The internet has become an everyday part of almost all of our lives, and in particular our children. Facebook, Youtube, games… but what about education? Many of our students can’t even remember a time before Google or before Wikipedia, where answers to almost any question can be found with just a couple of mouse clicks.
So many of our “student work spaces” are not simply limited to their class rooms or desks any more, but are also found digitally – more formally in sanctioned work spaces like in an online school forum, or more informally as part of the many social networking outlets that our students can communicate with each other in. It is incredibly easy for our children to share with and learn from each other, but it is even easier for them to cheat and plagiarise.
This is not to suggest that the internet is a bad thing for our kids. It is a tool and a resource with great potential to help, but as would be the case with any resource so deep and so complicated, must be watched carefully to make sure our children are getting the most out of it. I always found that as part of my revision for exams, past paper resources online were an excellent source of study material, and having the solutions on hand allowed me to check my work. The flip side to this would be if I had simply been copying the work to fill out my home worksheets or fill a homework quota, it would have been the instant gratification “get out of doing work” attitude that is so prevalent in teenagers in particular. The example is only made worse when it comes to essay writing and the plagiarism that our teachers and tutors must constantly be on the lookout for – it is all too easy for our kids to simply copy paste an entire essay, slap their name at the bottom and call that an assignment.
So what’s the solution? Encourage learning, not memorization. One of the biggest problems in our education system is that children are encouraged to regurgitate answers, not to appreciate the concepts they should be learning or the methodologies they should understand. Our literature students should be encouraged to think for themselves and critically analyse, not to re-iterate last year’s exam question. Our math students need to focus more on the “how” and the “why” and not the “what”. It should not be possible, from a marking and curriculum perspective, for a student to memorize a HSC essay and simply churn it out when they sit down for their exam.
A lot of the blame for this could be lumped on the curriculum itself, but our teachers and parents can go a long way to helping change student attitudes. If our kids were encouraged to appreciate the joys of learning, analysis and critical thought, rather than only worrying about getting A+ and 100% (which means ticking all the correct requirements from the syllabus in your exams, without requiring you to know why), we would have mentally healthier kids with a zest for education, rather than a thirst for correct answers at any cost. We would have children that want to think for themselves and figure out their own answers to the issues and problems facing them, rather than expecting an easy, prebuilt answer to already exist for them.