Last night, I was picking up my daughter from dance. While I waited, there were several high school students who worked on homework while they were in between classes. It was interesting to watch one girl who used Google Translate on her smartphone to find out what her Spanish worksheet said while another girl playfully accused her of cheating.
This led to a brief discussion of other Apps that could help with homework, specifically an app that scanned math problems and provided an answer as well as the steps of the solution. This was where the key statement was offered by one of the students, “I’ve use that app before but sometimes it doesn’t work because the problem has a bunch of answers.”
The app in question is one that I have shared with parents in my own district. It can be used to provide answers and solution steps for homework problems, which seem to help out parents as much as students. While it can be a great benefit to students who are completing homework, it does not provide all the answers, especially to more open-ended questions, as the student so observantly noticed.
It’s not surprising that these children are trying to find ways to help them complete their homework quicker. As teachers, we can probably agree that children do receive a lot of work to do at home. This does limit their freedom slightly. Whether it’s apps or services that will do the work for them, children will find a way to get their work done quicker. They do deserve time to relax after a long school day, so we can’t really blame them.
So the question becomes:
Is it cheating?
Are we, as educators, asking poorly designed questions? Or are we asking too much of the children?
For most basic questions, students have an answer at the tip of their finger. The days of memorizing facts are over, unless you want to be a really successful Jeopardy player.
What we must do, then, is ask questions…
That challenge students to go beyond facts…
To examine the why…
To solve problems and think critically…
And ultimately, to have them ask their own questions.
We must allow students to utilize technology to address and solve problems, not just answer poorly designed questions.