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.
So the question becomes:
Is it cheating?
Are we, as educators, asking poorly designed questions?
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.