An article I read on BBC News this week highlights teachers’ complaints about the online promotion of “Cheating Watches” by Amazon.
Incorporating an emergency button to quickly switch from hidden text to a clock face – a process that mirrors the alt/tab phenomenon already rampant in schools and the workplace – the promo for these watches differs greatly from previous practice in that it openly encourages students to cheat and get away with it!
The rise of small wearable devices are creating new opportunities for us to monitor ourselves in ways never thought possible just a short time ago. The reality though, not often considered anywhere near as deeply, is that these same devices allow others to monitor us. But in this case, are big companies taking advantage of what many would consider a young, inexperienced and vulnerable market? Is greed, by big companies, a dominating factor?
With easy access to stored materials and to the internet, not to mention the ease of sending and receiving text messages or having a quick chat with another, smartwatches are setting students up to be caught out. Clearly, such devices present an enormous headache for school administrators and has already lead to students being required to remove their watches prior to entering exam rooms. Such a logical next step was reported on by the Sydney Morning Herald last year: Apple watches banned from VCE Exams.
But, a considered argument by Ritesh Chugh was presented at the end of an article reporting on this same issue:
In order to use portable and/or wearable technology effectively in exams, it would be worth considering their merit in researching opportunities, collaboration and convenience. However, to effectively use these positive qualities, exams will need questions that demand students to research, collaborate and think critically in a short period of time in order to frame their responses. Designing exam questions that require students to apply knowledge and skills in new and unfamiliar situations rather than relying on rote memory might be something worth considering.”
It wasn’t that many years ago that I had teachers in my school raising their concerns of students using the internet rather than books to locate information for projects and assignments. With an ever increased dependence on easily locating information online, teachers feared that students would fail to learn the age-old skills of locating information in books. As I collaborated with teachers on the design of their assignments, teachers soon realized that they could incorporate requirements to use both books and the enormous wealth of resources available on the internet into set work. Teaching moments on how to authenticate and acknowledge materials sourced on the internet were created and put into practice by many a teacher librarian.
Rather than running scared of this new technology, maybe we should, as Chugh suggests, grab the bull by the horns and see how this new and evolving technology can be incorporated into assessments.
Smartwatches and wearable devices are now part and parcel of life, so how about educators stop futzing around and just rise to the challenge of thinking outside the traditional ‘assessment’ box?