuss the content of entrance exams. Others answered, unaware that he was literally sitting for the examination as he was posting.

I went on to wonder how much longer it would be possible to effectively proctor away such technological inventiveness, and indeed the extent to which it is desirable. Given how important it is to be able to find, filter, and synthesize information, and to work with others, in the real world, shouldn't we be testing for that instead of whether or not a student remembers the +/- sign in the quadratic formula?

Jon Adams
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