A new journey in education

An amazing thing happened today by chance

with 11 comments

Today being back at school after the SWSR inspire 2010 conference threw up a challenge and an opportunity.

To start the day, I decided to use my 3G wireless instead of the DET network for my internet so I could follow my PLN on Twitter during my HSC Multimedia class.

The challenge that arose was the printing of a previous years HSC exam had not been completed in my absence. I am not sure if I heard some one at the conference mention that electronic exams were moving forward or not but I had this idea floating around in my thoughts as soon as I knew I did not have the hard copies of the exam.

I went to class and explained to the students that their exam had not been printed on time and that I was going to give them two options to choose from.

  1. Go to the Board of Studies website and download the PDF version of the exam, then complete their answers in a Word.doc which at the end of the lesson they are to email to me. Or..
  2. Having downloaded the exam, write their answers by hand on paper.

Out of the small class of 8 students (2 of whom decided they had something better to do), only one chose to write out their answers. This choice was not a surprise to me, this particular student has never enjoyed typing on a computer. Yet if you saw her work, be it in Multimedia, Photography, Art and Music you would think she would be a natural at writing on a computer.

In a quiet classroom under exam conditions as a teacher you soon realise who is off the exam just fumbling their way through it. One of the students was this exact type, though to my surprise while observing the students, this student was focused and typing away at the answers.

Having logged on to Twitter earlier I quickly tweeted what I had done with the exam and what I was seeing happen with the students. Quickly my PLN was tweeting back at me.

@deangroom was the first: @theMolisticView which is exactly how to win the game. Read @teacherless blog on feedback. He’s a smart guy for a Horde.

He followed up with: @theMolisticView lit says that typed exams yeild better writing. It feels more important not being in your own hand.

@benpaddlejones tweeted: @theMolisticView there is some gr8 research showing 1:1 improves literacy because they acn write more and remodle on the hop

With these responses I decided to ask the students some questions once they had finished about the experience of completing an exam electronically.

Their responses where very positive. The only grip one student had was “looking back at the space on the exam to answer the question, I wrote far to much in my response. But I think my answer to that question and the others will be better Sir.” This particular student was the Dux of year 10 2 years ago.

Having looked briefly over their exams during a busy day, all I have to say is WOW. What an amazing transformation. Now this could be a one off fluke, but even the girl who I mentioned earlier who is normally lacking in engagement when it comes to completing theoretical work had actually answered all the questions and to a much higher standard then she has ever achieved in the past two years.

With the result from today I have decided that I am going to make year 10’s yearly exam an Acrobat PDF Form and host it on (which I hope is still available through the DET). it will be interesting to see how they respond to exams held in this fashion.

What do you think of this concept. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Written by themolisticview

March 25th, 2010 at 9:43 am

11 Responses to 'An amazing thing happened today by chance'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'An amazing thing happened today by chance'.

  1. An interesting idea with positive feedback. I have read the research that found that being able to type their responses actually improves their literacy and this supports these findings.

    It could be that they can edit and add on the run, use spellchecker or feel it is more polished … whatever the reason, it is just great that they were all able to respond at a higher level than before.

    I will be interested in hearing how the Year 10 exam goes.

    Paula Madigan

    25 Mar 10 at 9:57 am

  2. themolisticview
    An excellent reflective post of classroom practice.

    Some links:

    The research & NSWBOS directions speak for themselves. I think this is hugely beneficial, typing exams will improve educational outcomes especially for ESL, Boys and support students. As a dyslexic myself it’s something I am very passionate about, I failed high school but walked out of Uni with a D/HD average all because I could type and remodel my tasks.

    I know some want to hold on to old ways “but what about hand writing, won’t anyone think of the children”. I think this is something as educators we need to deconstruct is your exam examining multimedia or handwriting? We also need to acknowledge the skills lost, how many teachers (unless a hobby) can ride a horse or shave with cut throat even sewing and driving manual cars are becoming lost skills. What happens is this skills become art/specialised I think as we lose the core skill to handwrite we will see an emergence of writing as an art.

    I’m pretty sure is blocked by the filter for students but they can still email the form data back to you. The character limit in forms is a good way to help students write the correct length response. they will need more time as more remodeling to fit key ideas but its an important skill to teach. That as the research shows will improve their written literacy anyway.

    Two interesting last thoughts:
    1. I think it was @kelrob6 who said a student who broke their arm was able to keep up to date with work more easily because of the laptop
    2. I wonder will there be an increase of misadventures in typing subjects because of cramp/never taught touch typing or the remaining handwriting subjects because they didn’t write enough?

    Ben 🙂

    Ben Jones

    25 Mar 10 at 11:12 am

  3. Devil’s Advocate: Did they have access to the Internet at the same time as answering the questions? Could an increase in quality be attributed to borrowing any or all of their answers?

    Apart from that major departure from traditional exam conditions, I definitely do believe that the easily editable typed form allows for freer thinking on the part of the student. It’s much easier for students that live in a non-linear world where multitasking rules, to be unshackled from the strict, linear thought-patterns required to answer a question by hand in a finite amount of space. It’s unnatural for our students today.

  4. Yes Stu, all students had access to the internet through the 75 minute lesson. An honour system was in place. 1 of these students is also the school captain. There was only the use of alt+tab to change between windows, most went for a split screen of the 2 windows horizontally. They were like ducks to water, as soon as I said answer in a Word.doc there face lit up.


    25 Mar 10 at 11:40 am

  5. As a blog writer who has been typing all his articles from scratch for several years, I can tell you first hand that the quality of the finished product is far superior to what I could ever produce in handwritten form.

    In fact, now when I handwrite anything, I rarely stick to the order enforced by the lines on the page. I have successfully UNLEARNED what school taught me.

  6. If I am writing a short post like this one with a firm idea behind it which I am happy with, I write in the blog reflecting as I go. If write a larger post which I am not 100% sure of, I fall back to when I was in Uni and write it all out on pad then re-read and reflect on it and maybe re-research the whole idea before committing to a blog post.
    We are all individuals in the way we write best, as we are in our learning styles. We as educators just have to find which way to educate and provide for all.


    25 Mar 10 at 12:08 pm

  7. Stu
    Something that is often forgotten when talking about the negatives of technology (increase plagiarism, etc):

    I get the sense that we were both not the teacher’s pet in school and I know neither of us ever sat an exam on a Laptop (or even with a mobile phone in our pocket). Can you honestly tell me that you were never “allegedly” “aware” of misconduct by your peers in the examination process?

    In my view technology does not present any new challenges for educators, it just provides the challenge in a different medium.

    I understand NSWBOS is exploring applications that will lock the computers WiFi, Bluetooth and confine the student to the exam screen. We will have to wait and see what they come up with.

    Ben 🙂

    Ben Jones

    25 Mar 10 at 11:14 pm

  8. As I said Ben, I was playing Devil’s Advocate – personally, I believe that effective information management, advanced search skills and visual literacy are valuable skills that should be measured and assessed much more highly than a student’s ability to memorise and regurgitate an answer.

    Teacher’s pet? Moi? I was square peg, round hole stuff. 🙂 And yes, plenty of my peers (including me) cheated in an exam from time to time in high school.

  9. The question of wifi and the internet as I see it is an easy one. At my school our hall does not have wifi, I am assuming the majority of schools would be like this?

    But if not only a small amount of extra funding could supply the BOS with DER style device which has no wireless card or blue tooth, just the software (what ever that may be). Easy peazzy.

    You are never going to stop the kid with answers up there sleeve, but you can slow them down.

    Just for the record though, I finished my school based education in year 10 in 1985, nearly failed English.The difference was that back then you were seen as a lazy student, not a dyslexic. How times have changed.

    Oh and I stopped cheating on exams having received the cain in Year 6, Mr Bellis was good at swinging that thing OOouch.


    26 Mar 10 at 6:58 am

  10. This is a great post – I love the reflection on an actual classroom experience and the outcomes for different learners as well as teacher-learner.

    I’m inspired to copy your attempt at using electronic exams, -I have just had to fill in numerous special provisions for students with impossible to read hand-writing.

    Personally, I type everything I need to say – I use comment and track changes when giving feedback on student work as my hand-writing is illegible. Student have complained about being unable to decipher my hand-written notes, and I find there is never enough room to help them fully.

    I’m not familiar with adobe and the ability to add content to pdfs – is this what you’re referring to Stu? It would be cool if SC paper could be converted to editable pdfs.

    Did you just get the kids to open the past paper in one window and have the word doc in another and they did their responses that way? Great idea! I’ll be doing that next week with Year 10 for ‘formal pen and paper’ exam practice. Blah, blah, blah to practice with pen and paper – outdated skill. Kids need to show understanding, not useless skills.



    25 Mar 10 at 12:40 pm

  11. No, I was generally referring to the flexible response an individual came make when they can type their answer – into whatever product. Think of something, type it down. Cut, paste, re-order, add, edit, bold and italic for emphasis – it’s all about the creativity of the answer, not what you can put together on your first draft in strict linear form.

Leave a Reply