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Norway Trying Out Laptops For High School Exams

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the high-school-unmusical dept.

Education 120

The BBC reports that Norway is experimenting with a system that would let secondary school students take their school exams on laptop computers. According to the article, using computers for exams isn't new there, but it's been on fixed machines rather than personal computers that the students can take with them and use for other purposes throughout the school day. Having suffered through three years of exams taken on the awful SoftTest (inflexible, single-platform, ugly, buggy), I hope they do a better job — this is something that is all too easy to get wrong.

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120 comments

First (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27810951)

Post!

Should be from the redundant redundancy dept. (4, Funny)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#27810971)

News: Norway Trying Out Laptops For High School School Exams

Here, let me fix that. Let's go all the way:

News News: Norway Norway Trying Trying Out Out Laptops Laptops For For High High School School Exams Exams

Now you can read the headline in STEREO (be happy it's not quadraphonic or 7.1 surround sound :-)

Re:Should be from the redundant redundancy dept. (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27810997)

Yo Dawg, we heard you like headlines so we put a headline in your headline so you can read while you read

Well... (5, Informative)

XPeter (1429763) | more than 4 years ago | (#27811015)

Norway is being very lenient compared to what we have to do when we take standardized tests here in the US.

When it's test taking time; your pockets must be empty of virtually anything and the only items your allowed to have are a #2 pencil and scrap paper. If these rules are violated, it could end up in not just you, but your entire class retaking the test. There are also very strict rules when it comes to seating and going to the bathroom during standardized tests (In general, it's just a big pain in the ass). Kudos to Norway for trying something new.

Re:Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27811417)

Live in the US.
Have answered texts unrelated to the test during a test in the last 2 years. Depends on your high school.

Re:Well... (1, Interesting)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 4 years ago | (#27811825)

Huh. Must suck where you are. I was once asked to take my cellphone out and leave it in a bucket at the front of the class, but they didn't check beyond 'voluntary' compliance.

Re:Well... (1)

Vintermann (400722) | more than 4 years ago | (#27815767)

Oh, it's like that here as well. Exam guards are also usually retired teachers, with an attitude like airport security guards: "We'll go through the motions slavisly with no intelligence applied whatsoever". In addition, they are completely illiterate about technology, so their ability to catch actual cheating is probably close to zero.

Re:Well... (1)

crazyvas (853396) | more than 4 years ago | (#27816913)

Norway is being very lenient compared to what we have to do when we take standardized tests here in the US [....] and the only items your allowed to have are a [...]

"your allowed to have" ?!? I can see why you're not too happy about this. Obviously, the strict test rules in the US have not been working in your favor....

only on some exams.. (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27811017)

I think the government is only going to let the students use private laptop on "open book" exams. "Open book" exam is quite popular exam type in Norway, where the focus is not so much on facts, but more on concepts and a very practical approach to the subject. Since there is no facts,there is no need for security since it's very hard to cheat.

I've been through this school-system and I'm no big fan. What usually happens is that it almost impossible to fail an exam, and there is very hard to get a good mark. ( a celebration of mediocracy )

Re:only on some exams.. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27811693)

"I've been through this school-system and I'm no big fan. What usually happens is that it almost impossible to fail an exam, and there is very hard to get a good mark. ( a celebration of mediocracy )"

I beg to differ, regular non-open book exams don't test much of anything. They test how well you can binge and purge and not much else.

The whole exam mindset is flawed IMHO, what students need is ways to integrate and practically apply what they are learning to what they are doing so they DO remember it not just as something taught out of a book, but the can actually go about using it when they want to do something.

Re:only on some exams.. (1)

meyekul (1204876) | more than 4 years ago | (#27814167)

I agree, and I think we need to get over the concept that failure is unacceptable. The world needs janitors, garbage men, and other manual laborers just as badly as it needs programmers and scientists and doctors. The bar of excellence should be raised progressively higher as we advance as a society, but its actually being lowered every year so that nobody feels left out. So what if someone failed high school, are they any different than the 40-year old person at McDonalds who was waved through with a D- average? We have a GED system for a reason.

You're also right about regular exams being worthless. It does NOT take an intelligent, productive person to memorize facts from a book! Did anyone see Rainman?

Re:only on some exams.. (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#27814315)

The problem is that within the rather narrow confines of a school subject that you know thousands of people have done before there's a rather limited number of assignments. Where closed book exams are requiring too much memorization with anything-goes exams many people only become human mixmasters.

You simply take three A-grade exams, stir them together until you won't get caught and paste it in. It becomes sort of a meta-skill applicable on all exams instead of actually learning something on the subject. And then you get people that are rather helpless if they don't get any hits on google.

Re:only on some exams.. (2, Interesting)

Narpak (961733) | more than 4 years ago | (#27811821)

While there are definitive flaws in implementation the general idea behind most courses in Norway is that the student shouldn't memorize a lot of trivia; but rather be able to use information productively regarding the subject. Showing a deeper understanding of the subject and the tools necessary to work within the field of study weights heavier than simply parroting of facts and figures.

Of course this is far harder for a teacher to evaluate than a simple multiple choice exam (I never had a single multiple choice test during my twelve years of basic education and three years at university). Therefore any student with the capacity to write coherently on the subject of their studies will at the very least be able to get a passing grade. Of course actually excelling requires the student to not only write coherently but to show real capacity for reason, and being able to correctly use and present in a way that shows their firm grasp of the matter at hand. The problem at the moment, at least with some courses, is that a student can read through the material and then simply float through the system by not being an idiot; i.e. getting passing grades by simply showing up and not write stuff that is utterly garbage.

I would agree that the implementation needs to motivate students to study harder and learn more, and to reward them when they do. Though there is a phrase that is the main doctrine for High School and above which is; Responsible for Your Own Education. Which means that students themselves are responsible for actively pursuing the knowledge required to improve in their field of study. Unfortunately statistics and psychology indicates that things aren't quite that simple. Especially when a student beginning high school is about sixteen and probably royally feed up with going to school as it is.

Re:only on some exams.. (1)

Vintermann (400722) | more than 4 years ago | (#27815899)

The dark side of the Norwegian system (which you describe correctly) is that teachers get a lot of power of subjective evaluation. This is creeping up even into higher education. In my opinion it is inferior to standardized tests, not necessarily because teachers play favourites, but because their relationship with their students become tainted.

A teacher should be like a defence attorney: one you can trust to be 100% there to help you pass, with as good grades as possible. When they get broad powers to pass subjective judgement on their student's performance, they become part defence attorneys, part judges.

In the long term, I think this erodes respect for teachers, and devalues academic performance (because it inevitably carries with it whispers of boot-licking). Standardized tests have their problems, too, but they're better on the whole, IMO.

Re:only on some exams.. (1)

lxs (131946) | more than 4 years ago | (#27813677)

Since there is no facts,there is no need for security since it's very hard to cheat.

Welcome to #historytest. QOTD: If you don't know it, PM Arne.

whalecatcher1992: Why did the Roman Empire fall again?
Ih8Sweden: East or Wst?
LasseFromNarvik: What's the diff between sine and cosine?
Ih8Sweden: Wrong test N00b

Re:only on some exams.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27814047)

I've never had an open book exam and I've never even heard of anyone having them here either. Also, I am a Norwegian who has had plenty of exams during my time.

Re:only on some exams.. (1)

inasity_rules (1110095) | more than 4 years ago | (#27814231)

It is not always a "celebration of mediocracy". It depends on the subject. I have an open book exam on thursday (why am I posting on /. not studying...?) on embedded design. It is considered difficult because it the exam consists of designing solutions and writing ASM code.

As a closed book exam, it would be impossible, unless they gave us all a PIC datasheet as an appendix. The truth is, having the textbook in the exam won't help unless you know what you're doing. People in my class will most likely fail. Not everyone around here has been programming most of their lives.

Re:only on some exams.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27817199)

It is not always a "celebration of mediocracy". It depends on the subject. I have an open book exam on thursday (why am I posting on /. not studying...?) on embedded design. It is considered difficult because it the exam consists of designing solutions and writing ASM code.

As a closed book exam, it would be impossible, unless they gave us all a PIC datasheet as an appendix. The truth is, having the textbook in the exam won't help unless you know what you're doing. People in my class will most likely fail. Not everyone around here has been programming most of their lives.

Amen to that, I couldn't finish some of the homework problems in my logic design class, even with the text book and google.

Tweaks to the System (3, Interesting)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 4 years ago | (#27811041)

Some things they might consider rather than key logging is booting from supplied portable media or booting from the network. Using key logging tends to set a bad precedent and the whole of school experience is part of their education, including accepted practices by government and respect for the privacy of individuals.

So boot from network and a quick scan and check, or boot from a cdrom which contains all required software and the exams, it also initiates a system check and then uploads the results to the network. Really easy to do with free open source software but could prove expensive with closed source proprietary software ie licences on top of licences and even 'illegal' in some cases.

Re:Tweaks to the System (1)

phantomcircuit (938963) | more than 4 years ago | (#27811113)

including accepted practices by government and respect for the privacy of individuals

Yes I this is teaching the students exactly what the think the government should be doing and how much it respects the privacy of individuals.

Re:Tweaks to the System (4, Interesting)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 4 years ago | (#27811485)

The college I went to had us do some exams on our personal laptops. They'd give you a CD to boot from, which put you into a separate OS with no way of accessing the contents of your harddrive or USB drives. You'd then connect to a server to get your particular test. I never heard of anyone finding a way to cheat - excluding the methods that work on pencil & paper tests, of course.

I once tried stealing one of the disks and booting up from a lounge back in my dorm, with text books and a calculator at hand, but they were smart enough to block connections to the test server from outside the testing rooms.

The system can definitely work, when properly implemented.

Re:Tweaks to the System (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 4 years ago | (#27812047)

The college I went to had us do some exams on our personal laptops. They'd give you a CD to boot from, which put you into a separate OS with no way of accessing the contents of your harddrive or USB drives. You'd then connect to a server to get your particular test. I never heard of anyone finding a way to cheat - excluding the methods that work on pencil & paper tests, of course.

Boot the CD from VirtualBox?

Re:Tweaks to the System (2, Informative)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 4 years ago | (#27812261)

It is /exceptionally/ easy to tell if you are running in a virtualized machine environment, be it Xen, VMware, Parallels, VirtualBox.

Re:Tweaks to the System (2, Interesting)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 4 years ago | (#27812447)

Only because they're not engineered with subversion in mind. Bluepill is simply a hypervisor, and it's exceptionally difficult to tell if it's running.

Re:Tweaks to the System (1)

_ivy_ivy_ (1081273) | more than 4 years ago | (#27813993)

I suspect if you can craft a VM environment that cannot be detected either via software or by the visible inspection of the instructor in the room, you've already passed the test.

Re:Tweaks to the System (1)

omglolbah (731566) | more than 4 years ago | (#27815437)

You dont have to build an undetectable way. Just one that beats the current system of detection.

If this is distributed on physical media to the schools an update to the software would probably be expensive and would only happen if they had found the cheat ;)

Focus on one specific thing, dont try to solve the whole unified theory of VM detection ^.^

Re:Tweaks to the System (1)

dkf (304284) | more than 4 years ago | (#27813163)

I once tried stealing one of the disks and booting up from a lounge back in my dorm, with text books and a calculator at hand, but they were smart enough to block connections to the test server from outside the testing rooms.

The other thing they could do quite easily is to lock out clients when it is not time to take a particular exam. Back when I was writing software for exam taking (7 years ago) I used tricks like this.

The system can definitely work, when properly implemented.

Absolutely. The main problem has got to be that most of the people writing the software are just not very good programmers. You can't configure and deploy a sow's ear as a silk purse.

They should read Cryptonomicon (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#27813987)

Using key logging tends to set a bad precedent and the whole of school experience is part of their education, including accepted practices by government and respect for the privacy of individuals.

Besides, it's ineffective for a sufficiently creative student and I can tell you that some students are very creative when it comes to cheating at exams. I knew guys in college that if they spent as much time studying as they did inventing clever ways of cheating they would have perfect grades.

In Neal Stephenson's "Cryptonomicon" there was a moment when one character was in jail where his notebook could be watched. He installed a driver that accepted input from morse code in a shift key and the output was the scrollock led blinking morse code.

I wish i had that in my day (1)

ickleberry (864871) | more than 4 years ago | (#27811053)

I would have done all my tests through VNC in the toilet while reading the answers I scribbled onto the wall the day before

Yea i know i could just store them on my computer but that doesn't have the same rebellious effect as defacing the walls with them

ya see that way I would have got into a posh college and I'd be surrounded by people with iPhones and doing hot chicks with preppy clothes and messy hair who drink expensive coffee.

Re:I wish i had that in my day (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27811265)

ya see that way I would have got into a posh college and I'd be surrounded by people with iPhones and doing hot chicks with preppy clothes and messy hair who drink expensive coffee.

Alternatively you can get the same experience by going to Starbucks and save yourself $40,000 a year in the process.

Ironic (5, Funny)

googlesmith123 (1546733) | more than 4 years ago | (#27811143)

Ironically though here at the University of Oslo (capital of Norway) we use pen and paper to do our exams on object oriented java programming (yes, we write code by hand...with a pen...)

Re:Ironic (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27811227)

you'd be surprised how many universities make students code on pen and paper for computer programming exams... it's absurd. it's my opinion that they should either give programming projects instead of exams, or if they really want to test the students, then give more conceptual exams that don't require full-on coding.

Re:Ironic (1)

xouumalperxe (815707) | more than 4 years ago | (#27813527)

When I had an OOP course in university, we had a programming project, then a practical test that involved making a number of changes to our project. The changes were quite simple, though, and the test was more of a "did you really participate in the writing on this project enough to know the codebase?" thing.

Re:Ironic (1)

qleem (1410935) | more than 4 years ago | (#27811259)

Carnegie Mellon University, same thing. You really want to give computer geeks computers? Some programming exams are also given on apples booted into a special exam mode, but almost all have at least some written portion.

Re:Ironic (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27811479)

Ironically though here at the University of Oslo (capital of Norway) we use pen and paper to do our exams on object oriented java programming (yes, we write code by hand...with a pen...)

I recently had a discussion with a programming lecturer about why they didn't conduct programming exams on a computer. They initially tried doing exams on Java in this manner however it proved to be an ineffective way of assessing a student's knowledge in the programming language since many didn't actually finish all of the exam contents because they had syntax and general compiling/runtime issues in their code preventing the program from actually working as intended. As a result, many lost a large proportion of exam time and marks just trying to get the program to compile and run.

Using the pen and paper approach allows students to just write out code even if it is totally wrong but it does gives the assessor a better idea if they have the right logic in tackling a problem rather than having the right syntax or imported classes and function names (something which can be hard to do on paper for Java admittedly). Having now done several exams using various programming languages I would always take the pen and paper option if I were given a choice.

Re:Ironic (1)

Jared555 (874152) | more than 4 years ago | (#27811767)

A wonderful solution to this is to either have multiple basic programs coded from the ground up, supply a 100% functional program that is missing functionality (and tell the students what needs to be added, just not how), or supply a program that has syntax errors in it purposefully.

Re:Ironic (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#27812033)

Everyone's entitled to their opinion, but even if you had no compiler I'd kill for a text editor. Like "Oh, I need a loop around that - I'll just select those lines and indent them". Doesn't quite work on paper. Never mind search and replace when you find that your variable name doesn't actually reflect its content anymore. Writing essays and stuff on paper is acceptable, but I really can't stand programming on it.

Re:Ironic (3, Insightful)

brianez21 (945805) | more than 4 years ago | (#27811495)

I'm not exactly sure why this is being modded funny. Don't get me wrong - I love my highlighted syntax and quick access to reference materials online. I am going to be taking the (nation-wide) AP Computer Science exam on Tuesday. Half of the test consists of writing Java code out - in pencil - onto the exam booklet, and the only reference you're allowed to use is a ridiculously small subset of the standard API.

Re:Ironic (1)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 4 years ago | (#27811873)

First of all, which one? A or AB? (A is like an intro class...)

Second of all, good luck. Took A two years ago, and AB last year.

Third, what's wrong with writing out code? It's not about syntax, and they tell you anything you'd need to memorize... IMHO it's a pretty good way of testing whether somebody really understands what they're doing, if it makes sense to them without intellisense.

Of course, my teacher taught us (on purpose) on JCreator LE, which only has the most basic syntax highlighting (keywords are blue) and is basically a text editor. It was like writing by hand.

Re:Ironic (1)

steve.howard (988489) | more than 4 years ago | (#27812769)

AB is also like an intro course, just the second-quarter intro. Having taken CS AB (and gotten a 5), then taken the course it's "equivalent" to (CSE 143 here at UW-Seattle), the college version is also quite a bit more challenging (but if you can take the AP test, you can do well in the class).

Re:Ironic (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27811563)

Thats standard practice in the US too. Usually take home projects are a considerable part of the grade too though.

I took one class where the professor would take off points for syntax errors (ie capitalization mismatches on a variable names). On one exam he thought it would be a good idea to take off points for lack of comments and indentation.

Re:Ironic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27811773)

I took a distance learning course from Harvard with Java (the course was terrible, the professor was a raving Macnut and, during a 1.5 hour class, went on about the iPhone that had just come out and he told us that, if we "behaved", we could "touch it" after class. I wish I were making this up).

Anyhow, midterm and final had to be done with a certified teacher that watched the entire exam, all code had to be written entirely with pen and pencil. From what I understand it failed more than one cheater.

Re:Ironic (2, Funny)

Chees0rz (1194661) | more than 4 years ago | (#27812493)

CS101- My first time programming. Pen+Paper quizzes. The part that freaked me out the most?

public static void main( String args[] ) {}

The rest was cake... but I didn't quite understand what all that mumbo jubo was...

my final year in college- one professor had us writing out all sorts of crazy algorithms- some as easy as searching a string, others more complicated assembly programs that took about 8 times reading to understand the problem.

I always felt SO smart coding without a compiler or assembler on those tests. It was really a great feeling. Until I'd get it back and realized I lost a point for forgetting a semi colon...

Re:Ironic (1)

omglolbah (731566) | more than 4 years ago | (#27815463)

Bergen University College does the same thing...

Then again I was told to skip the chapter on "pointers" when taking the C++ course "because you wont need to use pointers when coding c++".

Yeah, I didnt really pay much attention to the teacher in that class *snickers*

Money Saver (5, Insightful)

Sir Holo (531007) | more than 4 years ago | (#27811199)

This will be a real money-saver, because paper is becoming very expensive.

Re:Money Saver (1)

Aehgts (972561) | more than 4 years ago | (#27812201)

There was another group in the news recently who were also replacing paper with computers [slashdot.org].

Re:Money Saver (1)

Munsonc (1542271) | more than 4 years ago | (#27812291)

there is no doubt that something will need to be done at some point in time to save money, especialy the way things are going now. people may be worried that the students can cheat, but come on... are we far enough in technological perspective to prevent that? I think so.

Only in Kenya (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27811221)

Forget about Norway.

vikings (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27811231)

hopefully vikings don't don't invade during testing.

False Client (1)

phantomcircuit (938963) | more than 4 years ago | (#27811247)

It is only a matter of time before someone reverses the network protocol they're working with and sends falsified data.

Never trust the client.

Re:False Client (1)

Jared555 (874152) | more than 4 years ago | (#27811791)

The client doesn't have to know the answers to ask the questions. So even if you can falsify it you have to know what the answers are in the first place.

Um... (2, Interesting)

gcnaddict (841664) | more than 4 years ago | (#27811343)

In Virginia, students in high schools can take the SOL (standards of learning) tests on laptops and see their score next day (only in order to prevent guessing the answers based on scores if scores were given immediately).

Why is this something new?

Re:Um... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27813433)

Why is this something new?

Because it had never happened in Norway before.

I had a friend fail a bar exam because of this. (3, Insightful)

www.sorehands.com (142825) | more than 4 years ago | (#27811361)

A friend of mine took a bar exam in California in 2001 using software. The software corrupted her machine and the "technicians" could not fix it. It took me 1 minute with a dos boot floppy.

Using exam software by people who can't write good code depending on an operating system that is written by people who can't write good code will always be a disaster.

Re:I had a friend fail a bar exam because of this. (1)

rachellena (1546735) | more than 4 years ago | (#27811501)

I doubt that the amount of computer error will ever surpass the amount of human error in paper exams.

Re:I had a friend fail a bar exam because of this. (1)

Jared555 (874152) | more than 4 years ago | (#27811815)

Other than computer errors caused by human error.... A business teacher/system operator at my highschool filled out the scantron key for a test and had every possible thing they tell you not to do in the instructions.... lightly filled out blocks, marks outside the blocks, etc.

In the end every single person failed the test and they had to be regraded by hand.

Re:I had a friend fail a bar exam because of this. (1)

timothy (36799) | more than 4 years ago | (#27813647)

I recently found out that one of the brightest guys at my law school had the same thing happen to him. SoftTest failed, which meant he failed the bar. Infuriating! I hope he (or someone) sues those idiots. (That is, the idiots who decided to use the software, and / or the ones who made less-than-robust software for a task where failure has worse results than delivering the wrong pizza.)

timothy

Is it secure? (3, Interesting)

antikristian (856519) | more than 4 years ago | (#27811451)

They use a software called MAS from a company called 3AMI (3AMI.com) I personally think it's a bad idea though to use propriatary software that doesn't even specify what level of security it practices between client and server. (oh nevermind, it requires a "password", it must be secure)

Some documentation would be nice.

The Norwegian Data Inspectorate (datatilsynet) is not to happy about their trials though.

Re:Is it secure? (2, Funny)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#27811509)

My security is currently at level 5, but it looks like level 6 is imminent.

Sometimes, security goes all the way to 11.

Re:Is it secure? (1)

Firehed (942385) | more than 4 years ago | (#27811701)

Chances are that if a student is bright enough to reverse-engineer their network protocols in order to cheat, s/he should be passing anyways. Doubly so if the password is "pencil" and we soon find ourselves on the brink of WWIII.

But in all seriousness, their client-server auth protocols are such a long-tail problem compared to people alt-tabbing over to Wikipedia that it's pretty much irrelevant. Less so for interacting with the admin interface, but they're probably using something a bit more transactional than a giant blob of XML, and I'd like to think that teachers would notice if someone goes from failing to straight-A student overnight.

Don't get me wrong... I just finished a massive rant about the importance of security elsewhere. But it's not like there's money or bombs on the other side of the connection, just test grades.

Re:Is it secure? (1)

Jared555 (874152) | more than 4 years ago | (#27811827)

What if you get a position at a bank or a military installation because you faked your grades? (Talking about a possibility, not a high probability one though)

i just got off the toilet (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27811471)

i shit out an obama.

plop!

Defective by design...maybe? (4, Insightful)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | more than 4 years ago | (#27811483)

One of the professors at my 4-year college was rather amused by all the concern about cheating and whatnot. He thought the simplest, most foolproof way to see whether people had learned anything or not at the end of their program was to stand them up in front of a few teachers, maybe at a board with a piece of chalk when appropriate, and have them answer some questions.

Another professor at the same school, when he had small classes of 10-15 people, would once or twice per class period pick somebody to come work an example problem from the material from recent classes. Personally, I found that a pretty good reason to keep up with the class material instead of just cramming at the end before the exam.

It seems to me that by the time we've paid for custom anti-cheating software, plagiarism detection software, continual redesign of standardized exams, and all the security around standardized exams, we could have just paid for a video camera, some chalk, a chalkboard, and good local teachers to do some sort of individual testing.

But then, I personally think that standardized tests are mainly good for measuring how good you are at taking standardized tests, and not much else, so I guess I'm a bit biased.

Re:Defective by design...maybe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27811727)

Yup. Back when I had my first programming course (FORTRAN on punched cards, no less), when we turned in our projects we had to line up to hand in the code listing to a teaching assistant who would then ask one single question about it -- if you couldn't answer satisfactorily, it was assumed you didn't do the work yourself and you got no credit. It was amusing to see so many other kids get shot down.

Oh, I almost forgot: Get off my lawn!

Re:Defective by design...maybe? (1)

Jared555 (874152) | more than 4 years ago | (#27811849)

That is where testing that can be done in real time during a class session is beneficial. The teacher can ask a question and you respond by pressing a button on a uniquely identified remote control.

It gives the teacher instant feedback, possibly on what they are teaching at that moment in time.

Re:Defective by design...maybe? (1)

Vintermann (400722) | more than 4 years ago | (#27815965)

This was basically what they did at my college, too, for important projects. You handed in stuff, and a couple of weeks later you were called in to answer some basic questions about what you'd written. No grades on the second test, it was purely to catch mindless plagiarism.

Software is not the solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27811709)

Posting anon for privacy. I go to a school with a 4 year undergraduate program that has teachers that like to test through Blackboard's WebCT software. It has benefits; instant grading, enforcement of times the test can be taken (window), time limit on the test itself, multiple choice can have explanations, and the order of the questions/answers can be randomized so students can't copy from each other. It works on any platform with a decently recent (I think it's still Firefox 1.0 approved, 3.0 got formally approved recently but has always worked- before you got an "unsupported browser" nag screen at each login)

However, it doesn't fundamentally solve the problem of cheating. Most teachers choose to be diligent- walk up and down the classroom during the test, be reasonable, etc.

However, some take the software approach. There is a piece of software the school is pushing teachers to use called the Respondus Lockdown Browser. It uses IE as the engine and basically hooks into a ton of system services to try to take control of the entire system during testing. Once a test starts, you can't view other windows, can't copy/paste, can't shutdown, run a variety of programs, etc.

Through stuff beyond user agent, teachers can restrict a test to only be takeable in the LockDown browser.

So, great idea right? It's a horribly designed program.
The thing is extremely buggy. Even when it quits "properly", it can leave system hooks in place that disable shutting down or opening the task manager. I've heard of it borking a couple installs to the point where they had to reinstall Windows.
-If your browser crashes and it isn't a "secure" test, it'll usually let you back in, even if the number of takes is only "1". The Respondus Software will often not let you do so, resulting in a tech support nightmare and possibly having to retake the test from scratch.
-It doesn't run in WINE or Mac OS. Great for students who want to make their own choice of OS. (Not enough computer labs/not installed on them, you have to install on your laptop).
-The security on this thing is horrendous. It makes a ton of system hooks, but it relies on executable names for blocking. If you rename Pidgin.exe pidginmaybe.exe, the software will allow it to run. Combined with relatively poor hooks that can be overridden, it's horribly ineffective.
-The main problem is that teachers treat it as infallible. The moment the testing software went on the tests, kids resorted to texting and looking in textbooks/notes on their laps. The teachers that started using the software stopped paying attention to people taking the test, and in many cases, leaving the room, for periods of 10+ minutes at a time.

I'd bring it up with the administration, but I learned the hard way in high school that trying to bring up any sort of possible security issue or being critical of anything designed to stop cheating results in suspicion on yourself and no results. I'm disgusted, but I'm not going to risk the attention.

Security problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27811747)

This software solution sounds really dodgy. You might be able to take in notes on the computer, but the other problem is people enabling WIFI and sharing answers.

Try using the 'specially tailored software' to enforce security, when a smarter student dumps the entire default OS install into a virtual machine or reverse engineers the software and writes a fake one.

I suppose if it's very well coded it might work using things like TPM, encryption, keys, verifying hardware and so on but somehow I doubt it is.

Once you bypass the security program your good to go.

Actual visual checking by teachers isn't going to do much either, I remember students using Synergy in a Cisco test, all it was used for was to allow for the mouse to be remotely controlled, it would be almost impossible to see this but its enough to allow a student next to or behind another to highlight multiple choices (It also allows for keyboard control so more complicated tests would be doable too).

Another idea is to have a chat program overlayed on top of the test that is very transparent with only a few pixels of text so its hard to see.

Of course the ultimate win would be to actually gain access to the monitor program and then see everyones tests at will.

They could also share login information and do each others tests.

Even more alarming would be students trojaning others computers and deliberately making it look like they are cheating.

Windows lock-in? (2, Insightful)

hansrodtang (1546775) | more than 4 years ago | (#27811805)

If my previous experiences with the Norwegian school computer systems are correct, this is Windows only. I can't believe that at the same time they are researching use of Linux in schools they are locking themselves harder and harder into the Windows platform. I have nothing against Windows, but lock-in is always stupid, and sadly, as a Norwegian high school student, I see this every day.

Re:Windows lock-in? (1)

FaxeTheCat (1394763) | more than 4 years ago | (#27812965)

Not quite correct.

A fair number of schools use MACs. Those are mainly used in schools with emphasis on creative arts.

There is also some Linux in lower grade schools. There is even a distribution targetted at the schools: SkoleLinux.

However, it seems that each school tend to select one OS and only support that one, mainly due to support issues.

The majority of schools use Windows, but it is not a Lock in, as the alternatives are available for those schools wanting to use them.

Re:Windows lock-in? (1)

Vintermann (400722) | more than 4 years ago | (#27816007)

"A fair number of schools use MACs. Those are mainly used in schools with emphasis on creative arts."

Blech! Been there, done that, it's even worse. You haven't seen an ugly user interface until you have seen early Finale on an old PowerPC mac.

Computers... Pfft... (0, Offtopic)

kd5zex (1030436) | more than 4 years ago | (#27811865)

Quit complaining you little shit, I took tests on a scantron.

Re:Computers... Pfft... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27811957)

I took tests on stone tablets. So, get off my lawn.

Re:Computers... Pfft... (2, Funny)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#27812059)

I took tests on stone tablets. So, get off my lawn.

Stone tablets? STONE TABLETS???? LUXURY!!!!!

When I did my tests we didn't have stone tablets. Only the professor had them! We had to scratch our answers in the mud or dirt! And if it rained we had to repeat the whole year!

Re:Computers... Pfft... (1)

highplansdrifter (1017356) | more than 4 years ago | (#27812271)

Stone tablets? Writing! When I did my tests you had to sing the entire oral canon while accompanying yourself on a lute!

Re:Computers... Pfft... (2, Funny)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#27812279)

Stone tablets? Writing! When I did my tests you had to sing the entire oral canon while accompanying yourself on a lute!

A lute? A LUTE??? LUXURY!!!!

Re:Computers... Pfft... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27812379)

Pfft. That's nothing. In my day, you had to sing the entire oral canon backwards while accompanying yourself, and if you couldn't throat sing, you didn't get any credit.
 
Captcha: "squeaky"

Why not? (2, Interesting)

BigRics44 (1546803) | more than 4 years ago | (#27812325)

In my college I have had easy professors and hard professors. Old school professors and innovative professors. I had some classes where everything was only and classes that everything was on paper. I don't see why not have computers for testing. Testing has become this huge topic of discussion. We are really forgetting what testing is. It is a way to find out how much someone knows about a subject. Ok. Lets go from there. Having a test on a computer gives you access to a lot of information at your finger tip. So does open note tests, we all remember back in the day, the open note tests were the hardest. Ok so they have all this information at their hand so eventually they will be able to find the information they need to pass a test. Just like old times when it was all books you put a time on it and that is it. You wanna make sure that the person is the person that is supposed to be taking the test you put a digital finger impression at the door, the kid wants to go to the bathroom, no problem scan out and scan back in. Easy!!! So really the place where you write/type the answer changes but the test is still the same, this is too much talking and not enough action. We are in the 21st century. Yes! Kids should be using their laptops for exams.

Computer obession (1)

thoughtspace (1444717) | more than 4 years ago | (#27812495)

I can't believe how obsessed the world is with computers - especially schools. They madly add computers everywhere. Schools do not seem to realise that paper and computers satisfy different needs.

Computers are slow to put the information in (typing) but fast to retrieve (searching). Paper is the opposite: quick to enter (writing) and slow to retrieve (filing).

As you are in an exam you need to enter the information quickly; and the information is only read once (marking). Paper is the better choice.

Re:Computer obession (2, Insightful)

edible_seaweed (1396315) | more than 4 years ago | (#27812823)

Computers are slow to put the information in (typing) but fast to retrieve (searching). Paper is the opposite: quick to enter (writing) and slow to retrieve (filing).

>

Are you saying writing is *faster* than typing? Seriously? Few people can handwrite at faster than around 35WPM (I can't handwrite faster than about 10 sustained without hurting myself, but I'm special like that), whereas even a mediocre typer can get 45, and a professional typist can usually get above 100. So what in God's name are you talking about?

Re:Computer obession (1)

thoughtspace (1444717) | more than 4 years ago | (#27813401)

I thought so too. Unless you are transcribing prose, handwriting seems to be quicker than typing.

We switched to paper for descriptive fault reports to be filled-out. The throughput was markedly increased. Similar results have now been observed in other departments. Of course this is only useful if you rarely need to analyse the data - if not, use a computer!

I am not exactly sure why. Maybe the navigation (e.g. mouse positioning) is the problem. Maybe the direct connection of the hand to the written word is better when combined with thinking. Maybe it is the ability to 'write in the gaps and margins.' Maybe they spend too much time editing.

Handwriting would certainly be much faster with symbols used for sciences and mathematics.

Re:Computer obession (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27817645)

Handwriting would certainly be much faster with symbols used for sciences and mathematics.

This may be true for people who aren't fluent in LaTex, but it certainly is not true for me.

My experience from Denmark: computers are fine! (2, Informative)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 4 years ago | (#27812989)

Hi all. I thought I'd chip in with my experience.

In High School ("gymnasiet"), we were allowed to user computers for all written exams (that I attended; IIRC; maybe except math).

The protocol was this: you would get your problem set (i.e. five texts and two pictures, "write an essay about [...]"). You wrote some words, either on paper or on your computer. If you wrote on your computer, you'd print the document and put it in your handed-out blank A3 sheets (folded to four A4 pages, put prints in the middle). It was your own responsibility to have a working computer and printer.

Note that this was in 2002; most people brought desktop boxes. I don't recall wireless networking being the hip shit back then.

In math we were allowed to use calculators that couldn't perform "abstract symbol manipulation". Our (turing-complete...) TI-83 was allowed. [a part of the exam was "no-aids"; no calculator there, only pen(cil) and paper].

In music (given a melody, make an arrangement), we were allowed to use software from a whitelist; the whitelist was based on the capabilities of the software (it wasn't allowed to do our jobs for us).

In general, I didn't notice any problems regarding the use of computers.

Fast forward to university (I'm doing CS and math). The Introduction to Programming exam was done on the university's computers, with electronic hand-in. You'd get a problem set instructing you to write a simple class or two and a for/while loop iterating over some collection. When you'd hand in, you'd copy the files somewhere on the network. ISTR that you were allowed to bring your own computer if you wanted, but being connected to the network was your own responsibility then.

There were generally no problems there.

For all other exams, either you weren't allowed to bring your computers, or you weren't allowed to bring a printer (so there'd be no point). One exception was the statistics course. the kind of problems we'd face was easy to predict, so one of my fellow students wrote a program which would solve 90% of the problem set for him, generating some nice LaTeX. He'd then copy this to paper by hand, and work on the remaining 10%.

My experience: using computers as a "smart typewriter" works great. Using computers as a "smart typewriter" for music notation works fine as well (and hey, midi keyboards are easier to lug around than pianos).

Using them as "smart typewriters" with a Java development environment and a "smart mailman" (network handin) works fine too. Were the possibilities for cheating there? Sure, draw a map of the computers and their names; ssh into the host of your friend; start talk(1)ing. So what? If you need to cheat on your first quarter course, chances are you'll EPIC FAIL some other course heading your way. And there were TAs walking around, glancing at your screen every now and then.

Using them to solve the exam problems, when you write the solving software yourself, works great too; if it was someone else's software, it'd be a little is-it-cheating iffy.

Security Problem?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#27813743)

Like all those people said using laptops for high school exams isn't secure enough, but on the other hand it reduce the chance for the students to cheat by looking at others, which is the most popular cheating technique!!

Laptops for students (1)

Minthis Hills (1547055) | more than 4 years ago | (#27813901)

There is a drive in developing countries where $200 or even cheaper laptops are being distributed to not just improve education standard but laptop sales as well. Minthis Hills [minthishills.com]

For Everything (1)

PingPongBoy (303994) | more than 4 years ago | (#27817257)

Laptops, particularly the nubile female variey, are well suited for any sit-down task. What stops this practce is shortages.

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