by Will Richardson via Collaborative Learning
a woman in the audience related the problem with blogs at her school. "The kids are posting questions and answers to tests in between periods so kids later in the day know what's coming. What do we do about that?"
Like Will, my first response would be "sounds pretty inventive to me."
Will continues to ask a few very good questions:
1. Questioning the purpose of the test
How much of what is on that test could those kids potentially find on the Internet anyway? How many of the answers or ideas are already a part of the "sum of all knowledge" that the Web is becoming? And why, if the answers are already out here, are we asking our students to give them back to us on an exam?
2. Questioning the relative merit of teaching "content" verse "information research skill" and application.
why aren't we asking them to first show us they can find the answers on their own, and, second, show us that they understand what those answers mean in terms of their own experience an in the context of what we are trying to teach?
3. Questioning impact of the change in the outer system (i.e. society) on inner system (i.e. the school)
about what this new landscape means in terms of plagiarism and cheating and ethical use. And I have arrived at the point where it's just so clear to me that it's not the kids that need to change. It's us. We have to redefine what those things mean, because the old definitions just are not reasonable any longer. And please hear me when I say that I'm not advocating that we accept cheating or copying as the way of the world and not work to prevent it. But I am saying that we need to drastically shift our approach to dealing with it. Blocking blogs or Websites or Google is not the answer. Asking kids to take tests to see if they have memorized material that they can now find on the Web is not the answer. Making two or three or four versions of the test is not the answer.
4. The notion of remix as information consumption
That they [the students] take the ideas we have tried to teach them and connect them to and show us that they can teach it to someone else with their own spin on it, their own remix.
Will further shows the disconnection of the school and the way we really learn:
It's how learning happens in our own lives. We take the knowledge we need when we need it, apply it to our own circumstance, and learn from the result. We need to say to kids "here is what is important to know, but to learn from it, you need to take it and make it your own, not just tell it back to me. Find your own meaning, your own relevance. Make connections outside of these four walls, because you can and you should and you will. This is what bloggers do (at least the ones who are blogging.) And this remix is neither plagiarism or thin thinking. It's the process of learning in a world where, as Lessig says, everything we do with digital content involves producing a copy. This is a profound change from the closed, paper laden classrooms most of us still live in.
However, the comments on Will's post seemed to focus on my emphasised word in one of Will's sentence:
The answer, I think, lies in teaching our students how to correctly and ethically borrow the ideas and work of others and in demanding that they not just use them but make those ideas their own.
I can see some strong opinion such as:
Will, you're 100% wrong on this one. The school should have some kind of code of conduct which defines what cheating on a test is, and it is probably going to include telling other students what questions are on a test and what the answers are. It doesn't matter what medium you use to transmit the information. It is cheating and, quite frankly, I'd be in favour of using server logs to publicly bust anyone stupid enough to cheat in such a blatant and tracable manner.
and later by the same commenter [name withheld]:
Your whole riff on figuring out an ethical way to reuse and remix makes no sense to me. Of course we know how to do that. It is called citation. You know, the research process, with the little note cards and the annoying footnotes and bibliography?
I would like to see the debate taking into account the changes occurring in the outer system. I am convinced that by the time our students finish schools, they will face a world (in developing countries at least) that jobs are completely different from what they are today, they need to create extra-ordinarily value out of the working hours they have and hyper-competition from the current developing countries.
I like to ask this question: Which of these two groups of students will be more successful (measured in whatever scale you like): those who use technology to distribute the answer and those who blindly observe the "rules" of the school system and refuse to "cheat"?