wasting bandwidth since 1999

Instant Answers

Students can easily find ready-made term papers for the most popular research assignments all over the web.

It’s not at all difficult to find for sale at a variety of sites the teachers’ edition (with all the answers in the back) for any commonly used textbook.

And, as the New York Times points out, the web can also provide “step-by-step solutions to textbook problems, copies of previous exams, reams of lecture notes, summaries of literary classics, and real-time help with physics, math and computer science problems”.

Wolfram Alpha, while certainly not yet the tech miracle/”Google killer” being hailed by some in the media, is a good indication of where this is all heading: enter a query and get a detailed response within seconds.

So, why do we continue to ask questions of students that can be found with little or no effort?

Education in an age of ubiquitous connectivity should be more about using and creating knowledge rather than memorizing little bits of easily obtained data (and placing them in the right boxes on the test).

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3 Comments

  1. So, why do we continue to ask questions of students that can be found with little or no effort?

    I think at least part of the answer is that teachers have a hard time developing harder questions on the fly, and most of the teachers I know (who control their curricula) work on the fly. On the other hand, the teachers I know (who don’t have control over curriclum) are teaching “teacher-proof” material that they don’t have any input into designing or even really evaluating.

    I’ve been using tools like Timeliner3D lately, and Keynote (Apple’s version of PowerPoint) to build art history and history-of-science podcasts for my students. It’s tremendously time-consuming work. Sometimes I can find a video clip or an audio file that meets my needs, but there’s also the matter of my professional portfolio; if I steal someone else’s video, I’m violating copyright AND failing to build my portfolio. If I build my own, I’m creating content that’s relevant to my students, in line with their needs (I hope!), and building my portfolio for the future of teaching.

    Whatever that future is…

  2. You say it so well, here, Tim: Education in an age of ubiquitous connectivity should be more about using and creating knowledge rather than memorizing little bits of easily obtained data (and placing them in the right boxes on the test).

    We all should get that printed on little cards and request them put in every educator’s wallet – including those who go by the name “administrator,” “lawmaker,” and “parent.”

    Once everyone’s on the same page… then there’s the issue that must be dealt with to finally change the tide: time. As Andrew so well points out, we need as educators (the types in schools) TIME to re-invent the type of learning taking place across America. I once saw a statistic that some of the very successful school systems in other countries give their teachers far more planning time than we here do in the U.S.

  3. Just as a quick note on Hendron’s comment: “I once saw a statistic that some of the very successful school systems in other countries give their teachers far more planning time than we here do in the US.”

    I taught English last year in Japan. I can tell you, from at least that experience, that you have no idea how correct you are… partially. I think it’s less that teachers in other countries (specifically Japan) are *given* more time, as they are *expected to give* more time to develop their lesson plans.

    It is unheard of, and down right shameful, for a school teacher at any age level of teaching to leave work before at LEAST 6pm. (And that’s early by many standards.) Teachers didn’t get more pay to sit at their desks and meticulously plan through the night, they are expected to input no less. At my current (private) school, it is not uncommon to see the teachers go as the last student from car line gets picked up.

    Of course, teachers have lives outside of work. They have families. But before drawing conclusions between our country’s teachers and those abroad, think of the attitude many teachers have towards their job in the first place. “Back to the trenches”, “… if I can just get through today”, “I’ll use last year’s lesson plans, so this year I’ll have much more free time.” Were many of the Japanese teachers just going through the motions and equally fed up/drained from their job? Sure. But they still put in at *least* 10 more hours *every week* on average as ours – even if just going through the motions.

    I don’t know of one school that demands teachers out by a certain hour, so technically, the time is there, it just needs to be taken.

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