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the examEAR
August 19, 2007 4:38 AM   Subscribe

A tiny wireless spy earpiece is being marketed to students who want the cheat on exams, much to the chagrin of teacher/examiner organisations. The Examear website proclaims they are: "Helping students succeed. Worldwide!" The makers say the devices are also suitable for people such as TV reporter, TV game show contestants -- anyone who needs help remembering things. Remember, before the internet, when students didnt copy all their essays and actually did some work?
posted by domdom (73 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sounds like a smart idea.
posted by Poolio at 4:40 AM on August 19, 2007


I cheat only while drinking delicious Pepsi Blue.
posted by Malor at 4:47 AM on August 19, 2007 [6 favorites]


It's invisible? Damn, what kind of weird non light absorbing materials did they use producing that?
posted by soundofsuburbia at 4:52 AM on August 19, 2007


Soon kids are going to have to be stripsearched before they enter an exam.
posted by domdom at 4:53 AM on August 19, 2007


Comes in handy at chess tournaments, too.
posted by MtDewd at 4:59 AM on August 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


How about for use during Presidential debates?
posted by jperkins at 5:06 AM on August 19, 2007 [4 favorites]


Soon kids are going to have to be stripsearched before they enter an exam.

Nah, think of it as a business opportunity for manufacturers to perfect their Faraday cage wallcoverings. Imagine a university lecture hall that cannot be interrupted by cellphones or texting, where students can't waste Daddy's tuition by surfing random websites on their laptop instead of paying attention to the lecturer, and where no wireless earpiece can ever work. (See also: movie theaters.)

Actually the real innovation would be to make something like a Faraday cage that can be selectively enabled for test days.
posted by Rhomboid at 5:21 AM on August 19, 2007


To make this work, you would have to have someone who actually knows the answers just standing by. I did history in university - I can't imagine how it would have been the least bit cost-effective to find someone who could dictate an intelligent history essay. At that point, it would have taken far less trouble to just write the damn thing myself.

My husband has pointed out that this could be very useful in multiple choice exams, but frankly, that's just another reason to get rid of multiple choice exams, considering that they don't adequately test knowledge or skills to begin with.
posted by jb at 5:23 AM on August 19, 2007


Even with multiple choice, you've got to either pre-record entire swaths of possible answers, or be able to whisper the entire question, and possible answers to a third party. The first sounds pretty time-consuming and not a good use of time, and the second still sounds pretty dangerous. It doesn't matter if you're whispering to a friend sitting next to you or 200 feet away, you're still cheating... still don't see any good use for one of these.
posted by WetherMan at 5:49 AM on August 19, 2007


It might make sense in rote memory tests like organic chemistry.
posted by stbalbach at 6:02 AM on August 19, 2007


NSA, are you reading this??
posted by wheelieman at 6:10 AM on August 19, 2007


Maybe you could just have someone whispering you moral support. Come on, son! You can do this...
posted by RokkitNite at 6:31 AM on August 19, 2007 [6 favorites]


With the proper electronic counter measures you could drive the cheaters mad. Jam the system an play high pitched tones or better, "I see you cheating!" Anyone reaching for their ear gets a year off from school.
posted by caddis at 6:43 AM on August 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


It might make sense in rote memory tests like organic chemistry.

Whether rote memory tests make educational sense is somewhat debatable. Personally I'll take an each-way bet on the proposition: understanding is more important than memorization, but memorization makes application of understanding faster and more accurate.

Even with multiple choice, you've got to either pre-record entire swaths of possible answers, or be able to whisper the entire question, and possible answers to a third party.

Not necessarily. It's possible to devise a "question tree" for simple information that can be driven by repeated presses of a few buttons, which could be easily concealed in a pen or something similar. Equip the top of a pen with a 4-way joystick, and you have a UI (right: forward one option; left: back one option; up: previous menu; down: select option).
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:52 AM on August 19, 2007


Of course, arranging the information needed for the exam in such a tree probably approximates studying for the exam anyway. :)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:53 AM on August 19, 2007


What's the point... so you cheat, so you get a degree. Now you're an idiot with a degree, that will get you one job. After that you're an idiot with a poor work reference.

Let 'em cheat.... Darwin will win in the end!
posted by HuronBob at 6:54 AM on August 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


This kind of thing makes me so angry I want to vomit on the people who are marketing this. Fucking entitlement whores lie, cheat and bullshit their way through high school and then somehow make it into University, where they do the same fucking thing. Then they glut the fucking job market with their degrees, they get hired, and they can't even write a coherent declarative sentence.

Anyone caught using one of these things should be summarily dismissed from the school, on the spot. And their name should be circulated to every other university on the planet, to ensure that they never ever get the chance to fuck with everyone else's lives like that again.

University is a privilege, not a right. And those of us who were not able to afford the privilege want to kick the living shit out of fuckers who get in and coast through on plagiarism, purchased essays, and cheating on exams.

Bring back the entrance exam, I say.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:58 AM on August 19, 2007 [11 favorites]


Anyone reaching for their ear gets a year off from school.

Year off? No. Escorted off school grounds immediately, with some (supervised) time to pack up their room if appropriate. Permanently forbidden to even audit a fucking class at that school.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:59 AM on August 19, 2007


(on multiple choice exams) "..considering that they don't adequately test knowledge or skills to begin with"

I take issue with that statement. They aren't nearly as hard on students, definately, and that's a good thing. "testing" doesn't have to be some puritan punishment BS. Oral tests are the way to go, but there's this institutional and authoritative desire to make students "work hard" by giving them exams when really it's more to do with punishing the slackers and making "the youth" do something that "i had to do when i was younger" certainly, if they seriously wanted to test their learning there are better ways to do it, but more importantly testing learning is a mean to and ends, not an end in itself. It's about making sure the students learn, isn't it?
I remember back in high school there was a notion of the pre test. Especially in maths and science, a teacher would give a test to you, with the idea that it had the exact same format but different content from an assessed test to be given later, so that while the test was still fresh in the students memory, the questions could be researched and covered in class until every student was at the same level for the upcoming test. It was a far more effective way of teaching.

I also take issue with the alarmist bent of this post. It's hardly an effective tool for cheating, people are going to do it anyway. It's a symptom of this qualification rather than learning focused education system that is pervasive in the western world.

Well, in my opinion anyway, but i'm admittedly quite an idealist when it comes to education. All the best teachers i've had, the ones i respected and learnt the most from, where the ones that considered tests a necessary feature of the system, irrelevant to learning itself. That's my view.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 7:00 AM on August 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


remember when people who used the internet weren't gullible half-literate fools unable to detect a load of unadulterated bullshit such as this web site? the grammar and mis-spellings alone should give it away, if not the idiotic image of the listening device with the tiny protruding antenna (compete with static-discharge ball on the end!).
posted by quonsar at 7:16 AM on August 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


> Nah, think of it as a business opportunity for manufacturers to perfect their Faraday cage wallcoverings.

Your puny faraday cages are worthless, earthman. Our devices transmit through the purple dimension.
posted by jfuller at 7:21 AM on August 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


You need to find out the frequency they broadcast on and then send a message - I know what you are doing.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:24 AM on August 19, 2007


Better use for this would be for your buddies to feed you lines while trying to pick up women.
posted by photoslob at 7:46 AM on August 19, 2007


dirtynumbangelboy This kind of thing makes me so angry I want to vomit on the people who are marketing this. Fucking entitlement whores lie, cheat and bullshit their way through high school and then somehow make it into University, where they do the same fucking thing. Then they glut the fucking job market with their degrees, they get hired, and they can't even write a coherent declarative sentence.

If they're that bad, they screw up and get fired. Unless they figure out some way of cheating at work too. The truth is a degree, outside of specialist areas, is mostly just a ticket to get a job interview. There are too many people applying for jobs for everyone to be considered fairly: some means of cutting down the potential interviewees must be found, and possession of degrees, and GPAs within degrees, are the logical means.

Using this sort of machine to cheat on a test is ridiculously impractical and it is being sold to scam the foolish as quonsar pointed out. We've come up with several major problems with using it in the course of this discussion and I'm sure we've missed a bunch more. The "entitlement whores" you have such a bee in your bonnet about won't go near it. They will just continue to hire people to write essays for them, and hire tutors to teach them (btw, what's your stance on that practice? I mean, levering financial advantage into greater ability to actually learn the work?). They will graduate with a "gentleman's C", and get a job through connections for which the degree itself is utterly irrelevant and that we, degreed or not, cannot have.

Anyone caught using one of these things should be summarily dismissed from the school, on the spot. And their name should be circulated to every other university on the planet, to ensure that they never ever get the chance to fuck with everyone else's lives like that again.

As fucking with people's lives goes, this isn't much. After three months in the job a GPA of 6 vs a GPA of 5 will make no difference whatsoever. Being passed over for a job because the successful candidate cheated on their exams and got a higher GPA matters to exactly one person per such event: the runner-up to the position. Everyone else is out of luck regardless of the falsity or genuineness of the successful candidate's qualifications.

It's wrong. It's unethical. It certainly deserves punishment, and reassessment of the student's performance. My own preference would be striking the current and most recent previous semester's results, requiring repetition - that's basically a year extra.

I don't think simple cheating warrants mandatory expulsion, because it would create perverse incentives (eg, corrupting academics and administrators). It certainly doesn't warrant demonizing and scapegoating the individual student, because the question of why they cheated must be asked. One cheat can be assumed to be a moral failing on that student's part; significant numbers of cheating students indicates a likelihood that the subject itself is too hard--in which case, it needs to be split up over two subjects, or have more tutors allocated, or an intermediate subject created, or some other educationally sound solution found--or that it is being taught badly. Always ask why.

University is a privilege, not a right. And those of us who were not able to afford the privilege want to kick the living shit out of fuckers who get in and coast through on plagiarism, purchased essays, and cheating on exams.

I disagree: learning is not a privilege open only to those who "deserve" it. (However you want to define "deserve" - does a person who passes simply by virtue of being born smart enough to get through a degree with minimal work "deserve" university more or less than one who learns through great personal effort? Is the stupid student who must, and does, study hard to scrape a pass more virtuous?). Nor is it a right to be taken up or ignored as you see fit. Learning is a duty. Confusing the human duty of learning with meal-ticket job prospecting is the core problem here.

Jealousy of other people's privileges, whatever they are, is your problem. Misconduct ought to be punished, but not to please you. You seem extremely vengeful about this issue.

Bring back the entrance exam, I say.

A single overwhelmingly important exam, be it entrance or exit, creates the very conditions you protest so much against. Continual assessment through essays, academics and tutors who know the students' progress and take responsibility for guiding them, in-class oral presentations with opportunity for questions, "pop quizzes", and peer-support study groups are all educationally better and a damn sight harder to cheat through.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:01 AM on August 19, 2007 [4 favorites]


Remember, before the internet, when students didnt...

Remember, before the internet, when people used apostrophes?

But, um seriously. If this company is indeed real their website desperately needs an overhaul. They look like they're selling bad website templates.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:07 AM on August 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


The bluetooth itself looks like a modern necklace with original pendent. You would probably hang it around your neck. We can guarantee that nobody would ever think that the necklace with the pendent is meant to deliver and receive information.

A. True
B. False
C. WTF?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:09 AM on August 19, 2007


Whether rote memory tests make educational sense is somewhat debatable. Personally I'll take an each-way bet on the proposition: understanding is more important than memorization, but memorization makes application of understanding faster and more accurate.


How about understanding that cheating is wrong and memorizing the basic ethical precepts on which our society is founded?
posted by nax at 8:11 AM on August 19, 2007


remember when people who used the internet weren't gullible half-literate fools unable to detect a load of unadulterated bullshit such as this web site? the grammar and mis-spellings alone should give it away, if not the idiotic image of the listening device with the tiny protruding antenna

It might be bullshit...or not.

A similar device is described in MtDewd "chess tournaments" link:
“After several more complaints, including one from IA Carol Jarecki, I had no choice but to see what was in his ear. I asked him to step away from the board and asked to see the brown device I had spotted in his ear. He quickly removed it and put it in his pocket. Finally, he reluctantly fished it out. It looked nothing like any hearing aid I had ever seen. It seemed to have an antenna which in fact was just a nylon feeler used for pulling the device out of the ears. All hearing aids I had ever seen had a part that attached to the outside of the ear. This device was completely in the ear. On it was written ‘Phonito’ along with a Web address. I showed it to Carol, who agreed that it was unlike any hearing aid she had ever seen.

At this point, I went back to my computer and began to research the device along with NTD Boyd Reed. We found that the the Web site (www.rahq.com/phonak.htm) showed the device, along with descriptions, instructional photographs, and accessories. This was no hearing aid; in fact, it is clearly described as a ‘wireless miniature communication receiver.’

Chess Life contacted Phonak Communications in Switzerland, the maker of the Phonito. Company representative Roland Wienhart responded:
We are unhappy that our equipment was used in such an unfair manner to cheat during the World Open. As our products are used mainly in security or secret service organizations, the earpieces are specially designed to be almost invisible to protect the user from being recognized as a member of a special force. We have not found a way yet to fight such misuse.
On the current market there are very small receivers available which are placed completely inside the ear canal.”
Also ... Cheating at Chess, Phonito, and Bush.
posted by ericb at 8:31 AM on August 19, 2007


"Remember, before the internet, when students didnt copy all their essays and actually did some work?< ?i>"

You're telling me students never copied exams before ~1990? It's like those brothers from the Harry Potter series or the drug connections my sister scores in two minutes or less - it has always been a matter of who you know. My Grandfather, who finished his Masters degree just before enlisting in the Navy for WWII*, has told me that the frequency of cheating is about the same now as it was then; it just has more help from technology.

*I still don't understand this choice. He had an advanced degree prior to U.S. involvement, and he still never sought an exemption or even a commission.

posted by mystyk at 8:33 AM on August 19, 2007


It appears that in both devices -- Examear and Phonito -- it is not an antenna, but a nylon feeler used to pull the device out of the ear canal.
posted by ericb at 8:35 AM on August 19, 2007


The "GOLD" model has a great reputation on succeeding on long exams, as well as on business meetings.

"Pssst! They say they have "two concerns" about our business plan."

Say: "We are committed to seeing this plan succeed and will do what it takes." Great, great. Now say: "Gentlemen, women, I don't want to take up too much of your time." Stand up. Now, smiiile. Look everyone in the eye. Extend your hand for a handshake....
posted by salvia at 8:42 AM on August 19, 2007


Imagine a university lecture hall that cannot be interrupted by cellphones or texting, where students can't waste Daddy's tuition by surfing random websites on their laptop instead of paying attention to the lecturer, and where no wireless earpiece can ever work. (See also: movie theaters.)

You mean like with something like this -- a cell phone jammer?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:45 AM on August 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


One cheat can be assumed to be a moral failing on that student's part; significant numbers of cheating students indicates a likelihood that the subject itself is too hard

Or that the cheating is too easy. Or that the cheaters are too stupid to avoid detection. Or that the class monitors are especially good.

Lots of things could be indicators of an important subject being taught improperly. Maybe the number of death threats to the professor? Students dropping the class? Student suicides? Students cheating?

But the right way to be a student is to study hard and take your exams honestly. Too many low grades and too few high grades may indicate that the subject is being taught (or tested) improperly. If that's the case, complain to administration, don't cheat. Cheating in an overly difficult class hurts honest students now and in the future because cheaters make it look like the class is not too hard.
posted by pracowity at 8:59 AM on August 19, 2007


You mean like with something like this -- a cell phone jammer?

Yep. Also from MtDewd's "chess tournaments" link:
Phonak Communications (Switzerland) advice in its response to Chess Life --

"Our recommendation:
To use the phonito, a portable radio or a mobile phone is needed. We recommend that you use an electronic jammer during chess tournaments to ensure that at least no mobile phones are working in the room while players are active.

Another possibility is to do a 'light' body search, checking for a portable radio or an inductive loop around the neck. 99% of all systems worldwide use such inductive technology. It is quite easy to disturb this communication with electromagnetic interferences (EMI).

Phonak equipment is made and used worldwide to protect and guarantee communication, so we deeply abhor any illegal use of our products to cheat in schools or sport."
posted by ericb at 9:03 AM on August 19, 2007


How about understanding that cheating is wrong and memorizing the basic ethical precepts on which our society is founded?

Of course cheating is wrong. Duh. "Cheating" can be pretty much defined as "those set of actions that are not allowed in the context of an activity", or "wrongs".

What I was talking about was this: there is significant debate in education over the value of memorization. Basically it comes down to closed-book exams vs open-book exams. Courses designed around open-book exams, if designed properly, test a student's ability to intelligently apply the material taught in the course. In the exam paper the teacher gives the students a table of formulae, or lets them bring in a textbook, or even whatever notes they like, designing the exam around the assumption that the students will have all of that information to apply, as they will in their vocation. This obviously makes cheating considerably more difficult.

I'd have thought making cheating more difficult--or contextually pointless--would be a damn fine way of addressing it. How about that?

"memorizing the basic ethical precepts on which our society is founded"

Ha! Good luck with that.

Once again, memorization is not understanding. Any damn fool can be taught to recite, say, the Ten Commandments. (Or whatever else you want to use as basic ethical precepts, bearing in mind that our ancestors did a lot of stuff we don't want to do any more, and history isn't over yet.) That doesn't mean anything in terms of his day-to-day behavior.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 9:04 AM on August 19, 2007


Any damn fool can be taught to recite, say, the Ten Commandments.

3 Year Old Boy Reciting US Presidents.

3 Year Old Boy Reciting Quran .
posted by ericb at 9:10 AM on August 19, 2007


I see "flesh colored" has gotten darker over the years...
posted by Tube at 9:10 AM on August 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


The most amazing thing about this hoax, for which MeFi is already the top Google hit (that new quick indexing is amazing) is that it has already been covered by The Daily Telegraph, BBC News, and the Edmonton Journal without anyone ever verifying that it actually exists or even speaking to anyone purporting to work for the seller.

I'm so glad the Internet hasn't driven those old-school newspapers out of business yet; where would we be without their insightful and careful reportage?
posted by grouse at 9:18 AM on August 19, 2007



Once again, memorization is not understanding. Any damn fool can be taught to recite, say, the Ten Commandments.


Yeah, aeschenkarnos, but then my clever (ahem) paraphrasing of the comment wouldn't work.

That's what I get for trying to be glib. Cheating is going to happen on some scale, human nature being what it is, and memorization as a substitute for understanding is, as you pointed out, absurd. But the attitude that I can cheat BECAUSE memorization is bullshit (I am not implying that this is what you said) is the same attitude that says I can steal this because it's overpriced, I can beat you up because I am bigger and where does that end. Society should not tolerate, let alone condone, much less facilitate unethical behavior.

Furthermore, memorization per se is not a bad thing. You can't understand the Ten Commandments if you don't memorize them first--how can I understand what I don't know? (There's got to be a Zen tenet in there somewhere). You can't do higher math if you haven't memorized the basic arithmetic. You cannot learn a foreign language if you don't memorize the vocab at some point. Ergo, testing memorization per se is not a bad thing and cheating because you have independently decided it's clearly bullshit (again, I'm not implying that this is what you said), is just dishonest. Which we all agree is bad, right?
posted by nax at 9:21 AM on August 19, 2007


Found with an earpiece while in an exam? You lose your ear. Hack it right off, there an then.

A couple cases of that sort of consequence, and problem solved. Plus, DNAB would feel better. Win-win for everyone but the cheater!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:28 AM on August 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


It might make sense in rote memory tests like organic chemistry.

You must have taken a different organic chemistry class than I did. The first month or so may have been rote memorization, but beyond that it was largely applied knowledge: "how would you synthesize A from B, C, and D?" and "what's the mechanism for this reaction?" Also, organic chemistry is harder to express purely verbally, which this would require, than a lot of other subjects.

remember when people who used the internet weren't gullible half-literate fools unable to detect a load of unadulterated bullshit such as this web site?

Hey! We're busy being morally outraged here! Don't put your "facts" in the way of our deeply held moral outrage!
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:32 AM on August 19, 2007


This kind of thing makes me so angry I want to vomit on the people who are marketing this.

Wow, that's a lot of emotional energy to invest in the meaningless monkey training that are exams in the modern undergraduate program.

Of course, another way of looking at it, is that some people are still buying the illusory importance of a university education thanks to it's successful marketing as a perceived valid commodity.
posted by fairmettle at 9:39 AM on August 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think we're more or less in agreement Nax but:

Society should not tolerate, let alone condone, much less facilitate unethical behavior.

To my way of thinking, to declare a behavior wrong comes with several intellectual duties (on a social basis, not necessarily on an individual basis): to consider why it is wrong, to consider why the wrong behavior is done or why a right behavior is not done, to consider how its occurrence may be reduced, and to consider how its effects might be mitigated. It's not enough, I think, to just condemn wrongdoers; that is something I see as inadequate for a thoughtful discussion.

You can't understand the Ten Commandments if you don't memorize them first--how can I understand what I don't know? (There's got to be a Zen tenet in there somewhere).

I think we could read them, put them into short term memory, think about them, and write a reasonably intelligent analysis of them, even if we'd never seen them before. Of course if we had, and had read other peoples' analyses, our analysis would be better. Memorization just means we don't have to carry the source document with us, and adds to the speed and accuracy of our recall if we were to discuss it. Depth of thought facilitates memorization, and memorization facilitates depth of thought, but they're not the same. IMO.

Which we all agree is bad, right?

Well, I think so. :) How bad, and who is harmed, is a whole other discussion. I found a bunch of actual university policies about cheating through google, none of which I'd memorized, or even seen before :), but they can more or less be summarized as: "Depending on the circumstances of the case, we may punish you in some way between giving you a zero for the item of assessment and expelling you from the university." Which seems fair enough to me.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 9:57 AM on August 19, 2007


From now on when I give exams, I'm going to walk up and down the aisles screaming into my students ears, just to make sure they aren't using this. Gotta be a responsible educator.
posted by papakwanz at 10:32 AM on August 19, 2007


The feds should give NASA more funding to step up the research on their subvocal microphones.

You know, think of the children cheaters! No child left behind!
posted by porpoise at 10:39 AM on August 19, 2007


pracowity writes "Too many low grades and too few high grades may indicate that the subject is being taught (or tested) improperly."

I disagree. I've taught university courses at a big state institution, a small community college, and a small state college. There is a very clear difference between the types of students who attend each, the socioeconomic backgrounds, the willingness to work at learning, the relative importance of education to each. In many cases too few high grades simply means that the instructor is dealing with a group of students who have never been made to work at learning anything, do not know how to study, do not care to study, and that the instructor is unwilling to grant free passing grades just to keep the illusion that all is well.

When I have students who take a quiz or exam, look at it, put their name at the top and then hand it back blank, clearly the burden is on me, because I am testing them in an unfair manner. I mean, golly gee, I actually expect them to read the assigned portions of the textbook, and I expect them to fill in the blanks with something other than "i don't know". I must be a total asshole.

When this happens in essentially every class, across an entire department, surely the problem is the instructors. When students cannot demonstrate an understanding of concepts they are supposed to have learned in high school, prior to entering college, there is no doubt that it is the university instructor's fault that there are way too many failing grades handed out.

My disgust with a system that allowed unprepared students to attend college, and then gave no importance to identifying and helping students who needed remedial coursework, and finally expected the professors to fix the underlying problems in class - with basically no funding and no backup from the administration - burned me out on teaching completely. I'm done with it for the next three years at least. And that, of course, is my fault, because apparently I can't teach effectively, despite the excellence in teaching awards, the large number of students I have heard from thanking me for making them work so hard, the number of colleagues who have been happy that I am willing to share my teaching materials and strategies? Sure.

For the sake of argument I do notice that you say "may mean" rather than "does mean". I accept that in some cases, poor instructors will negatively impact student grades. However, in my experience, motivated students faced with poor instructors either find help outside of class on their own, or band together to file complaints to university ombudsmen. In my own case, I readily admit that any poor grades on my own record are largely my own damn fault, and are primarily a reflection of the amount of effort I put in to learning the subject matter.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:03 AM on August 19, 2007 [3 favorites]


Will the voice in the ear piece correct people who would otherwise misuse the word "chagrin"? Because in that case I'm all for it.
posted by tula at 11:34 AM on August 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Bad students blame teachers. Bad teachers blame students. If we could harness that dynamic we could have floating universities in the sky.
posted by srboisvert at 11:55 AM on August 19, 2007


Will the voice in the ear piece correct people who would otherwise misuse the word "chagrin"?

Who misused the word "chagrin"?
posted by flashboy at 12:06 PM on August 19, 2007


flashboy, not to derail too badly, but domdom misused 'chagrin', as many people do, to mean pissed off or horrified (at the actions of others). The particular type of vexation signified by "chagrin" requires an element of embarrassment or disappointment with oneself. If I'm wrong on the use of the word I will admit, for instance, much to my chagrin, to being a pedantic dope. I just don't think those teachers have anything to be embarrassed about, unless they designed the earpiece themselves and then realized they'd done something really counterproductive to the teaching process.
posted by tula at 12:44 PM on August 19, 2007


Wow. I had no idea educators were so tyrannical. Escort them out the door. Cut off their ears. Blacklist their name on every University throughout the globe. Sheesh. It's a flippin' test. It's not like "do I cut the blue wire or the red wire?" Frankly, in real life, you use your resources - whatever you can get at your disposal - to answer life's questions. That's how you prepare for real-life challenges. Scholastic tests are no measurement for knowledge. They're a measurement for how good you are at taking those kinds of test. That's it.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:09 PM on August 19, 2007


Frankly, in real life, you use your resources - whatever you can get at your disposal - to answer life's questions.

Amen, Zachsmind. I mean, WTF's with all that chargrin? Really, dirtynumbangelboy, you sound like you are in a particularly facist-ic mood today.

Like Dillanlikescookies says, "All the best teachers i've had, the ones i respected and learnt the most from, where the ones that considered tests a necessary feature of the system, irrelevant to learning itself. That's my view."

Amen.

The only test that matters is called life. If you fail that, well, that's on you. Otherwise, it's all fairgame.

And that's not my program, it's THE program.
posted by humannaire at 2:06 PM on August 19, 2007


Tula, thank you for mentioning the misuse of "chagrin." That always gets up my nose.
posted by QuietDesperation at 2:21 PM on August 19, 2007


I think life would be more interesting if students were allowed to cheat, and the quality of their cheating should affect the grade.

Spent hundreds of dollars on a Pepsi Blue device, and thought I would not see anything funky in your pendant? -100 in critical thinking, -100 for not being able to find a cheaper solution, -100 for lack of originality.

Found a way to encode the first 3 chapters of the organic chemistry test in a pattern of dimples and scratches on your pencils, and prepped the blackboard with mnemonic keys written in oily solutions that can only bee seen from your seat when the light is right? You get a couple of extra points, and I would like to introduce you to some courses outside of chemistry that you might enjoy. Also, would you liek an internship this summer?

In professional life, intelligent cheating strategies can become legitimate approaches to solving problems. And not just for lawyers.
posted by Dataphage at 2:31 PM on August 19, 2007


BTW, I dropped out of Chemical Eng. after I had my first take home, open book, solve with the help of your classmates or anyone else, 48 hours to deadline exam. It was grueling, it took the whole group plus a few friends from upper classes 47.5 hours to finish, no sleep, lots of caffeine. But we learned A LOT, and we where grateful. It was a lot more like real life. This is, IMO, a better way to counter shit like the examEAR than Faraday classrooms.
posted by Dataphage at 2:47 PM on August 19, 2007


In professional life, intelligent cheating strategies can become legitimate approaches to solving problems.

And in the "real world," sometimes the penalty for cheating can be quite severe. Just Jeffrey Skilling or Andrew Fastow, currently serving prison sentences for their "intelligent cheating strategies" that led to Enron's inflated valuation and then its collapse.

So if you want to relate the test-taking process to a "real-life challenge," part of the challenge is realizing that if you're at a university that expels cheaters, it's not a good idea to cheat even if you think the risk of detection is low. Of course, the cost/benefit analysis is only something that you need to consider if you lack the moral scruples to avoid cheating in the first place.
posted by grouse at 4:09 PM on August 19, 2007


I guess it all depends on what's important to you.

As an undergrad, I attended the University of Virginia, which has an honor system. Everyone agreed not to lie, cheat or steal, and if convicted, they were permanantly expelled from the University. Period. There was only a single santion, expulsion, for acting dishonorably.

This builds character.

Encouraging cheating destroys character.

I would rather live in a world where we all encourage each other to live honorably.
posted by MythMaker at 4:21 PM on August 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


I would rather live in a world where we all encourage each other to live honorably.

Ah, yes, the Karl Rove Guide to Living Life Honorably!
posted by ericb at 4:25 PM on August 19, 2007


Completely agree with grouse. What I was trying to say is that if you are supposed to learn how to solve problems in the "real world", artificial constraints like "you are not allowed to consult with your peers or use a calculating device" will teach you something else.

So yes, if the penalty is expulsion, cheating may be very stupid, but if using all available technology to solve a problem is not considered cheating, be clever.
posted by Dataphage at 5:42 PM on August 19, 2007


What I was trying to say is that if you are supposed to learn how to solve problems in the "real world", artificial constraints like "you are not allowed to consult with your peers or use a calculating device" will teach you something else.

Yeah, but a test isn't really about the student solving a problem. It's a solution to the teacher's problem of seeing what the student's learned and trying to quantify it. So the constraints aren't really that artificial; they just look like they are because you're looking at it from that perspective.

And cheating screws up the metric (and can make it look like an individual knows more than they do, allowing them to advance when they possibly shouldn't have. People who are in classes they don't actually have the background for have a certain tendancy to slow the whole class down, because it's too hard for them and they need it to go slower).
posted by Many bubbles at 6:28 PM on August 19, 2007


Kill 'em all and let the Bell curve sort 'em out!
posted by five fresh fish at 6:50 PM on August 19, 2007


Hearing Loss: The FPP's link is broken and the main page of the examear site now only says "UNDER CONSTRUCTION".

Looks like MeFi broke the internets again. :D
posted by zarq at 7:37 AM on August 20, 2007


For the record, I'm fairly certain that the majority of people who feel that tests are unnecessary, that cheating should be allowed, or that failure is generally on the part of the teacher have never actually tried to teach.

Really. It is a lot harder than just standing up and reciting stuff from memory.

The end result of a class is a grade. In my mind, a grade is my affirmation that a given student has demonstrated a given level of ability in that subject. The grade is assigned so that future choices can be made - you bomb out of Organic I, that's a hint that you are not prepared for Organic II. We like to think that we're all equal, but we need to face reality: Some people are better at certain things, and we use some method of classification to denote this. I like to run, but I am never going to be an Olympic sprinter. I may be pretty good at biology, but I doubt I'll ever have an endowed chair at Harvard.

Exams given orally are probably the best method of testing, sure. But you try giving an oral or written exam to a class of 500 students, all of whom expect to see their individual exam results immediately. Large class size is an unavoidable side effect of increasing university attendance. Even in a relatively small class, 30 students or so, grading written assignments is a fairly large burden. Keep in mind that the majority of instructors are teaching multiple classes, and have other duties (student mentoring, research, university administrative duties, etc.) on top of personal obligations and families. There is a reason why intro classes have multiple choice exams, and high-level classes tend to have more time-intensive tests such as written or oral exams - it is a function of class size, and basically nothing else.

There are two methods of assessment that do not involve traditional grades and testing; one is called graduate school, where things are more open-ended and your final demonstration that you have earned the right to claim a degree is assessed by open-ended oral exams from your committee rather than by a bubble sheet. The second is the job market, where you are graded on a pass/fail system. Pass, you get your yearly bonus. Fail, and you get to start looking for a new employer. Both situations have something in common: They rely on some prerequisite measure of your current experience and knowledge before you start. Your undergraduate degree serves as a filter, a measurement that affirms you have done the grindwork necessary to build the foundation you need to start. (Gindwork it is, folks. Learning is not easy.) It shows that you have the ability to pursue and meet a goal, even if that goal requires tedious work with no clear benefit in sight. The hope is that along the way you learn to think for yourself, to put things together, to learn how to learn. The idea is that you will broaden your worldview, gaining a wider range of experience while also building a depth of knowledge in your chosen field. (Any of you who attended any higher education institute, ask yourself: Am I the same person I was prior to college? Do I look at the world the same way? I don't, and I am constantly reminded that I owe my current mindset to the places and instructors that allowed me the opportunity to learn.)

If you want to cheat your way through the initial part of this, remain closed-minded, never learn how to think as an individual rather than relying on help from the hive mind, never learn to stand on your own and defend your own opinions, well, you have made a choice that is not destined to serve you well in the future. While I do not share dirtynumbangelboy's wrath at cheaters entirely, I definitely have no respect for those who waste the time of their educators, show a lack of respect to their fellow students, and try as hard as they can to game the system rather than honestly learn the limits of their own abilities.

I would much rather see students who fail on their own honest efforts than students who pass through dishonest means. Cheating hurts everyone in the system. Artificial grade inflation due to cheating or to overly lax instructors makes every student's degree worth that much less. If obtaining the sheet of paper was all it really took to get ahead in the world, diploma mills would be accredited.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:59 AM on August 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


posted by aeschenkarnos
Of course, arranging the information needed for the exam in such a tree probably approximates studying for the exam anyway. :)
See also Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine
posted by notbuddha at 8:40 AM on August 20, 2007


"If you want to cheat your way through the initial part of this, remain closed-minded, never learn how to think as an individual rather than relying on help from the hive mind..."

But then what would AskMe, I gather the most used part of this site, do without those people? As well as the U.S. Democratic and Republican parties, most world religions, and every army I can think of? Indeed, one could argue that cheating in school is necessary preparation for success in the Real World.

Most people would benefit from having an Instructional Receiver permanently implanted so they wouldn't have to strain their brains. Many helpful features could be designed in, such as advanced GPS functions telling drivers when to ease over into the left turn lane so the rest of us don't startlingly impact with them, a big improvement on the current reliance on cell phones. (And when not in intensive use the implant could broadcast the soothing strains of George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord.")

If "think[ing] as individuals" ever caught on life as we know it would be doomed. That is, whatever life was left after the chaos a conflict of nascent individualities would produce: think of all the local wars in what used to be the "Third World" colonies of the (formerly) major European powers, multiplied by however many New Individuals bestirred themselves into being. It'd be far more practical to nip that shit in the bud. In this respect cheating on exams doesn't go far enough: the Masses have no real need to learn anything that requires even that much mental effort in the first place, as wearing identical clothing, assembling in an orderly fashion and doing what you're told (and only what you're told) require not study but practice practice practice and the simplest operant conditioning. The failure of the Already- Developed World to keep its manufacturing plants in the hands of its own citizens illustrates this clearly: the nature of factory work makes it far more suitable for the Third World where the Cult of Individuality never quite took off.
posted by davy at 9:27 AM on August 20, 2007


But then what would AskMe, I gather the most used part of this site, do without those people?

We'd only have to answer the interesting questions rather than the lazy ones?
posted by grouse at 9:44 AM on August 20, 2007


>> But then what would AskMe, I gather the most used part of this site, do without those people?

> We'd only have to answer the interesting questions rather than the lazy ones?

Why DO people with interesting questions waste $5 to ask them of US?
posted by davy at 1:36 PM on August 20, 2007


Remember, before the internet, when students didnt copy all their essays and actually did some work?

Ha!

The original poster never heard of a pony? No, silly, not that pony, this pony.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:50 PM on August 20, 2007


I know some of the practical reasons that multiple choice tests are given. Frankly, I think that classes should just be small enough avoid them. And they were small enough at my underfunded state university - it's not just a matter of money, but a matter of what priority the institution places on teaching.

What I noticed most about multiple choice is that they are substantially easier than other short answer form tests. Even if you don't know the answer, you can often guess form the options available. One way to make this strategy less effective is to make sure that the time limit is short (if someone really knows something, they will recall it more quickly - I had a professor who used time limits very effectively to make people really study for ID questions). But even so, I remember getting 90s+ on tests I should have gotten much less on, just because they were multiple choice. So I have very little respect for them as a pedagogical tool - if they can be avoided, it is best.
posted by jb at 8:54 AM on August 24, 2007


I agree that it would be better if classes were small enough such that multiple choice tests wouldn't be necessary. Although I have seen fiendishly difficult multiple choice tests that were something like:
Which of the following are MetaFilter usernames?
I. jessamyn
II. matthaughey
III. quonsar
Pick the answer that best fits the question:
(a) I
(b) II
(c) III
(d) I and II
(e) I and III
(f) all of the above
(g) none of the above
(h) not enough information to answer the question
posted by grouse at 9:16 AM on August 24, 2007


So I have very little respect for them as a pedagogical tool - if they can be avoided, it is best.

A well-designed multiple choice test can be extremely effective at discriminating the "knows" from the "know nots."

A high-quality test, however, is not something that just any professor or teacher can pull out of his ass. It takes serious chops to do it well.

I'll wager a good 80% of the tests any of us has received over our lifetimes have had utterly craptacular discrimination performance, ie. didn't do what they were intended to do.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:55 PM on August 24, 2007


I don't know; I love those multiple choice tests. Even when I don't know the answer it seems I get it right, or at least enough of them. SATs etc. were just so easy. It's a system, and I think that is what they teach in the prep courses these days. If you know how to take the test, you will get scores above your true ability. Essays though, that means you actually have to know the subject matter.
posted by caddis at 7:40 PM on August 24, 2007


Sigh.

A well-written multiple-choice test does require you to actually have to know the subject matter. You can statistically measure that fact. Better yet, you can measure it, keep only the good questions, and basically develop genetic variations and introduce new question sets that allow you to evolve exceedingly good exams.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:35 PM on August 24, 2007


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