Finding questions that Google can't answer (updated)
The old reason for banning mobile phones and the use of 'always on' internet-enabled devices in schools was that children 'cheated'. We're beginning in some places to see over the top of that particular mountain, but how about this for a contentious question: should we allow smartphones and internet-enabled computers into examinations?
I'd argue it's worth thinking about. I was a French and German teacher, subjects which, when I was at school, did not allow the use of a dictionary in the examination. For some time now, students have been able to use dictionaries, something that tends to bring lower results to students who have not been taught well in specific dictionary and reading skills.
If we were to teach students how to effectively use the web, search, social search and shared bookmarking techniques within a pressure environment, in much the same way as we've done for decades in languages and dictionary tuition, what would we be left with?
My guess is that many educators and examination bodies would still not be happy, since too many of the answers sought could be machine programmable or searchable.
So, we need to change the way we ask questions, we need to change the way we test and assess. The remaining question is therefore: how?
But further still, and totally new for me, is the concept of Fermi Questions. These are questions named after the Nobel Prize-winning Italian physicist Enrico Fermi, who was well known for solving problems which left others baffled. There is no searchable answer, and no one way of answering them. They are the true meaning of "there is no right way to answer this".
Update: Had they not already written a blog post which is now Googleable, I'd have said that finding out how to play the world's shortest possible game of Monopoly would make a great Fermi question. But they did, and it is, so it's not.