October 2010 Archives

Exam as a Turing Test

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One way that the hybrid class helps us learn the course material is that it provides a means or vehicle for us to have a conversation about specific issues relevant to the field we are studying. In the hybrid class it is not simply learning or memorizing terms, definitions and concepts for the sake of passing an exam. We learn the terms, definitions and concept so we can discuss what we are learning with others. And so we can hear when we have to say allowing us to explore our own ideas from an informed and educated perspective. And for the most part, the students are doing a good job of it with the posts they are submitting each week.

I tell my students that a text book on psychology is not psychology any more than a book on blackjack is blackjack. Blackjack is something people do through their experiences and interactions. Therefore, we need to learn the terms, definitions and concepts if we want to go out and play blackjack so we can truly know what the game is. The same is true for any field of psychology, the text book only describes something people and scientist are doing and discussing. In the hybrid class we are learning psychology by talking about it through our blog writings.

We can think of the blog posts as small conversations that build us up to a few larger conversations which will be evaluated in the context of an exam (essay questions). Because this class has a significant divergent component to it, allowing each student the ability to customize aspects of the learning of the material into the larger conversation, the essay questions are cast broad enough to allow the student some degree of freedom in how they choose to respond to the question. However, when responding to the question, the student should keep in mind that he or she is not simply answering the question. The student is using the question as an opportunity to have a conversation with the teacher which will demonstrate the extent and degree of learning and understanding he or she has of the field up to this point in their education.

When asked what I am looking for in an essay response, I tell the students about the Turing test. The Turing test was a challenge to computer designers and programmers to develop an intelligent computer that acts so human that a person cannot determine if they interacting with a human or a computer. The Turing test I give my students is for them to convince me that they are students that have been actively engaged and interested in a topic to the extent that they have something meaningful to say about it. Not just a person who showed up to pass an exam.

After reading the essay, I ask myself was it written by a student who has been in the class all along and understands the material or some person that is simply responding to the question? In my mind the student's paper will go beyond simply answering the question and will use it as an opportunity to showcase what they know. A student will use terms and concepts that we are learning in class. A student will make it unequivocal that they understand the terms and concepts they are using in their essay by including definitions and examples as they write. The student will refer the back to videos, news pieces, personal experiences, other courses they have taken and the books they have read when they respond to the essay questions.

Elephant Pronounces 7 Words in Korean

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How does this relate to what we are studying about language? What other animals have been thought to produce words/language? Does the fact that the elephant says words mean that it has language? What would it take to convince you that elephants talk? Do you think this is simply a result of reinforcement?