Saturday, July 18, 2009

On guys who know things: Einstein was a patent clerk, sort of...

In an article titled The Rise Of Techno-Cheating & Fall Of Memorization [which contained survey results on how teens cheat at school using cell phones], there was an interesting COMMENT:

In NO industry is collaboration considered cheating. Only in SCHOOL is this a problem. What are we teaching our kids?

I'm an employer. I want my employees reaching out and building networks of people that can help them. I struggle with this whole 'that's cheating' attitude. It's something I need to UNTEACH my employees. It does NOT matter to me if you know how to do something, it matters to me that you can figure out how to do it. Most businesses, especially information based, need employees who know how to find and apply information, not that have a repository of facts in their heads. We are creating everything new – NO ONE knows how to do the things many companies deal with on a daily basis unless you are a clerk of some kind. We are figuring it all out on the fly. Building alliances, search skills, knowing where and how to find information – all these are what's valuable.

The argument that school, memorization, and solitary work teaches you how to think is absolutely wrong. If we really want to teach people how to think, we should have a class called How To Think, not Ancient Greek History. You don't teach thinking skills by forcing 30 people to memorize the same names, dates, and events. You do it by teaching principles, and by teaching directly the actual skills the education system claims to want to create.

We need more 'How to Think', 'How to Collaborate', 'How to Negotiate', 'How to Resolve Conflict' and less 'Memorize a bunch of stuff for a test'

Thinking back to the days at Exxon's Corporate Research, it was absolutely true that collaboration was encouraged, BUT when it was time for rating and ranking, the first question was "who REALLY did that?"

The commenter continued:

Plagiarism is an exception. Passing off someone elses work as your own is clearly wrong. But forcing kids to memorize facts and not giving them what's truly important – that is to say thinking skills is the big problem here.

Thinking about plagiarism some more. I'm always telling my employees to research before writing – cobble together a collection of other people's work and give me an opinion. Build on whats already out there, don't start from scratch.

The text -- Build on whats already out there, don't start from scratch. -- goes to the heart of the patent system. Issued patents (and most applications) are published, for the purposes of letting people know "what's already out there." Yet, of course, various IT people tell employees NOT to read patents. If there is a problem with the patent system, a good starting point is with people that don't read patents (and/or) publications.

And, one recalls the story of the graduation speech at Palo Alto High School copied from an earlier one at Mountain View. That was not an opinion about "what was out there," it was taking credit for what was out there. Yet, places like TechDirt viewed this event more as a collaboration, or (euphemism) "re-imagination." [See previous IPBiz posts:
Plagiarism at PALY High (Palo Alto, CA)
[Sadly, the Mercury-News has removed the story linked to by IPBiz (another example of why "linking alone" is not enough] and

TechDirt: plagiarism as re-imagination and collaboration

Going back to the original article, about cheating -->

According to the poll, more than a third of teens with cell phones (35 percent) admit to cheating at least once with them, and two-thirds of all teens (65 percent) say others in their school cheat with them.

Of the teens who admit to cheating with their cell phones, 26 percent say they store information on their phone to look at during a test, 25 percent text friends about answers during a test, 17 percent take pictures of the test to send to friends, and 20 percent search the internet for answers during tests using their phones.

Also, nearly half (48 percent) of teens with cell phones call or text their friends to warn them about pop quizzes.

What's more, just over half of students polled (52 percent) admitted to some form of cheating involving the internet.


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