An interesting post was written on LeaderTalk the other day which really hit home with me. The post was titled: General thoughts on handheld technology and assessment (a boring title, but hopefully a good discussion) by Matt Hillmann. Matt writes about the use of handheld devices in school and about the concept of cheating among students. I was interested in this because I had written a post on the topic of cell phones a few months ago, and just the other day I had a conversation with a colleague about cheating in school.
Here is my take on cell phones and cheating. If we stop giving one answer multiple choice or true/false tests, we can worry less about cheating. Such tests typically assume that the teacher imparts the content to the students all at the same time (e.g.lecture), the students then memorize the information and regurgitate it back to the teacher. If the teacher gives the same exact information to all of the students in the class, then there are no secrets. All of the students have equal access to that information, however, some kids can memorize better than others. Does that mean they have learned the concepts better?
Instead of using a testing system that is older than John Dewey, teachers should require the students to use the information to solve authentic problems, or to explain or demonstrate their understanding in creative, unique, and different ways. In other words, allow the students to discuss and use the information to problem solve instead of memorize and then forget.
In your daily work, how often do you have to memorize information and repeat it back to your boss? Probably not too often. Instead, we all use the resources available to us to do our jobs well.
Teachers should be encouraging students to work together and to use all available resources to find answers to challenging problems and questions. If that means a calculator, a computer, a cell phone phone call, or a text message, then that should be allowed. The information is out there – Kids need to learn how to access and use it to solve real, authentic problems, not to memorize and then forget.