Cheating in the digital age

smartwatchesSchools in the US and UK are banning watches in exams simply because there’s no easy way to determine whether the watch is an old-fashioned timepiece or a smartwatch with the Internet at its disposal.

It makes some sense to ban digital devices while, first of all, you want to test memorisation and, secondly, you can practically do it. But how long will either of those things persist?

The practical reality is that its going to become harder and harder to keep digital devices out of a room. Banning all watches is the thin end of the wedge. What about when your Internet is built into your glasses, or embedded in a tattoo on your skin? At some point it’s going to become so impractical to ban digital devices that the only solution will be to allow them all in. In fact they’ll be handing them out at the door, to make sure the playng field is level.

That of course raises the other question: So what are we testing then? Well perhaps the answer is that we shouldn’t be testing recall at all. We should be testing the students capacity to find pertinent information and then, most importantly, do something useful with it. Perhaps exams in the future will examine students’ capacity to manipulate data, to form conclusions, to reach hypotheses rather than their capacity to temporarily memorise a bunch of facts.

I’m going to go and see what my watch thinks of that idea.

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