Sunday, October 26, 2008

Australia premieres "open phone tests"

Phone a friend in exams
August 20, 2008

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. The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

"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 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.

"In terms of preparing them for the world, we need to redefine our attitudes towards traditional ideas of 'cheating'," Ms Coleman said. "Unless the students have a conceptual understanding of the topic or what they are working on, they can't access bits and pieces of information to support them in a task effectively.

"In their working lives they will never need to carry enormous amounts of information around in their heads. What they will need to do is access information from all their sources quickly and they will need to check the reliability of their information."

... International education consultant, Marc Prensky threw out the following challenge to educators in a British Educational Communications and Technology Agency publication: "What if we allowed the use of mobile phones and instant messaging to collect information during exams, redefining such activity from 'cheating' to 'using our tools and including the world in our knowledge base'?

"Our kids already see this on television. 'You can use a lifeline to win $1 million,' said one. 'Why not to pass a stupid test?' I have begun advocating the use of open phone tests ... Being able to find and apply the right information becomes more important than having it all in your head."

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