Will Richardson has some thoughts on ethical issues that challenge our current thinking about good and evil in the world of blogs, wikis and other social sloftware. At the end of a presentation he was giving, one of the particpants commented that her school was having problems with blogs because students would post questions and answers to tests between periods so that later classes would know what to expect. (When I was teaching 4 sections of 12th grade English 35 years ago, it probably took all of 5 minutes after the end of my first class for my test questions to be in the public domain. Now it only takes a minute.)
Will’s first response is telling.
What a great use of the technology, not from an ethical sense, certainly, but from a collaboration and information sense. This is the new reality of a Read/Write world where knowledge is accessible, number one, and knowledge is shared instead of being kept closeted, number two. These kids are finding ways to share the information they need to be successful at what they are doing.
Back in the olden days, my students and I had this ongoing dance about tests. I knew that they had the questions from previous classes. They knew that I knew and that I was clever enough not to ask the same questions. They spent an amazing amount of time trying to figure out what was left that hadn’t been asked yet. By the time three classes had reported out, those in 7th period had it pretty well knocked.
Will says that making four tests isn’t the answer.
The answer, I think, lies in teaching our students how to correctly and ethically borrow the ideas and work of others and in demanding that they not just use them but make those ideas their own. That they take the ideas we have tried to teach them and connect them to and show us that they can teach it to someone else with their own spin on it, their own remix.
I like this vision, unconventional as it might be, but getting large numbers of faculty to buy into it will be an enormous challenge. Running papers through Turnitin.com is certainly easier.