Via The Guardian:
Each summer we’re subjected to a string of arguments over whether getting an A-level or GCSE is getting easier. But thanks to officials in Denmark, it may be time to stop talking about dumbing down exams and start talking about wiring them up instead. According to reports in the Danish media, ministers are about to trial a system where A-level students are allowed to take internet-connected computers into exams. The reason, say officials, is that collecting facts and figures is now a task best left to computers – and that youngsters taking exams shouldn’t necessarily be blocked from one of the tools they are routinely expected to use in their studies. “It is a good way to get historical facts or an article that may be useful in a written civics exam, for example,” Søren Vagner, a consultant with the Ministry of Education told Danish newspaper MetroXpress last week. At a simple level, this makes a lot of sense. The internet is now such a powerful research tool that it has done away with lots of the old methods like learning by rote – turning facts into commodities in the same way that calculators dispense with some basic mathematical activities. Why bother remembering facts and figures when you can call them up on demand with a computer? There are a number of potential pitfalls, however, not least protecting against plagiarism and the problem of students lifting information from online sources to pad out work. Vagner was quoted as saying that examiners would keep a close eye on what students submitted, and would conduct regular, randomised checks of the web pages that they had used in the course of their research to keep tabs. Checking for plagiarism is relatively easy, of course (a simple web search for groups of words would do half the job) and web-based plagiarism is something that schools are already trying to cope with . But the biggest problem is one that doesn’t seem to be addressed: the possibility for students (or other people) to collude over their exams.