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Norway Trying Out Laptops For High School Exams 120

Posted by timothy
from the high-school-unmusical dept.
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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Norway Trying Out Laptops For High School Exams

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  • 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 :-)

  • Well... (Score:5, Informative)

    by XPeter (1429763) * on Sunday May 03, 2009 @08:43PM (#27811015) Homepage

    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: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by slimjim8094 (941042)

      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.

      • I wonder what the liability of the school would be if your cellphone came up missing...

        • by luigi517 (1169353)
          are you kidding me? none, they make a huge stink here about not even allowing you to carry your cellphone off in your backpack during school, so they'll just claim you were in violation of the rules and not take any responsibility
    • 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.

    • by crazyvas (853396)

      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....

    • by kandela (835710)
      Yeah, the Norway system sounds much better. I can see it now: 'Um, excuse me miss but my exam won't install.' 'Oh, I'll just call tech support. Which operating system and hardware are you running?'
  • only on some exams.. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 03, 2009 @08:43PM (#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 )

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 03, 2009 @10:25PM (#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.

      • by meyekul (1204876)
        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-
      • by Kjella (173770)

        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. An

      • by EnsilZah (575600)

        I think projects are the way to go.
        I'm not sure how to apply it to all subjects though.
        When I was in highschool we had the option to work on a safe-cracking and designing project for extra credit in physics based on physical principles like the properties of light, electricity and the like.
        We also had the option to work on a robot that navigates through a maze to blow out a candle for extra credit in electronics.
        And we had a final project that you could do instead of the control systems test based on your o

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Narpak (961733)
      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 multipl
      • 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

    • by lxs (131946)

      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

    • 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.

    • by Patch86 (1465427)

      The worst (best?) part of more open-style exams are that they favour students with a good grasp of language, regardless of the subject being tested.

      In England & Wales, there is an emphasis (especially in post-compulsory education, such as A Levels) on essay-based exams. As someone who was comfortable with English, I always had quite an easy time getting a decent mark, even if I wasn't too great at the subject. Students far better than me at the subject would often score worse than me due to a not-so-gre

  • Tweaks to the System (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rtb61 (674572) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @08:46PM (#27811041) Homepage

    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.

    • 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.

    • by artor3 (1344997) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @09:57PM (#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.

      • by rolfwind (528248)

        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: (Score:3, Informative)

          It is /exceptionally/ easy to tell if you are running in a virtualized machine environment, be it Xen, VMware, Parallels, VirtualBox.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by blueg3 (192743)

            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.

            • 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.

          • by omglolbah (731566)

            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 ^.^

      • by dkf (304284)

        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.

      • by PhotoGuy (189467)

        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.

        And the network drivers would work with every laptop? That seems hard to believe, unless those personal laptops were standar

    • 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

  • 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: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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 (Score:5, Funny)

    by googlesmith123 (1546733) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @08:59PM (#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: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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.

      • 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.
      • by Meski (774546)

        fail to compile == fail. Got to love that, on pen and paper.

    • by qleem (1410935)
      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 (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 03, 2009 @09:55PM (#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.

      • by Jared555 (874152)

        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.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        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.

        • by kandela (835710)
          Ah, but the programs on tests are usually quite simple. If you need to put a loop in you can usually see that before you start writing. The fact that it is difficult to add a loop later means you take longer on the test BUT this is a good thing because it separates the students with good foresight and planning from those who aren't as good.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by brianez21 (945805)

      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.

      • 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 ar

        • 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: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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.

    • by MarkRose (820682)

      And how do you compile the code? Do you tear it up in to bite size pieces and masticate a while?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Chees0rz (1194661)
      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 assem
    • by omglolbah (731566)

      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*

    • That's right, in my computer science class we also wrote programs with pencil on paper. The compiling was the hard part as most people didn't know origami.
  • Money Saver (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sir Holo (531007) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @09:10PM (#27811199)
    This will be a real money-saver, because paper is becoming very expensive.
    • by Aehgts (972561)
      There was another group in the news recently who were also replacing paper with computers [slashdot.org].
      • by Munsonc (1542271)
        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.
  • 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.

    • by Jared555 (874152)

      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... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gcnaddict (841664) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @09:34PM (#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?
  • by www.sorehands.com (142825) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @09:36PM (#27811361) Homepage

    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.

    • I doubt that the amount of computer error will ever surpass the amount of human error in paper exams.
      • by Jared555 (874152)

        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.

    • by timothy (36799) Works for Slashdot

      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? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by antikristian (856519) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @09:51PM (#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: (Score:2, Funny)

      by maxume (22995)

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

      Sometimes, security goes all the way to 11.

    • by Firehed (942385)

      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

      • by Jared555 (874152)

        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)

  • by NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) on Sunday May 03, 2009 @09:56PM (#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.

    • by Jared555 (874152)

      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.

    • 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.

  • Windows lock-in? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hansrodtang (1546775)
    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.
    • 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.
      • "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.

      • I know of all this, I live in Norway. I am talking about nationally, not small local SkoleLinux experiments. Macs are only for students on the "Media and Communications" line.
    • by mutu310 (1546975)
      BSOD anyone? :)
  • Why not? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BigRics44 (1546803)
    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 ti
  • 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: (Score:2, Insightful)

      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?

      • 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

      • Handwriting faster than typing? Not true for dysgraphic people, either, for that matter.

  • 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.

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

  • Gotta love it.. I remember being TI-83s to work with in Math and that was a trip! Now having a laptop to take a test.. this makes me feel good on the inside. I could see it working out as well due to the whole open book approach. :)

"We learn from history that we learn nothing from history." -- George Bernard Shaw

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