Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Cell phones during exams? YES!

All of my Spanish II and III students used cell phones on their final exams this year. And I was so proud of them!

They had been using their cell phones (specifically, QR code scanning apps like this one) all semester to access listening and reading resources. I wrote an earlier post about the benefits of doing this. The final exam, of course, had a hefty interpretive proficiency section as well as speaking and writing prompt, so the students were really just continuing to do what they had been doing for months in class.


The Spanish III students chose three of four interpretive resources (one song, one commercial, a news article with video support, and an infographic) to read, watch, or hear, and then responded to short answer and cloze questions. The Spanish II students all did the same interpretive prompts: one commercial, one song, and one infographic. They brought headphones to the exam and proceeded just as they had done in the many previous in-class activities in which they used their phones. 

To prevent any "misunderstandings" about the expectations for using the cell phones appropriately during the exam period, I prepared my students with practice exam activities and told them what was and was not allowed on the exam. I also printed clear instructions on the exam packet that indicated when cell phone use was okay and when they had to put away their phones. As with any exam, the other proctor and I watched the students closely to make sure they were not behaving in a way that violated the rules. 

The type of questions I asked on the exam also made cheating pointless and difficult. For example, there was built-in differentiation. For an infographic rife with vocabulary about the myriad effects of cell phone use on human health, I asked students to identify three phrases in Spanish that referred to physical effects and psychological effects; there were many words in this infographic that students could choose from, so there was little pressure to have one right answer when there were many. I also asked questions that were difficult to Google (at least, not quickly). For several of the resources, students were asked to interpret (not translate) the resource in English, and then indicate the Spanish phrases in the text that supported their interpretation. Other questions asked students to find examples of specific verb tenses or moods studied during the school year and explain how and why they were used in a certain context. 

This was the first time I had allowed students to use cell phones on a major exam--for that matter, it was the first time I had been allowed to do so. And it was fantastic. I was able to assess my students in the same way I had been assessing them for months. The students knew what was expected of them, thought the test was fair, and performed according to their potential. They knew that I trusted them, and they didn't disappoint me. I think that counts as success for everyone involved.



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