Saturday, 5 March 2016

Smartwatch: Time To Examine The Education System

Image from Youtube video "How to pass any exam -24kupi Watch"
"Imagine a world where you can pass any exam without any problems"
 ... introducing the first watch that can store all your knowledge in one place. With 4Gb of memory you can add endless text and pictures. A clean and clear view of text will allow you to write down your answers fast and easy - you can set your scrolling speed as you desire - making you less suspicious by not touching your watch at all. In case the teachers get suspicious - don't worry the watch has an emergency button to switch the watch to clock mode and lock al the buttons so it appears as a normal watch - you can also erase all the files on the watch in the block of an eye. The watch supports connections with a wireless mini ear piece - this will allow you to write down your answers without looking at your watch at all.

Joe Sidders, deputy head at Monkton Combe Senior School in Bath, contacted the BBC to warn that the rise of small wearable devices risks becoming a "nightmare to administer" - He wants exam boards to take a tough line on this - and to challenge businesses making such devices available. He raises concerns that if such devices were in wide circulation it would call into question the validity of results. At his school Mr Sidders immediately raised the issue with school management and a decision was made to add watches to the list of electronic devices confiscated from pupils before they enter an exam room. Mr Sidders said "We already take away mobile phones and Apple watches and those sorts of things that are meant for communication outside of the exam hall, but this is literally a device sold as a cheating aid. "They're pretty indistinguishable from a normal watch."

The education system is like a game - a competitive platform game of levels, tests, rules, players and outcomes and like any game the education system has "cheat" modes. Education system cheat modes are available to all players - the system "games" statistics with creative massaging and packaging - focusing on those things that gain the most "points" and excluding or reclassifying the problematic reality of certain students, results, courses, funding etc so that sectors and institutions are reported in their best light ... gaining league table position etc. Educational management "game" the system by "pouring old wine into new bottles" - reusing and repackaging courses and content and with minority report style "pre-education" selection to maximise success rates. The rich and powerful game the system by using private schools and tutors and by taking up residence in the catchment areas of public sector schools who game the system best. Students game the system by sharing, collaborating, and copying and using memory aids in examinations. Its only when students game the system that the people talk about cheating.  Its only when students play the system that the other players in the game talk about cheating.

Students have "cheated" exams for as long as there have been exams that test facts, memory and correct answers. Students would write down facts and conceal them in creative ways in the things they are allowed to take into an examination room. Today, micro-electronics offers many more ways to conceal and access facts and information - just take a look at the WikiHow How to Cheat on a Test Using Electronics.

"I only remember things I can't look up" ~ Einstein

Wearable technology offers powerful new ways to discreetly access facts and large amounts of information - effectively technologising and outsourcing memory and in so doing presenting an existential threat to any education system that is predicated on content delivery and the examination of facts and memory - its no wonder the education system is up in arms about the threat of smart watches.

Is the logical conclusion that examination halls will have airport style security where students are scanned for electronic devices?

Is the logical conclusion that examination halls will have examination rooms where students are strip searched for any concealed aids?

And we haven't even touched on Nootropics - cognitive enhancers or so called "smart drugs" that anywhere between 10% and 20% of students might already be using to temporarily improve their "executive functions" of attention, alertness, focus, concentration and working memory during exams. The possibility of purchasing 'smartness in a bottle' is likely to have broad appeal to students - its no wonder that students turn to 'smart drugs' to boost grades.

Is the logical conclusion that examination halls will have medical rooms where students will be required to give urine samples and blood tests to see if they have been taking performance enhancing drugs?

Examination is the tail that wags the education system dog - its no wonder the dog barks when its tail is pulled. But rather than barking at everyone else its time for the education system to take a long hard look at itself and the role assessment and examination - as Steve Wheeler asks in The 'cheating watch scandal': Are we victims of our own devices?

"what if the exam system was reformed? What if, instead of asking students to repeat what they had learnt in class, the examination required them to solve problems, show initiative and criticality, ask questions that haven't been asked, create something new they hadn't been taught? What if exams were more focused on assessing how well a student could learn, rather than what they had memorised? Then, perhaps bringing 'cheating watches' into the exam room wouldn't be a problem at all."

"Liberating education consists in acts of cognition, not transferrals of information" ~ Paulo Freire

"Education - we need to move from knowledgeable to being knowledge able" ~  Mike Wesch

Its time to change the education system and if exams are the tail that wags the dog then changing exams might be the way to change the system.  The OECD Pisa tests have long been heavily criticised by progressive educationalists  BUT ..... ironically may just be the method by which radical change in the education systems may be achieved since the OECD Pisa tests deeply influence educational practices in many countries. Andreas Schleicher predicts the new Pisa teamwork test will be game-changer. The new test has "computer-based tasks where students work through a “chat” function with computer-generated virtual collaborators to solve a problem ....  the measurement focuses primarily on the way a pupil engages with others, rather than solely on the correct solution".

For an education system that tends to think inside the box the fact that OECD Pisa tests will measure teamwork, communication and collaborative problem solving are quite likely to precipitate these things into significant existence in education systems.

The problem with collaborative problem solving is one of control ... The OECD PISA tests achieve the test control by using "chatbot" collaborators - the use of "chatbot" collaborators in education will be highly controversial and highly significant.

AI and robotics are developing exponentially and will play a major part in the future and many fear that our children are 'destined to lose out to robots' due to outdated exams system bringing chatbots into the exams will I think be like letting students use calculators. In the early phases in the "rise of the robots" we will race with the machines - collaborating with AI and robotics to get things done - we need to bring collaboration with people and technology firmly into the education system as soon as possible and develop these skills and techniques for the system and for our learners.

Martin King

1 comment:

  1. A very good take on the issues that are at stake here. Thanks Martin.