Tuesday, September 4, 2012

If they can Google it, should we assess it?

I think it’s really important for educators to talk with non-educators – those who are in the fields where many of our students will work. It gives us a different perspective. I was talking with an electrical engineer this weekend. From what I understand, he spends a lot of time studying the flow of blood cells. We had an interesting conversation that got me to thinking about two things: assessment and teaching the tool.

Part I - Today, let’s talk about assessment.

When I asked if his children could bring their own devices to school, he said that they could not BYOD due to a concern about cheating. My response was, “If they can Google it, then should they be asking the kids to answer the question on a graded assessment?” Considering the deep thinking he does in his area of expertise, I figured he’d answer no they should not. I was wrong. So, we talked about the need for foundational knowledge. We all need to know our multiplication tables. We need to be able to spell. We need certain factual knowledge in order to do higher order thinking with it. Unless we fill in the blanks at the lower end of Bloom’s Taxonomy, make connections to the content we are reading and writing about, and build on our prior knowledge, we are  not going to be able to analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and create new meaning. However, if that foundational knowledge is readily available to our students, should we be testing them on it? Or should we be testing them on how they use it? Is the concern about cheating reason enough for not allowing students to bring devices to school?

As our conversation progressed, he commented that you can search all you want for facts and figures; however, he noted that they are often going to be out of context or embedded into content – content that a student may or may not understand. So, I ask, is cheating really the concern?

As technology becomes omnipresent, this is a conversation we need to have.

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