Three headlines really struck me this week. The first was “ACU first university in nation to provide iPhone or iPod touch to all incoming freshmen“. The second was “Cellphone college class opens in Japan“.
It appears that a change in mentality is finally taking place. It’s interesting to see the devices of choice as well. In the US, it’s the iPhone, in Japan, it is the highly used cell phone. Nevertheless, the education system, at least at the post secondary level, is beginning to embrace mobile technology as a learning tool. In the second instance, the title of the headline is a little misleading as the “cell phone course” made available by Cyber University in Japan is actually being offered in both an online format and a cell phone format. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.
However, the picture is not all rosy as a third headline shows how this transition to the use of mobile and online tools in education will not be a smooth one. The headline, “Student Faces Facebook Consequences” demonstrates both how old attitudes do in fact die hard and the hypocrisy of a system that encourages students to collaborate but only when that collaboration is done face-to-face. With all this fear of cheating and academic misconduct, perhaps we need to stop using fact and information based evaluations and replace these evaluations with skills based evaluations. It’s much harder for students to cheat if they have to demonstrate an acquired skill vs. simple information regurgitation.
As an aside, fact and information based evaluations are important when access to information is difficult and the means to access information is available only to the privileged. However, in knowledge-based societies such as ours where facts and information is readily available, is it necessary to focus our evaluations on a student’s ability to memorize knowledge pieces? When information is easily available, the skills to find, and more importantly use, this information becomes much more important. Perhaps open book, or should I say open access, tests should become the norm and the tests evaluate not the information that students can remember, but how students use the information available to make arguments or prove ideas. This is, after all, what what working professionals do!