Coffeehouse Thread
45 postsBack to School Preperations ...

@cheong: What Maddus is getting at is that it's much easier to lean a language than it is to learn programming in general. All programming requires problem solving skills, and those are much harder to acquire than the syntax of any particular language.
Unfortunately, those skills are much harder to test than basic knowledge, and for that reason most exams still test only knowledge. I remember I had to construct an LALR parsing table by hand in a Compiler Construction exam, which tests maybe 10% how well you understand the process and 90% how well you were able to memorize the algorithm from the book.
I've always been in favour of open book exams, but good questions for such an exam are much harder and more time consuming to create (and often also to grade), so most teachers don't bother.
Of course, allowing unlimited access to the Internet is still not a good idea because you want to test understanding of the subject matter, not the student's ability to find a preexisting solution to the problem (which is perfectly fine in many realworld scenarios, but not in an exam setting).

I'm pretty sure that most courses these days provide a mix of exams (where memorising the facts is important) and (possibly collaborative) 'project' work where students can solve problems in a more realistic scenario with access to whatever reference material they care to find.
It's how they did it 25(ish) years ago when I was at high school and I'm pretty sure that's how they do it still.
Herbie

Why is it acceptable in real world scenarios but not in schools?
Isn't a school supposed to prepare you for the real world?
And if it's okay in a real world, shouldnt it then be ok in school?
Bit of a paradox.

@Maddus Mattus: In the real world, finding an existing solution is okay under some circumstances, because then you can say "we don't have to do this work because I found this, let's focus on the new bits".
In school, there are no new bits. Everything you're solving has been solved by someone before. The reason you're solving it now is to test your understanding of the underlying principles and your ability to solve those kinds of problems.
The ability to find the solution to a problem is not the same as the ability to solve it. Would you hire someone whose only skill is finding other people's solutions, but who is incapable of doing any creative thinking of his/her own?
How would you test someone's ability to solve a problem if you can't restrict the conditions of the test such that they can't ask someone else to solve it for them?
If you are asked to solve a problem during a job interview, is it acceptable to go to Google, and copy/paste an existing solution as "your" answer?
If you ask me "what is 5+4" and I paste that in WolframAlpha and tell you the answer is 9, have you learned anything about my understanding of arithmetic?

@Maddus Mattus: And more importantly, treating a closeedbook exam as openbooked one won't gives you correct set of result (as you'll be assessing how well the candidate do when given books to "fill in the blanks". Remember, the questions in openbooked exam should be different from closedbook ones.).
So unless it's designed to be open book exam, calculators that can be used to cheat should not be allowed.

That's where I don't agree with you.
Schools should (and are) be places where new stuff gets made up. Google was a project at a university, so was Facebook,.
I was to harsh with my original statement. Exact courses should be tested exactly. But the higher in education you go, the less exact and the more creative you become.
It's the analyzing the problem, breaking it down and creating solutions based on proven practices that we should teach in the form of projects at schools.
Anyway, this thread was about knives and guns in schools no?

13 minutes ago, Maddus Mattus wrote
Schools should (and are) be places where new stuff gets made up. Google was a project at a university, so was Facebook,.
University, yes. But even then only really after the Bachelor's level. You need to learn to walk before you can run. The problem of exams and problemsolving skills applies to high school and elementary schools just as much as it does to universities.
You can't "be creative" in a subject without understanding the basics. And universities and schools still need a way to test if you understand the basics.

19 minutes ago, Maddus Mattus wrote
That's where I don't agree with you.
Schools should (and are) be places where new stuff gets made up. Google was a project at a university, so was Facebook,.
But neither were made at primary schools or by Alevel students.
I was to harsh with my original statement. Exact courses should be tested exactly. But the higher in education you go, the less exact and the more creative you become.
That is already the case, and is reflected by how courses are taught at different levels.
Primary school: What is 19 + 26 (exact answer required).
Secondary school (junior): If 2x + 4 = 8, what is x? (exact answer required with maybe one discretionary point)
Secondary school (senior): Solve the definite integral between 0 and infinity of (2/x^x)x dx (exact answer required, but with discretionary points for partial success)
University: Show that the cyclic subgroup C<P> is of length P1 if and only if P is prime, (multiple possible answers  most points are discresionary).
PHD: Make your own question and solve it, whilst demonstrating that the question was an interesting one that hadn't already been solved (all points are discretionary  indeed, even the number of points is discretionary).

But even then only really after the Bachelor's level
I was creative on the computer before I even graduated primairy school. So I don't think you should start so late. I think it should increase gradually with age.
Start off very exact and get more creative when you progress.
It's the natural cycle. First you want to learn how stuff is ment to be used, then when you have enough experience, you know better and you chuck the rules.
You can't be creative with the shackles of the 'basic understanding'. You have to let it all go, Neo. Fear, doubt, and disbelief. Free your mind.

@evildictaitor: I still say, let them cheat,..
If they are so creative that they can out smart your test, you should out smart them by creating better tests, no by dumbing them down.

22 minutes ago, Maddus Mattus wrote
@evildictaitor: I still say, let them cheat,..
If they are so creative that they can out smart your test, you should out smart them by creating better tests, no by dumbing them down.
Suppose you employ the ten greatest minds on earth to conjure the greatest and best exam question for primary school mathematics imaginable. Let's call that question Q.
Suppose A is a valid answer to Q.
Either nobody is able to determine what A is (e.g. Q is please factor this big number into primes and give them an 2048bit RSA modulus), in which case all primary school children fail the exam.
Alternatively, one person in the connected graph of all people that all primary school children sitting the exams know and who is willing to cheat discovers A during the exam. That person makes the answer available on a forum.
Now Q can be answered by any child typing "answer to Q" into Google. So you've turned an exam about "can you solve Q" into an exam about "can you type 'answer to Q' into Google and copy the first page onto this piece of paper".
These are assessing quite different things  the first gives you some insight into the pupil's ability to do work. The second does not.
I think the best possible exam system is one where you don't examine the children  you merely ask their teachers how bright the child is. Unfortunately this is too subjective and subject to corruption to be made official, but it's the best way of getting a picture of the child about how good that person is at doing work, by allowing the teacher to take into account other behaviours, obstacles and so on that the child encounters.
But as long as you have written exams, where all children are asked to complete the same questions, you're going to need to prevent cheating, because for any question Q, no matter how ingenious or clever you are, you're probably not want to just be testing the child's legendary ability at typing the question into google and copying the result onto paper.

@Maddus Mattus: The question is, what does the exam tell the teacher if you let the kids cheat. I think it only tells you at how good they are at copying other people's answers (or as evildictaitor says, how good they are at typing the question into Google). It no longer tells you whether the kid understands the subject matter.
At that point, why bother teaching maths, geography, English, science, etc. when all you apparently need to pass any of the exams is just one skill: the ability to cheat.
And you don't even need to be creative to cheat. All you need is for one kid to figure out how to use Google and then tell his friends.

The ultimate question, would not be multiple choice.
The means by getting the answer, the calculation or reasoning, are just as much part of the answer as is the acutal outcome of the calculation. We used to get points for approach and bonus points for the correct answer (it took 45 mins just to write down the calculation).
You can only test factual knowlidge with written tests,.
You can take an English test by writing an essay.
Math tests with solving equasians, no googling is going to give you the complete calculation for solving maths. MAPLE will not give you the way it solved it, merely an answer. If you don't understand the matter, you would be stuck googling the entire test time and not completing the exam.

40 minutes ago, Maddus Mattus wrote
The ultimate question, would not be multiple choice.
Who said anything about multiple choice? If Q is a deterministic question asked in an exam, and X is an complete answer to it scoring 100% (whether this be a piece of music composition, an answer with full annotated working to a mathematical problem, or a four page dissertation on the religious changes that happened under Henry VIII's rule in England), then all of the children in the class can submit X as their answer and receive full marks.
Hence, if anyone posts "The answer to Q is X" on the Internet, then typing "The answer to Q" into Google yields X  an answer that gives full marks in the exam.
Hence, it becomes possible to receive full marks in the exam by knowing how to Google, regardless on the complexity of the question.

10 minutes ago, evildictaitâ€‹or wrote
Hence, if anyone posts "The answer to Q is X" on the Internet, then typing "The answer to Q" into Google yields X  an answer that gives full marks in the exam.
That would only be true if the question was a multiple choice one.
Just because you have the answer, doesnt mean you get the credits.
The approach to coming to an answer is demonstrates if you have learned and understand the material, not simply propping up the x = 3.

@Maddus Mattus: Yes, but unless the teachers watch every student individually to make sure they came up with the answer themselves (which can't happen, schools don't have the manpower for that), you don't know if they came up with the answer or just wrote down someone else's way to derive the answer.
Take programming assignments, for example. All the people who grade the assignment see is the final program. They don't get to see you working on it (sometimes they do because the people who grade often also help out during lab hours, but they won't observe necessarily every student).
How can I, as the grader, tell whether this is a program they wrote or copied from someone else. The only means of detection available to me are the blatant case where multiple people hand in the exact same program, or if I recognize a particular solution from somewhere. Another hint can be that the work is way above the student's usual level (which is not an immediate indication of cheating, but does warrant further investigation).
This isn't hypothetical, by the way. I have graded papers, programming assignments and exams during my time as a Student Assistant at Leiden University.
Another real world example. With some papers I was grading, I noticed that one had much better grammar than that student (a Chinese exchange student) usually used. I put some bits of the paper into google, and found it was copied from another paper on the same subject.
Are these acceptable scenarios, to you? In all these case the students have learned nothing about the subject but still hand in correct answers to the assignments, despite not being multiple choice. There aren't always such telltale signs of foul play, either.
If you say "cheating is allowed", then there is no way to avoid this. How do you tell the difference between someone doing the work and someone copying the work if you're not there to watch them do it?
The "show your work" thing is nice when you want to avoid students just solving the equation using their graphing calculator. It does nothing to prevent them from writing someone's else's answer, which shows the work, it's just not their work.

2 hours ago, Maddus Mattus wrote
*snip*
That would only be true if the question was a multiple choice one.
No it doesn't. If the question is "Write a Haiku about C9" then a valid answer is
Maddus on C9
Is often controversial
But fun nonethelessNow suppose that haiku gets 100%. Now one of the students writes the answer on their blog. Another student looks at their exam paper: "Write a haiku about C9" and they type it into Google:
Ah! I've found one! And copy the above haiku onto their exam paper.
The teacher receives 30 copies of the same haiku as the answer to the exam question. Now since the exam is deterministic, all of the children get the same mark, and even though it's obvious that they all cheated, we're specifically allowing cheating, so we can't deduct marks for that.
So of the 30 students, one wrote a good answer to the question. 29 just googled the question, wrote it down and got full marks.
BONUS: http://channel9.msdn.com/Forums/Coffeehouse/165505c9freeformhaiku

@Sven Groot: I've never found complete examples to problems I faced at my education, only parts of a solution.
All the written tests I've taken in my life, didnt actually test anything. Including the Microsoft ones.
@evildictaitor: If two students come up with the same Haiku, they can share credit,..
Let's see how that is an incentive to come up with creative work.
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