Friday, May 01, 2015

Should Google be Allowed in Examinations?

This is an interesting question posed yesterday on the "Today" show on BBC Radio 4 - the clip below hears both side of the argument where one panel member questions the credibility of an exam where Google was used, while the other states that it should be allowed depending on the type of exam in question. Clearly this is a question for debate amongst all educators and learners?

Image source: Wikimedia Commons.
First - consider this quote attributed to Albert Einstein:

Why should I memorize something I can so easily get from a book?

If he were alive today he might instead say:

Why should I memorize something I can so easily get from Google?

Secondly, consider this fact: In 1975 (the year I sat my Intermediate Certificate), calculators were allowed in Intermediate/Leaving Certificate exams in Ireland for the first time. Lots of people objected to this saying it "dumbed down" maths tests and that they could help a student get a good grade without understanding the concepts behind the maths. Look how common they are now!

Google is part of learning whether we like it or not (I like it - I regularly ask/allow students to look up stuff online in class). This makes it part of teaching. I wish I had it in the 1960s/1970s when I was at school. Of course we have to be careful about a "cut-and-paste" culture and take steps to ensure that this is not learning, but if you use a specific tools to learn, then its presence in an exam should be considered. I am in agreement with Mark Dawe, Chief Executive of the British OCR exam board, who says in the clip that "It is inevitable" that search tools such as Google will be used in exams. I also agree with him in that it should only be used in certain types of exams and that the exam itself will be different is search is allowed. Assessing students' ability to make connections, show understanding, and interpret content is different than assessing recall. If I am preparing an exam where I know access to the Internet and Google will be available, I will naturally set questions accordingly and have different expectations about the answers students should provide. For example, in a Statistics exam I might ask students to find their own data to analyse and interpret, rather than give them a defined data set that all students must use. Which is of greater value?

Listen to the clip and form your own opinion...

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