A few days ago I read an intriguing article on the Times of India. A US firm called Software Secure has developed a program which makes sure that students do not cheat as they take exams online. The software locks access to the Internet as well as all files on the PC, asks for fingerprint identification and records audio and video to ensure the student is not accessing external material while taking the test.
Testers can review the footage to make sure that the student behaved. Apparently several US universities are using this system, which is being piloted in Europe by a college in Britain.
What I find interesting in this story is that lately teachers feel hopeless in dealing with the disruptive use of technology that students make. Having married a teacher, I know the struggle she and her colleagues have with students using cellphones and smartphones to access information while they are taking a test, or the inability to assess whether a home assignment has been completed individually or in collaboration with others through Facebook or other social software.
All the times we read stories about students taking pictures or shooting videos of teachers in the classroom and post them on web sites, violating privacy and creating one more battlefield in the never-ending conflict between parents and teachers.
This news sounds like a little revenge for teachers. Those same tools that students are using to play the system can now be used to monitor them, and become their worst Big Brother (or Big Teacher) nightmare.
Then, why not shooting videos in the classroom while students take tests? If teachers are unsure that students behave, they can always go back and look at the footage. Why not using scrambling technology, like that used in prisons to make sure inmates cannot use cellphones? Why not encouraging teachers to use social software to share collective knowledge about specific students’ behaviors, so that rather than discussing this only when they meet, they can have a constant dialogue that allows behavioral patterns to be revealed before it is too late?
It is time for teachers to fight the battle for students’ attention and discipline using their same weapons.
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