College vs. Real World (part 2): Meaningful Work


(Originally, I had planned on waiting to write this part 2 post until my English teacher had gotten back to me with her reflection of our meeting, but that didn’t really happen and I’ve had new thoughts.)

Today an at least 4 year student kept secret was revealed.

There is a website called BrainGeine that is like Khan Academy or any other online tool used to give students sample problems and keep track of their progress. At MVPS this tool often gets used in math classes. Well, students apparently figured out a way to hack the system in order to do what school would define only as “cheating”. I still don’t exactly understand how people cheat on it, but I know it has something to do with only finding the answer to one problem then getting it to give you that same problem every time.

A senior today said that this has been happening for a while where students would do this instead of actually completing all of the problems; however, apparently the teachers didn’t know it was even possible to cheat on BrainGenie until today when a student in my class mentioned it out of personal guilt for cheating on a few for the first time, thinking the teacher already knew. Once the first teacher found out, she talked to the other teachers about it as well, so now everyone knows and is not happy about it.

Obviously the teacher wanted to do something about these kids who cheated which leads to the next problem: how do you tell who did the work? Well, BrainGenie times you each time you do a section, so clearly the people who finished 33 sections (which should be at lest 4 problem each if you get them all right in a row) in 27 seconds didn’t do the work. These people were all sent an email today saying that they are suspected of cheating and will get a 0 for those grades unless they can prove that they can actually do those math problems that fast while in front of her.

I don’t agree with cheating, but as a teacher of mine also pointed out, it is impressive that the students were able to create this sort of culture where students were smart enough to find a way to cheat, and then it is also impressive that it has been kept a secret for so long.

Now the thing is that there are 3 types of people in this situation:

1. The people who did the work all the way through.

2. The people who did none of the work (thus now getting a 0).

3. The people who did most of the work but then found the work pointless to continue because they knew the information and it was simply time consuming, yet they wanted a good grade so they cheated. ( It is only for a completion grade by the way, but you have to get a certain number correct to pass a skill.)

I personally think the people that didn’t even try should have seen this coming, (because it isn’t hard to learn that people who break rules are always caught, and usually punished accordingly), but I understand where these 3rd types of people come from.

I hate BrainGenies just as much as everyone else. The assignments aren’t always relevant, there are occasionally incorrect answers, sometimes you have to write out more work then needed (so they aren’t efficient), you have to write the answer a certain way (if you write 1/2 instead of .5 that can be wrong sometimes), and overall if I understand something well, I would rather move on and spend my time doing other work.

Specifically other more meaningful work.

Last weekend our #IDreads article, which we discussed yesterday during our traffic meeting, was For Students, the Importance of Doing Work that Matter by Will Richardson. This article talks about how “it doesn’t matter” is often the response his children give him when talking about their school work. This frustrates Richardson because he has traveled to schools around the world and has seen lots of examples of “work that matters” being done by students, so it is possible for school work to “matter”. Richardson defines “work that matters”, as work that “has significance beyond classroom walls; it’s work that is created for an authentic audience who might enjoy it or benefit from it even in a small way. It’s work that isn’t simply passed to the teacher for a grade, or shared with peers for review. It’s work that potentially makes a difference in the world.”

This cheating incident made me think: School wants for students to think that their work matters, but if work that we do is worth cheating on, is it really meaningful work? If it isn’t meaningful, then why do we do it?

Furthermore, I watched a TEDxTeen Talk today called Forget What you Know by child Jacob Barnett. Jacob was diagnosed with autism at age 2, and was always being told that he wouldn’t be able to learn and needed to go to special ed. classes. However, he claims that while he had stopped learning, he started thinking and that is why he was able to get accepted into college at age 10, and set a world record being the youngest astrophysics researcher ever, and had his paper published by Physical Review A, a scientific journal shared on sites such as NASA, the Smithsonian, and Harvard’s webpage. He talks about Einstein and Newton, who are both people that shaped our current maths and sciences, and yet they were not in school for various reasons. “It isn’t that they are geniuses, they were just able to make the transition from learning to thinking to creating.”

My interpretation of this talk was that school doesn’t foster people’s individual perspectives on thinking which is where innovations come from.

At the end of his talk, Jacob challenges everyone to take 24 hours to STOP learning and start thinking. I don’t know if I entirely agree with the wording of this statement because often when you think you learn something, but I like the idea of stopping to take time and just think. However, with school we never have this time.

In ID right now we are having a hard time really dedicating ourselves to designing our room because  we have finals coming up and 6 other periods to juggle, and it’s a lot to concentrate on. I really don’t like finals because they basically are just preparing you for long test you will take, where?— in college. It always comes back to college…

In ID our goal is to only work on things that our meaningful to us, but for a majority of my work at school, I don’t find it meaningful, and I don’t understand why we spend time on work that isn’t authentic and impactful. Does it even have a purpose? The answer we always get is “it’s for college”, but what about after that?


4 thoughts on “College vs. Real World (part 2): Meaningful Work

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