There was a time in the past when I regularly attended a local pub quiz. It was an excellent excuse to show off my ‘so-called’ intelligence, mixed with a little bit of Guinness of course. Indeed, this became more of a social event but still I wanted my team to win, was disappointed when we didn’t. I was a teacher, for goodness sake; I knew a lot about…well…things.
The novelty soon wore off though and it has been years since I visited any pub during the week, for any reason, never mind for a pub quiz. That changed the other week when, in celebration of the beginning of the summer holidays, I returned to the challenge – to the land of the trivia-obsessed. It was an interesting experience.
You could say that things have changed somewhat. First of all, every team achieved a remarkably high score in what seemed to me to be fairly challenging subject rounds. Has the nation’s intelligence increased since I was last there? Has our thirst for trivia become an obsession.
Secondly, there were a remarkable number of visits to the toilet during rounds. Were we more concerned, worried, fearful of our quizzing performance or do we merely drink too much? Needless to say my team did not win.
The team which did, however, was full of teachers. They had been using their phones to search for answers – as were most people there it has to be said – and were quite happy for this to be known. The irony wasn’t lost on me. The rise of the smart phone has changed our view of information and how we access it. From the brick like ‘Richard Gere in Pretty Woman’ monster phones we had back in the day to the mini computers which can do everything, it seems that access to this information has changed everywhere except in schools. It is becoming something of a joke.
Sugata Mitra claims that the point of education is to get information to kids as quickly as possible in order to get to the point where they can really begin to learn. His ‘child-centred education’ claims that students can learn for themselves and much of what we do in school bores them. We spend our time transferring information which they can get on their phones.
Our approach to formal assessment seems to be so outdated that even pub quizzes are showing it up. The irony of a team of teachers winning a pub quiz by accessing the answers on their smart phones shouldn’t be lost on us. The kids I teach can access everything which is blocked to them in the classroom by stepping outside into the corridor to use their phones. They can access Facebook and Youtube and Twitter and possibly the answer to every question we are currently asking in school.
So, If we are to engage our young people in a lifetime of learning we must stop ignoring the ways that they access information. ‘Why do I need a teacher when I’ve got google?’ asked Ian Gilbert. It is a serious question. The time has come to stop flogging this dead horse and start helping them use information in the correct way. Teachers have cottoned on to that outside of the class. If we don’t then our exams will continue to be tests of memory. Like a pub quiz. But ten years ago.