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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Hire that Kid!

Warning sarcasm ahead

You may have read that there is a scandal brewing in schools across the United States and even the world. Kids are using iPods and MP3 players to cheat on tests. A horrible use of technology…those darn electronic gizmos…they are corrupting the youth of the world.

An article by Associated Press called “Schools banning iPods to beat cheaters” outlines how “schools across the country are targeting digital media players as a potential cheating device.”

A teacher at San Gabriel High School in San Gabriel, Calif., confiscated a student's iPod during a class and found the answers to a test, crib notes and a definition list hidden among the teen's music selections.

These kids are desperate for answers…as the article indicates, “Even an audio clip of the old "Schoolhouse Rock" take on how a bill makes it through Congress can come in handy during some American government exams.” The scandal.

The only solution…ban iPods and other MP3 players outright…and while you are at it…reinforce the already existing ban on cell phones. Get rid of any and all technology that is enabling cheating.

According to the article, "a spokeswoman for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, said it is not unusual for schools to ban digital media players."

Students need to do their own work so they can prepare for a career where their success rises and falls on working alone! And where they don't use pesky gadgets like cell phones, Blackberry's or other electronic aids to help them achieve their goals.

Because we know that every day adults in government, corporate and non-profit organizations do their own work without the aid of technology. And, they do it alone. Collaboration is bad, one person knows everything, working in a team is bad, helping a co-worker is bad. Stay in your cubical and don't talk to co-workers, keep your head down and focus on your own work. Don't ask anyone for help.

Wait a minute, this is backwards.

Instead of banning technology and struggling to maintain our 19th century schools system, why don’t we update them? Why don’t we leverage the technology of this “gamer and gadget” generation and embrace the idea that knowing how to retrieve, store and access data on hand-held gadgets in today’s society is more important than memorizing how a bill becomes a law. Didn’t Einstein state that he never memorized anything he could look up? Everyday schools force kids to memorize isolated pieces of trivia. (Witness "Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?")

Stop the insanity.

Instead, let’s teach students how to navigate search engines, how to distill large amounts of information into “talking points”, how to organize information for easy retrieval and how to discern quality information found on the internet from garbage.

Don’t teach kids that the only way to be successful is to memorize information and then regurgitate it on a paper-and-pencil test. That is obscene and a lie.

In fact, the kid who is clever enough to understand the value of the information contained in the School House Rock songs, download them from the internet and put them on an iPod for a test is EXACTLY the person I want on my development team. Someone who can think outside of the box, maximize resources and who understands how to utilize technology to get the job done.

Schools shouldn’t ban MP3 players, they should embrace them.

End Note:
I think School House Rock is a great educational tool, I’ve written about the instructional quality of School House Rock before in School House Rock, School of Rock.

Getting your college degree online is something that some people find very useful in order to earn a degree without having to lose any time from work. With the schedule flexibility that most online degree programs offer you should be able to find a degree program that's right for you so you can get an online Associates degree with relative ease.

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rkudasik said...

Wow. I hear your frustration. More than that you and Einstein are so right. Why not put the test on an ipod?
The part that got me was where you talked about schools clinging onto old ways without remembering that this is 2007! Those kids will use their ipods for everything else anyway.

Karl Kapp said...

Yes, I get frustrated when we disallow technology--that literally surrounds kids all day--from places of "learning." It really reinforces the concept in kids' minds that "schools are not relevant and out of touch."

Bart said...

Along the same lines, my favorite example is our College of IST. Penn State paid millions of dollars to outfit our new labs with high-end laptops in computers, and specifically designed the rooms for teaching with technology.

What is the first thing that happens when most faculty begin class?

"Ok everyone, close down the computers and put the monitors down"


I don't know enough about the story you reference here, but it sounds to me that the students had this stuff on thier iPods for study purposes and/or reference material. What instructor is going to let kids take a test with headphones on? I sure wouldn't.

A colleague of mine who does a lot of Web 2.0 initiatives here at Penn State gets called down to Washington once in a while to chat at government meetings about web 2.0 technology. Do you know what the government calls all these social networking and collaborative tools?

"Disruptive Technologies"

Yes, we could use a massive mindset shift from both Government and the Education adminstraters/policy makers.

Karl Kapp said...


Sad story about the shutting of the laptop and turning off the monitors to "start class."

That story amplifies the problem occuring in "old time institutions"(read schools at all levels) we need to somehow "immerse" faculty at all levels into these "disruptive technologies" so that they can catch up with those wacky iPod welding kids.

Anonymous said...

What about the kids who don't own or can't afford an iPod? Wouldn't they be at a disadvantage? Perhaps you think that schools that can't even afford books should supply every student with some sort of media player?

Although you scorn the concept of memorization and self-reliance, there may come a time in a person's adult life when they don't have instant access to the internet or their PDA. Good lord what if your batteries go dead? There is something to be said for at least memorizing the fundamentals (like multiplication tables, or the basic process by which a bill becomes a law) so you are not utterly dependent on an electronic gadget to accomplish anything.

Sure there are some lazy or cynical teachers who solely rely on memorization, but even when I was in high school 20 years ago, no one suggested that the "only way to be successful is to memorize information and then regurgitate it on a paper-and-pencil test". Most teachers recognize that internalizing some information helps students grasp larger and more complex ideas.

Einstein would not have been able to formulate his most complex theories if he had to look up the basic principles of physics every day. Although he MAY have said "that he never memorized anything he could look up?", that clearly wasn't true. He never memorized information that he felt would clutter up his brain and possibly impead his thinking. His brain was already "full". High School students' brains are not even close to full.

-Todd Shirley

Karl Kapp said...


First, thanks for your comment. In fact, you are making the very same points that my wife brought up to me when I told her about this post. Great minds think alike.

My main message in the post is that we can't ban technology from schools. To do so is to be out of touch with the rest of the world.

But we can't stop cheating either. Twenty years ago kids cheated by writing answers on their sneakers, tiny pieces of paper, and even on their hands.

However, did we ban pens? or sneakers? or paper?

Now when technology is such an important part of society, schools decide to ban it because it might be used for cheating? It doesn't make sense.

Studies show that you get what you reward. If schools reward kids for memorization with an A on the test, the kids are going to think memorization leads to success.

Schools need to teach how to leverage technology, how to search information and how to use technological tools to achieve goals and to problem solve.

Yes, we still need memorization in our schools...that much is obvious and I agree 100%, but what appears not to be obvious in many schools is that we also NEED technology.

It shouldn't be an either/or proposition.

You can't prepare a student to enter society without preparing him or her to intelligently use technology. It is unfair to the student.

Yet, it seems that every new technology like cell phones and iPods are banned from our schools. No attempt to integrate it into the curriculum. Just elminate it so students don't cheat.

Aren't there better ways to handle potential cheating without an all out ban?

Thanks again for taking the time to leave a comment, very much appreciated even if we disagree.


Bart said...

This reminds me of the "Future of Learning Manifesto".

Scroll down about a page-length to actually read the manifesto...very, very good insight on things that teachers and traineres should take into consideration.

Bart said...

This comment has been removed because it linked to malicious content. Learn more.

Anonymous said...


I agree that technology should be integrated into the learning process, but that is different from allowing students to bring in whatever electronic gadgets they can get their hands on.

You say "it seems that every new technology like cell phones and iPods are banned from our schools. No attempt to integrate it into the curriculum. Just elminate it so students don't cheat. Aren't there better ways to handle potential cheating without an all out ban?"

Many schools ARE attempting to integrate new technology, but really, most can't afford the newest technology. You can't integrate cell phones or media players or PDAs into the curriculum UNLESS EVERYONE HAS ONE. Otherwise it is just an unfair advantage to those who do. As I said in my previous post, what about the kids who don't have or can't afford the gadgets? Schools can't afford to provide them to every student, so they have no choice but try to suppress the use of those devices.

No, you can't completely stop cheating, but I think it is completely resonable to say you cannot use a cell phone or ipod or PDA during a test. I don't think anyone is trying to ban the EXISTENCE of gadgets in schools, just their use during class.

I completely agree with the staement that "Schools need to teach how to leverage technology, how to search information and how to use technological tools to achieve goals and to problem solve.", but this is different than allowing some kids to use gadgets while others cannot. How would you practically integrate new technolgy into our schools today? Have each student register which electronic devices they intend to use, and then create different tracks based on the level of technolgy that a student can afford? A different testing procedure for those who choose to wear headphones, another for those who can surf the web on their phone and another for those who don't use electronic aids?

I'm more interested in actual solutions rather than idealized theory. You say "My main message in the post is that we can't ban technology from schools." and I say that is a vast generalization, and that no school (other than perhaps Amish schools) BANS technology. Every school in this country struggles to keep up with technology and integrate it, but until education is funded like the defense department, schools are going to be years behind the curve. Pragmatic steps have to be taken to limit the use of technology that doesn't fit into the CURRENT curriculum.

I don't disagree with your ideas Karl, I am just trying to point out that it is a very complex issue and that in fact most schools don't disagree with you either. You tend to paint "our schools" as a monolithic and unified entity which makes universal decisions about what is and isn't allowed. Your post obviously provokes thought and discussion, but it doesn't really address the reality of our education system today.


Karl Kapp said...


You make some good points, I am working on a post now to address some of them. I think we fundamentally agree on the concepts, it is just the approach.

However, I think the time for incremental change is over. We need more radical solutions. In the meantime, check out Tom Haskin's growing changing learning creating blog for an entire discussion on reforming schools. You will find it very interesting and I am sure you would want to make a comment or two.


Bart said...

This might be throwing fuel on the fire, but that's what this dicussion medium is for, right? I'm not sure I totally believe in this mindset, but here it goes for the sake of conversation...

Does every student really need to have an iPod or a gadget of some sort for a school district to incorporate that technology to help kids learn? For instance, I've read about high school teachers creating podcasts of their lectures, or simply podcasts about specific content, that they make available for students. Is that a bad thing, since all students might not have an audio device to listen to these? I've read of similar cases with Cell Phones, where students can have school-specific information IM'd to their mobile device.

I think there's a difference between incorporating technology (that isn't readily available to the masses) into the core curriculum of a school vs. incorporating technology to enhance and support the curriculum. I see the iPod, and other technology listed here, in the latter category. If some students can't get to it, it won't impact their class experience or impact their grades.

I think that's the point that Karl (and many others who are on the game-based learning/web 2.0 for learning bandwagon) are trying to make: regardless of the technology, the first reaction should be "Is this useful for education? If so, how can we incorporate this device/tech to support our students?". Unfortunately, it seems like many school systems approach new tech. in a much more pessimistic manner, like the folks in the original post banning iPods.

Anonymous said...

i think that kids should be banned from electroincs from school unless they have good test scores and you state that we should embrace them you should teach high school and look at the test scores and you determine.

Anonymous said...

why incorporate? Can you give an answer?

Anonymous said...

i totally agree with you Kapp! i am a student at South Cobb High in Georgia, and i think the rule banning media players and other musical devices is just wrong. In fact, i am currently writing a letter to my principal on why he should get rid of that stupid rule. if a kid is gonna cheat, he'll cheat. it would be great if you could recommend some of your sources of information taht i could include in my paper.