Monday, January 20, 2014

#Rhizo14 Week One - Cheating as Learning or Cheating our Learners?

I've decided to jump into an open course just starting called Rhizomatic Learning that is being offered through Peer-to-Peer University (P2PU).  Thanks to Lyn Hilt for blogging about the course earlier in the week in her first #Rhizo14 post Skirt the Rules.  The course is being facilitated by Dave Cormier, Manager of Web Communications and Innovation at the University of Prince Edward Island.

The description of the course is what drew me in because it sounded so different from anything I have experienced in any course I have ever participated in. Here's a bit from the description on the P2PU course page that piqued my interest:
"Rhizomatic learning is a story of how we can learn in a world of abundance – abundance of perspective, of information and of connection. A paper/location based learning model forces us to make decisions, in advance, about what it is important for students to learn...What happens if we let that go? What happens when we approach a learning experience and we don’t know what we are going to learn? Where each student can learn something a little bit different – together?" 
Week One Post 

The topic for the first week of the course is "Cheating as Learning." I used tube chop to grab the clip below from the week one video on Community as Curriculum where Dave talks about how he takes the idea of cheating out of his classroom by creating a problem that is complex enough to force his students to have to work together in order to find a solution.

I have gotten into discussions about cheating before and I know how passionate people can be about this being a very cut and dry issue where there is no room for interpretation. However, I cannot help thinking that we can do a much better job in setting the stage (like Dave) where students are tackling authentic problems that create situations where they need to work collaboratively. 
"In school, looking at someone else’s paper to get the right answer is forbidden.  But in the work world, the people who rise the fastest are the ones who know the right person to ask to get the answer."  Penelope Trunk
While I am not here to argue about the merits of someone copying an answer from someone else's paper, I do wonder about an assessment that calls for someone to regurgitate factual information. I think we need to reflect upon the types of assessments that we are administering and eliminate those that require rote memorization of inane facts. I firmly believe that if this is the primary method for us to chart the progress of our students, then we are the ones cheating. We are cheating our students of valuable time that could be used for more significant learning activities that would help prepare them to be true collaborators.

In closing assignment one, I can't help thinking back to Tony Wagner's book The Global Achievement Gap and his Seven Survival Skills (below) that our students need whether they are going on to college or the workplace. How many of these skills would be best developed alone?  
  1. critical thinking/problem solving
  2. collaboration/leading by influence
  3. agility and adaptability
  4. initiative and entrepreneurialism
  5. effective oral and written communication
  6. accessing and analyzing information
  7. curiosity and imagination
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