My 7th grader has had an iPad at school this year to help him organize and keep all his work in one place.

Yesterday, he came home in tears. His math teacher took away his iPad and humiliated him in front of his whole class. My son admitted he had been deleting music from iTunes so he could update his Notion app (a music notation app for music scores, not for listening to music). He knew he shouldn’t be doing this during class.

Should he have had his iPad taken away? Should he have been humiliated in front of the whole class? This is a kid who never gets in trouble. In 8 years, I’ve had two teachers say one time each to me that he was talking too much in class… that’s the extent of the trouble he’s gotten into. He’s never had another issue with the iPad in nearly 9 months of school.

The teacher emailed us that he’s not sure he can “trust [my son’s] responsible use” now.

Wow. Seriously?

This is a teacher I know has a strong dislike of technology. He feels there is no role for technology for a student. He told me once that the math games on the iPad mean kids are more interested in popping balloons or getting the sharks than learning the math…. You think? Maybe learning math facts isn’t fun for some kids and they need the added motivation to pop balloons. Or maybe they’re so sick and tired of paper timed tests that popping a balloon puts more interest into the process. I honestly think he’s been looking for an opportunity to catch my son doing something so he could take away the iPad.

We feel the punishment was a significant overreaction. Could he not have given my son a warning? Asked him to put it away? Instead he threatened to take it away for the whole day. I give my son credit for pointing out that his entire planner and all his assignments are on the iPad. My son suggested giving it up for the math class, then getting it back.

I mentioned this to two colleagues who know my son. They guffawed. Their first reaction was that the class must’ve been boring and my son (who “gets” math easily) must have known what was going on and was frustrated listening to repetitious instructions.

I’m having a difficult time sending my son back into that class.  In nearly 9 months, this is the first problem we’ve had with the iPad. I have heard from no other teachers about issues of inappropriate use. So why now? Why this? And why this much reaction?

Redefine Cheating: MOOCs

Recent article in the Chronicle for Higher Education,“MOOC Teachers How to Cheat in Online Courses, with Eye to Prevention” brings up the need to redefine cheating and why we need to redefine education. The article talks about an online course (a MOOC) being taught by a Wisconsin professor all about how to “redesign learning environments.”

Let’s hope that’s what he focuses on.

The very last paragraph of the article defines cheating as “It’s meeting at Starbucks and taking a quiz together, or texting a friend….”

Seriously? Isn’t this really collaboration? We need to redefine assessment. Is the quiz about getting a right answer or about thinking through a problem? If it’s a basic multiple choice test, then getting the “right” answers from a friend may be cheating, but working through the problems with another person shouldn’t be.

Our assessments are what is wrong — not the collaboration. Students are by nature social creatures. The world works on teamwork and cooperation. Let’s reward that. Let’s nurture that -not criminalize it by calling it “cheating.” If our assessments rely on basic factual recall or some other simple form of grading to make things easier on the grader, than perhaps THAT is the problem. Not the fact that students collaborate.

I’m taking a MOOC right now. It’s not for credit, so it has a different tone and importance, I grant you that. However, I want to learn the content. I don’t care about my grade on the weekly quizzes. In this set up, you get 3 chances at a quiz. The best score is recorded. Each time to you take it, you have an opportunity to see the explanation for the answers. It doesn’t take much to figure out how to get a perfect score. The first time I took one, I felt horrible for using the answers (given to me) to get a perfect score. Then I thought again. This was about ME learning the content. Not about a grade, not about credit, so I feel no guilt. The questions are straight from the lecture or reading. There is little thought needed to answer them, no critical thinking. Just basic factual recall.

If, however, any online course was designed to give a grade or credit based on this type of quiz, that would be ridiculous. That type of assessment is ridiculous and shouldn’t be used. It is up to the educators to use assessments that are more creative, rely less on the straight factual recall, and demonstrate the ability to think, analyze, problem solve, cooperate, create, translate, etc. Look at the higher thinking skills on Bloom’s taxonomy.

Don’t criticize the students for cheating when you’re basically telling them to.