Will Richardson (Weblogg-ed) starts the day with a thought-provoking post about a student who sends text messages with his phone in his pocket.
Challenged by Barry(16) in the comments thread at Weblogg-ed, I re-read the article. It does not in fact say that Insoo was texting during a test, only that he was texting *in class*. That's the equivalent of passing notes, and hardly a character issue on the level of cheating on an exam. Further, the full article notes that he wants a new phone, the price of which is doing well on his exams. I've edited this post accordingly. Sorry to impugn your character, Insoo.
This raises all sorts of interesting questions, being battered about in the comments thread and on Twitter. "If they can find the answer on the Net (including their personal learning network of friends and trusted strangers), is the question worth asking?" and so forth.
These are good and valuable questions to batter about. But...
As Charles says in the comments on Will's post, unless the networking is somehow helping Insoo grasp the mathematical concepts, then he isn't learning math. He may be learning something, but it isn't what was assigned. And what was assigned, we may assume, is something that is of value to society. Kids are always whining, "Do I really have to know this?" Cheating - of any form - is that whine put into action. We can argue about the relevancy of the curriculum. And we should listen to our students so we can make it relevant. But they don't get to decide what they need to learn and what they can slough off.
Second, there needs to be a recognition that sometimes you Just Need To Know It. If I'm on an airplane and the engine catches fire, I don't want the pilot texting his Personal Learning Network for a solution. I want him to "Execute the Engine Fire Checklist from memory with no prompting in less than 30 seconds with 100% accuracy." (Thank you, Mr. Mager!)
There's no question that we educators - with help from our madly-connected 21st-century students - need to devise relevant, authentic learning activities that leverage the power of these new communications tools and paradigms.
But it's fair for us to expect that they'll learn what we ask them to.