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Preventing Networked Gizmo Use During Exams?

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the tweets-are-cheats dept.

Education 870

bcrowell writes "I'm a college physics professor. My students all want to use calculators during exams, and some of them whose native language isn't English also want to use electronic dictionaries. I had a Korean student who was upset and dropped the course when I told her she couldn't use her iPod during an exam — she said she used it as a dictionary. It gets tough for me to distinguish networked devices (iPhone? iTouch?) from non-networked ones (calculator? electronic dictionary? iPod?). I give open-notes exams, so it's not memory that's an issue, it's networking. Currently our classrooms have poor wireless receptivity (no Wi-Fi, possible cell, depending on your carrier), but as of spring 2011 we will have Wi-Fi everywhere. What's the best way to handle this? I'd prefer not to make them all buy the same overpriced graphing calculator. I'm thinking of buying 30 el-cheapo four-function calculators out of my pocket, but I'm afraid that less-adaptable students will be unable to handle the switch from the calculator they know to an unfamiliar (but simpler) one."

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Well not sure if this is the right approach but... (1, Interesting)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568358)

Well, I am not sure that this is the right approach but there seems to be plenty of jamming devices around that you could use during exams. Just put some signs near your exam room like "jamming devices at work" so everybody know that they have to go a little farther away in order to get connectivity and calibrate your jamming device appropriately so you do not jam the whole campus .. ;-)

http://www.netline.co.il/page/cell_phone_jammer.aspx [netline.co.il]

http://www.jammer-store.com/ [jammer-store.com]

http://www.chinavasion.com/product_info.php/pName/wifi-bluetooth-wireless-video-jammer-portable-wireless-block/ [chinavasion.com]

http://www.amazon.ca/Power-Portable-Signal-Jammer-Phone/dp/B003YFSKUU [amazon.ca]

Re:Well not sure if this is the right approach but (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33568410)

> Well, I am not sure that this is the right approach

Der... ya think?

Jamming cellular signals is a federal crime.

What a jackass.

Re:Well not sure if this is the right approach but (3, Interesting)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568452)

You can make WiFi unusable, however. Or you could alter the classroom so RF cannot enter through the walls or ceiling. And turn off the wireless AP in the room during exam time.

I suppose convincing the university to alter the classroom in this manner could be difficult, but they could also see the value in having some exam rooms that are essentially faraday cages

Why do the complicated expensive solution? (4, Insightful)

sjbe (173966) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568708)

You can make WiFi unusable, however.

Technically possible but not practical for economic reasons.

Or you could alter the classroom so RF cannot enter through the walls or ceiling.

VERY expensive. Colleges don't really have the funds to justify that, especially when just banning the offending devices is free.

I suppose convincing the university to alter the classroom in this manner could be difficult, but they could also see the value in having some exam rooms that are essentially faraday cages

Why not just take the figurative bullets out of the gun (no networked devices allowed) instead of building an expensive figurative bullet proof vest. If they don't need the networked device for the test, there is no reason to allow it in the room in the first place.

Re:Well not sure if this is the right approach but (4, Informative)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568568)

Watch your big mouth son:

Contact the FCC for permit applications and waivers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_phone_jammer [wikipedia.org]

Re:Well not sure if this is the right approach but (1)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568526)

Well, I am not sure that this is the right approach but there seems to be plenty of jamming devices around that you could use during exams.

As long as you don't mind the possibility of spending a year in federal prison and a $10K fine for each of the several violations you'd be guilty of by using them, assuming you're in the U.S....

Re:Well not sure if this is the right approach but (-1, Redundant)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568580)

Contact the FCC for permit applications and waivers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_phone_jammer [wikipedia.org] [wikipedia.org]

Re:Well not sure if this is the right approach but (1)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568636)

I would suggest first reading up on 47 USC in general, and then come back and talk to us about the "permit applications and waivers" that you saw mentioned in an uncited paragraph on Wiki. Hint: there's a distinction between "jamming" and "blocking".

Re:Well not sure if this is the right approach but (1)

quanticle (843097) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568610)

Those jamming devices are illegal and if caught, you will get in serious trouble for using them. The trouble is that its very hard to localize the effects of a jammer - either its too weak and it doesn't cover the ends of the classroom or (more likely) its too strong and it spills over into neighboring areas. This has public safety implications, and, as such, use of wireless jamming devices is frowned upon by the FCC and law enforcement.

Re:Well not sure if this is the right approach but (2, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568634)

Whatever you do, remember what happens when you try to jam electronic devices [ign.com] .

Re:Well not sure if this is the right approach but (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33568696)

I jammed my cock into your mommas ass last night. She's a real dirty slut.

Open Notes & Well-Designed Exams (5, Insightful)

slifox (605302) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568360)

First off -- I applaud your use of open-note exams. That is the ONLY real-world way to learn and demonstrate knowledge. There is almost never a situation in the professional world where one must solve a problem with absolutely no references (and it would be stupid to do so on a production system -- when solving a critical problem, why risk everything based on what you *think* is right, when you can verify against documentation; at least if something breaks, you can point to the incorrect docs...)

Some people can simply memorize anything they look at, while others struggle at this. A proper exam should be designed to test one's ability to demonstrate processes: exams should give you all the information you need, but the questions should be designed such that only someone who has invested prior effort in practice and learning will be able to solve the questions in the allotted time.

For less-concrete subjects such as the arts, I'm not so sure how this can be accomplished. However this is a trivial design decision for exams in maths, sciences, programming, and engineering.

Furthermore, I think any physics or math exam that requires a complex calculator really has a wrong approach. Assuming everyone at this level has already demonstrated their ability to perform arithmetic several times over, the calculator should only be there to free them from making mistakes on the menial number crunching (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, squares, squareroots, proper value of e,Pi, etc...). The exam should test for core concepts: ideas where you simply must understand the knowledge through prior practice and learning.

Sadly, I think many professors fall back on rote-memorization exams just because they can't be bothered to design proper exams each semester. These types often teach straight from the textbook-provided lesson plans, and then wonder why students cheat...

But honestly -- an exam is but one facet of demonstrating proficiency in a subject. Personally, I think projects & labs the best way: sure one can cheat, but it's easy to determine who has spent time polishing a proper unique lab report. In this respect, open-ended projects are the best, as the room for creativity limits the possibility for undetectable cheating, and lets the students show their enthusiasm for the subject. If you're really worried about cheating, a lab-practical may even be a legitimate tool: it's pretty damn hard to make stuff up as you go while you've got a one-person audience of the professor.

Short answer: let them use basic scientific calculators, the textbook, their notes, and a dictionary; design your tests so that students have all the resources they need, but don't have enough time to learn-as-they-go during the exam.

"Never memorize something that you can look up." --Albert Einstein

Re:Open Notes & Well-Designed Exams (5, Insightful)

jdong (1378773) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568416)

The design of the exam is not the problem -- if students have networking access to someone inside the exam room (or worse, outside the exam room), no matter how hard you make the exam, you are testing the brainpower of their lifelines, not them. This the 2010 version of "how do I prevent students from whispering to each other during a test", for which there is no straightforward solution short of "no electronics in the exam room".

Re:Open Notes & Well-Designed Exams (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33568646)

if students have networking access to someone inside the exam room (or worse, outside the exam room), no matter how hard you make the exam, you are testing the brainpower of their lifelines, not them.

This.

I didn't come here to troll, but I feel obliged to point out that the grandparent poster lost himself in a forest of his own self-righteousness regarding assessment design. The problem under discussion is that two students in the room working on the same test at the same time could have IM ability through wireless networking, and so one could do the work while passing the answers wirelessly to the other, who could simply copy what he sees on IM.

Parent is almost right: there is no solution short of "no unapproved electronics." Students with poor English abilities who need dictionaries should bring their dictionaries to office hours for inspection; the invigilating TA's (if this is a large lecture) could be notified on the sign-in roster (I'm assuming a sign-in procedure for a large lecture) or be introduced personally to the student in question to be sure they recognize them. The policy would have to be on the syllabus and announced in class the first day. It's not a simple solution, but it's probably more fair to students not fluent in English than denying all electronics.

Of course, the administration could also try requiring that all course instruction and assessment (outside classical/modern languages in Arts & Sciences) be conducted in English, and that all students entering pass an unaided (no lexicon!) English proficiency exam that's not a total joke. I mean, imagine a student going to France and expecting accommodations because he doesn't know French... Of course, administrations in the US will never enforce a convenient language policy, so you're going to have to make allowances for electronic devices like dictionaries if you ban electronics from testing sites.

Re:Open Notes & Well-Designed Exams (2, Insightful)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568674)

Exactly. It's an open book exam, not an open-Internet open-chat open-Yahoo-Answers exam. And while, in the 'real world', you virtually never have to solve a problem from memory alone, you *do* have to solve a problem without help from peers.

Just because there's no direct analogue of exam conditions in the real world doesn't mean they're not useful for testing performance. The most fundamental troubleshooting and performance evaluation tool we have is the isolation test. Take a thing apart, test each component, and that will give you insights as to how the thing performs as a whole. By all means give students access to the reference material they need to complete an exam, but they shouldn't be able to discuss it amongst themselves or search the internet for prior work on the topic, because the entire point of the exam is to measure the students' own unaided ability.

Re:Open Notes & Well-Designed Exams (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33568448)

I disagree that only someone who has put prior effort in practice and learning should be able to pass a test. If someone knows the correct answer without any struggle, they should pass easily, as they are more masterful at the task than someone who struggled!

I do agree that tests should reflect real world professional tasks. If someone normally carries a laptop/cellphone, etc., then they will have them at work, too, so why not be able to use them in exams...unless you are not testing for knowledge, but merely testing to see if they paid strict attention only to what you taught.

thin client exam takers (4, Insightful)

pikine (771084) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568450)

I think he's worried that you could IM a friend during an exam to work the answers out for you, as if you're a thin client, with all that computing power over in the cloud.

Re:thin client exam takers (2, Funny)

zill (1690130) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568488)

iCheat - Genius Bar for exams

Re:Open Notes & Well-Designed Exams (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33568480)

Cheat sheets and a writing device.

Re:Open Notes & Well-Designed Exams (1)

swanzilla (1458281) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568572)

+1 Hit the nail on the head

-1 Far too many of my professors failed to think like you

Re:Open Notes & Well-Designed Exams (1, Informative)

PvtVoid (1252388) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568620)

First off -- I applaud your use of open-note exams. That is the ONLY real-world way to learn and demonstrate knowledge. There is almost never a situation in the professional world where one must solve a problem with absolutely no references

Except, oh, the GRE, or the MCAT. Which is why 90% of the students in this guy's class are there.

Re:Open Notes & Well-Designed Exams (3, Interesting)

QuietLagoon (813062) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568656)

First off -- I applaud your use of open-note exams. That is the ONLY real-world way to learn and demonstrate knowledge.

.
Absolutely. I attended a technical college that ran the exams on an Honor System. Most exams were open-book. Professors were not allowed in the classroom once the exam began. The exams were not about how much you could memorize, but how much you understood.

Re:Open Notes & Well-Designed Exams (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33568688)

A programmable calculator can be used to solve a problem numerically
when one cannot figure out an analytical solution. A computer algebra system,
e. g. REDUCE, would be much more useful but it was not available on
portable devices at my time.

Probably, the teacher should assume that a computer algebra system is
available to the student and make the problems accordingly.
There should be a few terminals in the class for those who left their
laptops at home.

Re:Open Notes & Well-Designed Exams (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568730)

If you don't put something on an exam, people won't study for it. Exams are motivational devices for people who aren't motivated to learn for themselves. People who are motivated to learn for themselves have no problem with the typical exam.

As an aside, pretty near every subject requires the memorization of something, some more than others (learning a language on the memorize-heavy side, track-and-field on the memorize-light side).

Re:Open Notes & Well-Designed Exams (4, Informative)

apoc.famine (621563) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568744)

Kudos for a well written, thoughtful post. I was a HS teacher for 5 years, and I ran my classes (as much as I was allowed to - NCLB pressures forced my district to start pressuring teachers to test in the state test format) in much the same way. You get a much better understanding of a student's grasp of the material if they have to apply it instead of just regurgitate it.

However, as awesome as your post was, it didn't address the problem at all.

Having been in the same situation before, (Can I use my iPhone - it has a calculator on it, and you said a calculator was ok...) my suggestion would be to hit the dollar store and get a pile of cheap-ass scientific calculators. Then, do an exercise in class a few times before the first exam that requires their use. That way, you can outlaw all the networked devices, but people aren't using a foreign device for the first time under the pressure of a test. No, it won't be as familiar as their everyday tools. But at $1 each, you can even encourage people to take them home and practice on them if concerned. The ones I bought for my classes lasted a few years easily, but again, for the price, I wasn't too worried about them.

You don't need a $80 graphing calculator for most things. Unless you've built your curriculum around the use of one, you should be able to test adequately with a $1 calculator as the main computational tool.

Tough (2, Insightful)

flipper9 (109877) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568376)

1. Tell the students "Tough!". You don't need a calculator!
2. The best way I've seen professors handle this is to design the questions to only require basic math knowledge, or only require answers that don't require extensive calculations. Make it so that if they are correctly arriving at the answer, the math is stupidly easy.
3. Tough about the English requirement. You are in the USA, and our language is English. And in a physics class, there shouldn't be that much to look up anyways. If you must have a dictionary, you can buy really cheap paperback ones. You think I get access to a dictionary when I take a test, or any book for that matter? NO!

No test should ever need a calculator if setup properly. It should only require basic math skills. If it must require knowledge of square roots and such, make a table available or make it so that the final calculations are ridiculously easy (like square root of 9). You are testing physics concepts, not math. And if you can't handle basic math and basic English, how did they ever get into college in the first place?

Re:Tough (1, Informative)

kc8apf (89233) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568476)

Actually, the USA has no official language.

Re:Tough (1)

koreaman (835838) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568552)

Yeah, and weed is illegal in the Netherlands. What's true de jure but not de facto is completely irrelevant in both cases.

Re:Tough (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33568680)

True, but I think that's missing the point. It does not follow from "the USA has no official language" that the professor needs to do anything special for his English as a second language students.

The instructor speaks English. The test is written in English. Most students taking the class will assume the test is in English. It's not clear why it should be necessary to make special accommodations for people who aren't prepared to deal with English. Of course that's up to the instructor, and he/she is apparently being a nice guy or gal by making those accommodations, but I don't think it's unreasonable for him/her not to do so if it causes problems.

It doesn't sound like this professor is running a community outreach program. Assuming the class is a for-credit college course, it would be reasonable for him/her make clear at the beginning of the class that special accommodations won't be made for English as a second language, and then try to write tests that don't depend on fine parsing of English to answer the questions.

Of course the professor need not do it this way, but the alternative may be taking it back to where we started: trying to find a way to make accommodations with the side effect that doing so may make designing a test environment difficult in other respects.

If the professor wants to make accommodations, maybe the solution is simply to hire someone to translate the tests in to the native language(s) of his or her students.

Re:Tough (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568702)

this guy [flickr.com] disagrees with you.

Re:Tough (1)

tc3driver (669596) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568566)

3. Tough about the English requirement. You are in the USA, and our language is English. And in a physics class, there shouldn't be that much to look up anyways. If you must have a dictionary, you can buy really cheap paperback ones. You think I get access to a dictionary when I take a test, or any book for that matter? NO!

Last time I checked, America had no official language, not that I disagree totally with what you say.

No test should ever need a calculator if setup properly. It should only require basic math skills. If it must require knowledge of square roots and such, make a table available or make it so that the final calculations are ridiculously easy (like square root of 9). You are testing physics concepts, not math. And if you can't handle basic math and basic English, how did they ever get into college in the first place?

This isn't a horrible idea

make better tests (1)

Ryanrule (1657199) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568378)

Make tests that dont require calcs. You can test knowledge without complex math. hell, use nothing but variables in the equations, if they get z=xy/r*2, then thats an answer. If they cant speak english, show them the door. This is college, not kindergarten

Also (-1, Flamebait)

Ryanrule (1657199) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568388)

The chinese students will probably try to cheat/copy/ect. Watch them. its part of the their culture, they consider that acceptable.

Re:Also (1)

BatGnat (1568391) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568504)

Just like it's part of the USA's culture to go around shooting each other in the streets.......

Wait did I just stereotype "USA'nians" (yes there are more Americans than just the USA)....Sorry, it must have been the theme of this thread that made me do it.....

Re:Also (0, Troll)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568694)

As my drill sergeant told me many years ago, "If you ain't cheating, you ain't trying. And if you get caught, you weren't trying hard enough."

Cheating is a part of all cultures.

Not trying to be a spelling nazi.... (3, Informative)

maschinetheist (1876332) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568412)

s/iTouch/iPod Touch

Re:Not trying to be a spelling nazi.... (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568510)

Not trying to be a spelling nazi....
s/iTouch/iPod Touch

Heh. So what are your aspirations, then? Spelling Security Guard? Spelling Old Man Yelling At The Kids In His Yard?

Re:Not trying to be a spelling nazi.... (3, Funny)

BatGnat (1568391) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568540)

The Nazi's dont care about the spelling, it's the "SS" hunts you down if you spell things wrong.

No body realizes that Hitlers "SS" actually stood for "Super Spellers"!

Talk to network ops. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33568414)

Make each test distinct, choose a throwaway question that you know there are online resources to utilize that would answer it.

Have the network operations guys gather proxy info during the exam period. Track anybody who connects to that site (or one
of it's ilk) and match it to their distinct question. Give them an F no questions asked and refer to the ethics board for cheating.

You don't have to beat the technology, you just have to catch them when they do what they know is wrong.

Re:Talk to network ops. (2, Insightful)

InfiniteWisdom (530090) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568512)

It's not just about searching online for the question... you also need to be able to prevent people from asking their friends for help

Re:Talk to network ops. (1)

forkazoo (138186) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568536)

Make each test distinct, choose a throwaway question that you know there are online resources to utilize that would answer it.

Have the network operations guys gather proxy info during the exam period. Track anybody who connects to that site (or one
of it's ilk) and match it to their distinct question. Give them an F no questions asked and refer to the ethics board for cheating.

You don't have to beat the technology, you just have to catch them when they do what they know is wrong.

How does this help for cell phones? The school's network ops team can't log what doesn't go over their network. Then, you've still got to deal with matching whose device corresponds to which log entry, etc. Depending on how the wireless is set up, that may be impossible, and one teacher gicing a test won't be able to get it changed on his own authority.

Ramen (3, Insightful)

Jawshie (919956) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568420)

The easy answer is go and get a microwave for the classroom. Make everybody their favorite microwave meal!

Re:Ramen (2, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568616)

With the door open? Or with phones inside?

That'l do it.

Mmmm.... (0)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568712)

Baked apple i-phone pie, delicious.

Tell them to use a damn book (0)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568422)

Batteries run out, devices inexplicably break, crash, bsod etc. If you allow electronic doodads in the testing area, are you expected to let them retake their test if their iPod touch freezes on them? Paper book dictionaries typically don't catastrophically break. I don't blame you for not allowing electronics in the testing area, I wouldn't.

Re:Tell them to use a damn book (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33568534)

What a stupid thing, going back 100 years and use tools made of dead trees

Re:Tell them to use a damn book (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33568626)

What a stupid thing. Going back 10 years and using logins and passwords.

10 years ago (5, Insightful)

porkThreeWays (895269) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568432)

What the hell did these students do 10 years ago? AFAIK two semesters of English and perhaps 1 semester of literature are the norm at every reputable college in the U.S. If their English is too poor for your physics exam, they probably have no hope of graduating.

Faraday Cage, anyone? (1)

Deathnerd (1734374) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568436)

Just surround the entire classroom in a Faraday Cage. Surely that can't be _too_ expensive. ;)

Re:Faraday Cage, anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33568538)

Aluminum foil is fairly inexpensive.

Re:Faraday Cage, anyone? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568632)

Yeah. GSM coverage in the Melbourne Concert Hall is inexplicably bad, In fact I seem to get no coverage there at all. A lot of attention was put into acoustics when the place was built so I wonder if the builders did something to the RF environment.

Anyway I suggest the OP consult his local physics department. I am sure they will come up with some creative solutions.

Re:Faraday Cage, anyone? (1)

Barny (103770) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568728)

I voted [60] Stephen Conroy. Cross fingers ;)

Hehe, me three :)

As for GSM, I know the feeling, perfect reception out the front of my workplace but at my desk absolutely nothing, could be its a solid brick construction and we have insulating material (the tin foil stuff) inside the walls too.

Communal Calculators (1)

jarrettwold2002 (601633) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568442)

When I was in high school, math classes had a communal box of TI calculators. Available for people who didn't have them. It's a bit annoying that you would have to spend cash out of your own pocket to set something like that up. Is there any way you can get the department to go in on them, and just have them float between classes and tests?

If not, everything's networked now more or less. Is cheating possible by iPod or any other remotely modern device? Yes. Then again, old cheating trick we had was to stick the answers to the test in our calculators, so that's nothing new.

The only thing I could suggest is simply have people put away their electronic devices, except for what you allow in your syllabus until the test is over. Once they're done taking the test let them take off, and let their devices go along with.

If it comes to the case you mentioned, maybe evaluate it on a case by case basis when it comes up... Then give them an option to take it at, for example, the math clinic outside of the classroom. At least there whoever is running the math clinic can keep a closer eye on what they're doing. Trying to do that for entire section would be a nightmare I'm guessing.

Really, anymore if kids want to cheat they're going to. However, in math it's a wee bit difficult so long as you require them to show their work for the solution. If they're going to spend their entire time cheating, they're paying themselves to remain stupid so... Let them I guess.

Re:Communal Calculators (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568564)

Really, anymore if kids want to cheat they're going to. However, in math it's a wee bit difficult so long as you require them to show their work for the solution. If they're going to spend their entire time cheating, they're paying themselves to remain stupid so... Let them I guess.

Only problem there is it harms the credibility of your school. A diploma from a school that is known to ignore cheaters loses value against one from a school that fights cheating and makes their students earn their grades.

But addressing some other posts, jamming is not a perfect option. One method of wireless cheating is asking questions over IM via your cell phone, and you can't legally jam cell phone traffic. The faraday cage idea is probably the best to prevent external resourcing, but doesn't address student-to-student collaboration during the test. Savvy students could set up an ad-hoc chat room with each other during the test, breaking it up into questions each knew best, providing the group with answers, and make out like bandits. So you'd almost need a combination of the two... good faraday cage and jamming of wifi and cell within the cage. (which should be legal as long as the cage holds in the cell jamming?)

Wait, they don't understand that math is required? (2, Interesting)

OKCfunky (1016860) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568466)

Depending on what level of physics you teach, 99% of students should already have a TI-83 or TI-89. Just as common as a pencil. But I'm of the engineer variety in the USA. Besides, math is a universal language (and on that note, if they can't understand the common spoken language that they've elected for... too bad). If they are not capable of understanding constants and universally applicable equations... they will fail anyways. However, at least at my university, I've yet to take a class where cellular or anything non-calculator allowed at all. You take out a cell phone or anything that's not a calculator and your booted out of the class. In many of the test questions in physics that I've taken, it's not a big stretch to deduce what the question is just based on a few key words and defined variables.

What does it matter (2, Funny)

Bruha (412869) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568468)

If the student is capable of getting the answers right, what difference does it make how it's obtained.

If the issue is that you're worried that the students are pulling answers off the internet then I could agree that you do indeed have an issue.

However, I will provide a different perspective on the problem. As an employer the employee who succeeds is the one who knows how to obtain the information necessary to solve a problem, and use those methods to build their skill levels up. I have seen those who are unable to do this eventually be let go. So aside from the usual arse kissers who seem to proliferate most companies, those who function the best are those who are able to compile a solution from sources built up from years of work. I could care less if it came from Google as long as it's not infringing on anyone's legal rights that could come back to haunt the company.

I honestly think you might be hobbling these young professionals in a sense. Have them show their work at least. Most free solutions to math problems never show the work, you have to shell out hundreds of dollars for that.

[rant]And please for the love of God, let them write it down on paper and scan it, equation editors add hours to large equations. I had a teacher pull that crap on me once on a refresher course. I paid to learn, not learn an equation editor, my writing is legible. I can understand if others are not, but sheesh give someone a chance![/rant]

Re:What does it matter (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568554)

I could care less if it came from Google as long as it's not infringing on anyone's legal rights that could come back to haunt the company.

Re-consider the statement: "I give open-notes exams, so it's not memory that's an issue, it's networking." I'm not sure whether (s)he meant computer networking or person-to-person, but the latter is a real problem; what if the student isn't using google, but rather sending snapshots of the test questions to some help desk in Russian or India? (There are plenty of smart, well educated people in both places).

Re:What does it matter (1)

michaelwv (1371157) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568672)

I interpreted the one of the poster's most immediate concerns is the students in the classroom talking to each other their networked devices.

Re:What does it matter (1)

koreaman (835838) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568590)

LaTeX is your friend.

I suspect you missed, networking - collaboration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33568622)

It's not that they may be doing research on the fly, but that they may not be giving answers to the exam that are not theirs.

An iPhone with camera and a confederate (TA with financial or other need) on the outside can get the whole test, an unscrupulous group with a shared network and compatible devices may as well be sitting around a single table doing the test.

I agree that having them show the work is probably the best option, but in some of the larger courses, it's not practical for the teacher to really read every derivation.

As for those who say that calculators should not be necessary for tests, when did you last take a college level physics course?

Speak English (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33568470)

If the kid needs an ipod/dictionary to be able to take the course, perhaps they shouldn't be there in the first place. Students should be learning the language as well as the subject. Where any of us allowed to lug dictionaries (of any sort) around during exams?

The alternative is simply to dumb down exams to the point to where everyone can pass them and feel good, and the exams no longer matter. No doubt we are a lot closer to that point these days than we were 20 years ago.

Physics ehh? (0, Flamebait)

madcat2c (1292296) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568472)

I would assume most college level students can work any 4 function calculator just fine. They will gripe about it, but to bad. As a recent MBA grad who has traveled to China, I agree...separate the Chinese student. It really is a part of their culture to share everything.

Unable to use a simple calculator?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33568492)

If they can't handle the switch from an expensive calculator to some simpler one, are they fit to even be studying university-level physics in the first place? Surely possessing the intuition to pick up an unfamiliar calculator and be able to use it is assumed knowledge for such a level of education?

The advantage of this is that you level the playing field and can write your exam questions in such a way that expensive, programmable calculators are not required. If your questions are short-response (as I'd hope in physics, to allow for working to be marked), the actual computation of the answer is relatively minor, almost insignificant part of the process - the marks can come from performing the working itself.

Go analog, extend time (1)

dougvdotcom (1770636) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568500)

I would go with a combination of analog and whitelist, revealed in the course description / prospectus. Translation dictionaries need to be bound printed matter and are subject to your inspection. Extend the amount of time available to take the exam by 50% to accommodate the analog dictionaries. Calculators must be a model from a whitelist of known non-networked devices. Just take a look at the TI catalog and pick the ones they can use. Students can submit their devices for approval during the first week of class; after that, only approved devices are allowed.

Put some effort into customization (1)

tonywong (96839) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568524)

...and randomize the order of the questions, changing values subtly for the questions, and/or changing the variable names and other minutiae in order to make it a bigger waste of time for them to cheat.

Once you make it clear to them that the exams are 'unique' to each student the cheaters will likely panic and turf the exam hard anyhow.

You can make 4-10 different exams and it will be way easier to catch the cheaters.

In theory you could tailor each exam to each student but you'd have to set up a pretty good infrastructure for grading efficiently.

SLIDE RULE (4, Insightful)

Steve_au (1633891) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568528)

two words - SLIDE RULE

Re:SLIDE RULE (1)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568652)

Two more words - FUCK THAT!

And I actually know how to use a slide rule.

Re:SLIDE RULE (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568678)

I have a little one at my desk. The trig scale on the back of the slider would be a handy place to put cheat notes. Or even better, write them on the body of the slide rule under the slider so they are normally hidden.

No need for networking during a test (1)

sjbe (173966) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568530)

I'm thinking of buying 30 el-cheapo four-function calculators out of my pocket, but I'm afraid that less-adaptable students will be unable to handle the switch from the calculator they know to an unfamiliar (but simpler) one."

If they can't handle a cheapo calculator, they probably weren't going to pass the course anyway. You can offer to let them get familiar with it ahead of time but they'd be better off studying more. Calculators and computers are a crutch. If students rely on them too much they never really absorb the material. Technology should supplement but rarely should it be the focus.

I say ban the networking hardware altogether. I have a minor in applied physics and none of our tests when I was a student required anything more powerful than a scientific calculator (graphing optional) with no network capability. I think basically you should design the tests with that level of technology in mind. Let the projects and homework utilize the full capabilities of the computing hardware. Physics tests are about proving they understand concepts, not about proving they can work with a particular computer. If the problems require nothing more than a calculator that can do sine, cosine and tangent, then only allow calculators that can do that and nothing more.

The professional engineer exam is open book but if you actually need to look up a bunch of stuff you aren't going to pass anyway. Most tests should be like this. If they "need" networking during the test, they didn't really understand the material to begin with.

As a physics student (3, Interesting)

hisperati (1408819) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568532)

I was just on the other side of this situation a few years ago as a student. I worried that some other students were getting unfair advantages because of their devices. I would recommend getting some generic cheap calculators for the exam or doing away with the need for calculators at all. Consider the physics GRE doesn't allow calculators. As for translation devices it is only fair to let students use them, but you may want to work with some university accessibility office to find appropriate devices and restrict the rest. Of course you have to lay all of this out on the first day of class and remind students repeatedly before the exams.

No calculators (5, Interesting)

bziman (223162) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568550)

When I took undergraduate physics, there were no calculators allowed... there were no numbers on the exams. Problems were like "If you throw a rock horizontally off a bridge at (v) m/s and it hits the ground after (t) seconds, how far away from the base of the bridge did the rock hit the ground, and how tall is the bridge?" And then the student has to understand that this problem requires the use of the projectile motion equations, and they to know what the question is actually asking and solve for it:

w = v t
h = g t^2

One particularly sadistic (but awesome) professor asked a question like this "Suppose you're stuck in the middle of a frozen pond with a perfectly smooth (frictionless) surface. Propose a way to escape the pond." My (correctly marked) proposal was throw away a shoe. Of course, I could show equations for conservation of momentum, but the point was to see if students understood what it meant to be a frictionless surface and to simply be aware of conservation of momentum.

Re:No calculators (1)

jomegat (706411) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568740)

My answer was to bite my finger enough to make it bleed. Then squeeze some blood onto the ice and wait for it to freeze. Then I'd have something to push against. I got a zero.

Get the calculators (1)

deadcyclo (1900310) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568556)

"I'm thinking of buying 30 el-cheapo four-function calculators out of my pocket, but I'm afraid that less-adaptable students will be unable to handle the switch from the calculator they know to an unfamiliar (but simpler) one." Wait. What? College students taking physics should be able to handle a simple calculator, no matter what the make or model. If they aren't, I think they are in the wrong place.

Cheap calculators (1)

Old VMS Junkie (739626) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568576)

Make them buy a cheap TI-30 and that can be the only thing they use. No programmable calculators, no smartphones, no netbooks, etc. If they can't do an open notes test with just a simple calculator, the deserve an F. And if they can afford to go to college, they can afford a $10 calculator.

cultures AND pressures (5, Insightful)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568586)

First remember that foreign students pay FAR more than we do to go to US schools. Compound that with the fact that many come from poor countries. The pressure to succeed is EXTREME. Furthermore, not all cultures despise cheating as much as Western culture. The results are predictable.

Personal anecdote: I was invited to the Indian CS students' "study session" once while on a group project. I was AMAZED. They had a library of homework and test questions and answers. They passed them around casually. They also begged me for graded solutions from my previous courses to add to their collection. They were all cheating their way through and thought it was normal.

They also kept asking me how I could come up with working algorithms to programming assignments on my own (without copying from something). It was as if actually being able to program was wizardry to them. I wonder why.......

Re:cultures AND pressures (2, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568742)

One physics lecturer at the college I went to openly trained students to pass the exam. He was shameless. Every example he took us through became a question in the final examination. Needless to say he was a popular guy. This was in the days before there were a significant number of foreign students.

Go cheap (2, Insightful)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568592)

If your students are having a hard time adapting to cheap, "employer" provided calculators...how do you think they'll handle the real world?

The only flaw I can find with your plan is to pay for these out pocket, but I understand that's the norm for a lot of college supplies. Of course, given the cost of books, it's not too absurd to expect students to buy the model you specify either.

Paint the lecture halls with radio-blocking paint (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568594)

For classes where every student can be trusted:

Announce before the drop date that using networking during exams is unethical and you trust them to abide by university ethics.

For other classes:

Get the university to paint a room or two in each classroom building with WiFi- and cell-phone-blocking paint. You'll have to lay new tile and paint the ceilings as well.

Once that's done run a picocell and hotspot to the room for "normal" use but turn both off during exams and turn on a wifi-jammer.

If that's too much, then just coat the room with cell-phone-blocking paint and jam the wifi during exams.

Response from recent graduate (1)

VoiceInTheDesert (1613565) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568596)

Graphic calculators have no networking capability. Depending on what level of physics you're teaching though, some of TI series calculators can do an entire physics test for you...no knowledge or memory required other than memorizing what buttons to push. If you're doing into level stuff, a simple calculator should be fine. If you're doing more advanced stuff, you can allow more powerful calculators, but be aware that most common functions are built into such devices and your tests should reflect this (IE: make them apply a formula, interpret a word problem, etc rather than just solve equations or the only thing you're testing is the ability of the student to push buttons).

A Spark Gap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33568600)

A good, continuous AC spark should throw random noise into just about every radio band, effective jamming any wireless signal from getting in. Problem solved, along with a nice physics demonstration. You could also line the walls with aluminum foil, creating a Faraday Cage, and squash the signals that way. Or do both!

Re:A Spark Gap (1)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568716)

The obvious solution is random AC sparks between the floor and ceiling.

Make it easier to think than to cheat (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33568602)

The way I handle this is putting a lot of problems on the exam. It makes the average score tend to be low (although there are always a few percent that get them all right). But, it spreads out the remainder. I curve the exam to compensate for that.

Students that try to cheat by digging up answers or asking friends will simply run out of time and score very poorly. It is inefficient to cheat.

Some advice (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33568606)

1) Give the students different exams. That's done frequently at several universities (at least in Canada). The questions remain the same but alter the number from say 2.5 to 7.3. Compose say 3 exams and alternate who you give them too.

2) Weigh the assignments more. Or give them enough assignments such that they don't need to cheat. Or a combo of the two. If you can't kill the material, you're doing too much.

3) Ultimately, if you want to know if a student knows a subject, you ask them things on a private interview. Now doing this for each student is time consuming, but it's ultimately the best way.

4) Just relax. Tell them they aren't allowed to network with each other or to their mainframe, and to do otherwise is cheating. Students are in the course cause they want to learn the material. Barring required courses which are dead simple anyway.

Tip: You should also photocopy all your exams when you they get turned in. Or at least photocopy the ones that complain about marks in their assignments. That eliminates the old tied and true method of changing what you wrote after the exam, and then showing the prof.

Tip: Don't leave your studens assignments outside your office to be picked up. Savey D students will pick out the A students of the next year, so that when they take the following course, they have the assignment completed already.

Tip: Give the assignment out, AND give the answer solution to them, at the same time. Yes they could copy it straight out, but students don't tend to do that, they work it out, then look at the solution if they don't know. They learn more. Even if they do just copy, they don't not do it. They learn more than not doing it, and the tudents that reallly want to learn, do it themselves anyway.

Tip: Let them network. If your in a real world engineering company and you don't know something. You had better go ask or consult something that does. To do otherwise would mean you're fired. Guessing in the real world is horrendus, people depend upon this being right.

Slide Rules ONLY!!! (1)

Gim Tom (716904) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568612)

Of course you might have trouble finding anyone who knows how to use one any more!

Really, a very cheep basic calculator with just add, subtract, multiply, divide and maybe square root should be enough for an intro physics class. You can sometimes find them for $1 at dollar stores! If there are trig functions involved you could supply a version of a trig table with selected functions and values. I know I sure didn't have any more than that available 40+ years ago and my trusty log log duplex decitrig.

Of course if you could borrow a nice wide band spectrum analyzer you could get a base line for signal strength and then watch for a big spike during the test! A directional antenna could let you home in on the culprit too!

Non-calculators (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33568618)

The student that uses her ipod as a dictionary needs to contact her support office for some better advice.

No rules. (0, Flamebait)

MikeFM (12491) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568630)

Just let them use whatever they want. However they want to do it it's up to them to get the most they can from their education. It's not educators jobs to be babysitters. Besides we'll have access to these devices on the job so why not in school? I remember teachers saying we couldn't use a calculator because we won't always have a calculator on us in real life. Yeah right - I've had an iTouch on me every day for years and before that a cellphone which had a calculator for many more years. In case of Armageddon I may be screwed but on the job I'm fine

iPad has wireless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33568642)

In other words, it is networked.

Seriously? (1)

sabre307 (451605) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568644)

Have you read /. before? Most of the people on here ARE your students who would use the WiFi to cheat on the exam. Not that they couldn't ace the exam on most days, but they typically stay up too late the night before reading /. and don't get the requisite amount of sleep!

Just do what you get paid to do... (0, Flamebait)

Simonetta (207550) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568650)

Just do what you get paid to do. You get paid to teach people physics. Everything else is just horseshit designed to distract you from your duties. Just teach people physics. That is what people are paying you to do. So just do it.

If they want to use electronic calculators, let them. Until your Korean-teaching ability is better than your physics-teaching ability, don't hassle people for using electronic dictionaries.

Institutions of higher learning put far too much emphasis on grades and ratings and far too less on what they are being paid to do: impart advanced knowledge.

If you are worried that your students are using electronic devices to 'hussle' you into getting a better grade, then you are teaching them at too low a level. Make your curriculum more advanced and go faster in your lectures. The people who are seriously interested in what you do, i.e. the ones who are actually spending time with you to learn physics, will keep up. The rest will go do something more interesting to them.

  Be serious; you're a teacher, so just fucking teach and stop bitching about people's calculators.

ipod as a dictionary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33568654)

dont they yanno....have books that do that? I think they are call dictionaries..

Take a page from the ETS. (4, Insightful)

wickerprints (1094741) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568664)

Look toward standardized testing practices for how to conduct tests in a rigorous and fair manner. Quite simply, the rules and expectations for the course should be clearly stated at the outset. Don't wait until the exams come around to drop the bomb. Tell them that you expect them to use a calculator that is on an approved list. No other electronic devices will be permitted. All other possessions not explicitly allowed must be placed at the front of the room, and any mobile devices must be turned OFF. No "vibrate." Watches are permitted but cannot have an alarm function. If they need translation, that's too bad; the ETS does not offer to administer mathematics tests in the language of the examinee's choosing. This is a college level course, with lectures in English. You don't provide lecture notes in twenty languages. It is the student's responsibility to become sufficiently proficient in the English language in order to continue their studies. That may put them at a disadvantage, but we don't try to equalize the playing field for someone who hasn't learned calculus.

Education necessarily requires that some students have to work harder--sometimes, much harder--than others to achieve the same proficiency level as others. That is not being unfair, that is just the way life is.

College Policy? (2, Informative)

dcollins (135727) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568668)

Community-college math instructor here (CUNY). The first thing I'd ask is: What's the policy (if any) at the college level? Here I'm supported by an official, clear-cut policy at the college level: all electronic communication/media devices have to be shut off and put away while in a classroom (a policy I enforce strictly during tests).

So basically that means dedicated calculators and nothing else -- square root function required minimum in my stats class. I think that's an inexpensive requirement, they're like $1 at Staples or something? Graphing calculators okay for the rare student who has one. The few students with electronic dictionaries I see are small dedicated devices for that, and that's allowed. But phones as calculators, totally prohibited; iPod media player as calculator (or anything), totally prohibited. Not absolutely foolproof, but pretty clear to me.

Change the way you test (1)

kawabago (551139) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568670)

Design an exam that tests the understanding of the students instead of specific knowledge. To go a step further make the student choose some factor that will make each exam unique so they can't collaborate to solve one problem.

wow.... (0, Troll)

metalmaster (1005171) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568698)

I cannot believe the "english only" vibe of this crowd. Its rather harsh considering there's no official language of the US. I cant speak for private universities, but for any state and or federally funded school culture shouldnt be offended or punished.

Anyways, as far as the topic is concerned, I would consider making the method part of the correct answer. After all, if the problem is complex enough or requires the use of a particular theory of equation Its not going to come from the top of your head. Googling a question or using an online calculator might give you an answer, but I have seen very few that will break down the process for you. If there are questions for which the answers can be regurgitated, set an appropriate timeline. Students may find some of the answers through references, but they wouldnt have time to look up everything. As someone mentioned previously, I dont know many jobs that require you to have all the answers without having reference materials

Hold the test in a computer lab (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33568714)

where everybody is sitting in front of a school-owned PC with dictionaries and calculator software installed. Yank the WAN cord out of the router.

El-cheapo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33568718)

No matter how you try to block signal, you will never prevent people from creating ad-hoc networks and exchanging information. And as you mentioned in your post, it's kind of hard to keep track of all the new guizmo and their capabilities. From my point of view, it seems like you found the solution yourself. No electronic device of any sort, except the calculator you provide.

Sure, it's unfair for those with super-computer calculators, but then, isn't it unfair for those who can't afford them? As long as they know in advance what they will be using, if they feel it will be a major obstacle for them, they can always practice.

Another solution would be to ask for solution steps only, rather than an actual answer. After all, physics is all about concepts and not so much the monkey number cranking.

Any excuse is pointless... dictionary? Give me a break, it's a physics exam in an English (or whatever the language) school. You should have the basic language mastery to understand the questions, and the minimal vocabulary to explain your solution. Worse case, they can always ask for clarification, make assumptions, etc.

No calculators (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33568720)

I am convinced that every single physics concept can be successfully tested WITHOUT a calculator (e.g.: calculators may not be used on the physics GRE)... who cares what the final *number* is... numbers are for homework!

Most of my grad exams required that I showed all work, and left the answer as a simplified expression containing the relevant variables and physical constants. If a number is critical, have them do a ballpark estimate.. instruct to round all physical constants to 1 significant figure (pi = 3, e = 3, etc.) and use scientific notation.

Pen. (5, Informative)

drolli (522659) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568722)

I hold a PHD in physics.

-A pen is enough. In physics exams students should prove they can transform formulas symbolically. Typing in number can be done by people at the cashier desk. Graphing calculators are a disease.

-Everybody who wants, can take in a standalone mp3-player - these are cheap.

-Regarding the dictionary - these exist in paper and are cheap - and faster than an ipod.

Most important: who uses sophistication to cheat and i caught should be removed from the studies immediately.

Just say no. (4, Informative)

duffbeer703 (177751) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568738)

If you can't hack using a standard 4 function calculator, than you can't hack physics either.

I also hate to be rude, but most universities require that students speak and read english. While I can appreciate the fact that a Korean may not have the best grasp of written English, I also think it that individual's responsibility to learn the language or work outside of class to create notes in his or her native language. I sat through a number of situations in school where I was struggling with difficult material while foreign students were either talking during exams in their language, "sharing calculators" or similar, blatant examples of cheating that went unchallenged due to the political situation at the university.

After being written up in the campus newspaper, one professor "took a stand" by curving everyone's grade up one letter grade, essentially bribing the class into submission.

Make internet worthless (2, Interesting)

lavagolemking (1352431) | more than 4 years ago | (#33568746)

Basically, just make the test in a way that looking something up on the internet won't do any good. No need to jam/disable the wireless signal or restrict use of electronic devices to specific models.

I had an instructor who gave tests online and made it very difficult to cheat. For vocabulary, she either gave the definition or a contextual example, which wasn't something someone can just look up in Google. For extended response questions, I hear it is pretty easy to catch students who cheated after the fact; their work is inconsistent with what they submitted in the past and sometimes there are clues you can use to your advantage. For example, I had a Spanish teacher in high school who would call out students who used grammar structures not yet covered (such as past-subjunctive tense) in their take-home papers, a sign that someone else wrote the paper for them. He would politely ask the student a few questions about the grammar used in their paper. If they were able to explain "normally when referring to multiple subjects, you combine the last two with the conjunction 'y', but if the first letter of the word immediately following it is 'i' or 'y', you change 'y' to 'e'," but if they clearly didn't understand why it was used in their paper, it was a sign they cheated, and those students couldn't usually explain anything in their paper (in English).

Needless to say, don't make multiple choice tests identical, and if you proctor an exam at multiple times don't give the same version. If you think they're getting answers from an unethical "tutor", then I'm not really sure what you could do but I'd would be willing to bet there isn't a lot of "reasonable expectation to privacy" if you look over their shoulder for instant messages as long as you don't get the IT department to route their traffic through a squid proxy or something.

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