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Monday, January 13, 2014

Teaching Assistant Unions Had Better Be Ready...

...because a threat to Teaching Assistants' relevance may be about to arrive on the scene. The title of this post at The Good Drone says it all:
Ridiculous: School uses drone surveillance to stop students from cheating in exams
If that doesn't sum it up enough, the post also links to this video:

While in Dutch, the video's point is clear: drones may be used to fly over students heads during exams to ensure that they are not cheating on tests.

Admittedly, using drones in small classrooms like the one in the video may seem silly. But in a larger lecture hall, administrations might think that drones are a helpful way to deter cheating by far-away students.

Some of the more obvious concerns about using drones in this way include the distraction to students that these flying machines may cause. Additionally, there is a risk that drones may crash, meaning that schools need to account for students' physical safety, and the integrity of exams that are interrupted by drone crashes.

While I have only supervised one major exam as a teaching assistant, I think another, less-obvious drawback for using drones during exams will be the drones' inability to answer questions. As I paced the auditorium where my class's exam took place, I did not observe any cheating, but my presence made many students realize that I could possibly clarify questions they had about the exam. Drones may be able to ensure honesty on exams, but as long as they cannot answer students' questions, I think that most teaching assistants in undergraduate courses will retain their employment.

But law school exams -- which do not have teaching assistants and where there tend to be far fewer questions about exams -- might be the ideal proving ground for this new technology.

UPDATE - January 15, 2014

I have learned that the video above was a hoax, meant to highlight some of the more ridiculous arguments in the debate over drone use. Despite this, I will not remove this post, since even though this video is a hoax, it may still end up giving drone enthusiasts ideas. Moreover, I think that my law school point is still particularly relevant, and nothing would amuse me more than using a drone to oversee an exam on criminal procedure.

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