What is 45,689 divided by 67?
Can you answer that in your head?
Arnav Kapur, a student at MIT’s Media Lab in Massachusetts, can. And not because he’s a maths genius. But because he has the ability to google questions silently, with his mind.
Kapur has developed the technology which allows him to ask the internet questions, and then hear the answers through vibrations transmitted through his skull and into his inner ear.
Arnav Kapur, a student in MIT’s Media Lab, has developed a system to surf the internet with his mind. He silently Googled our questions and heard the answers through vibrations transmitted through his skull and into his inner ear. pic.twitter.com/aN76Jn4AHv— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) April 22, 2018
But, what does the technology mean for education?
As one vice principal pointed out, the ramifications of this type of technology could be huge for our exam system.
Makes the exam system a bit challenging if they succeed in moisturizing the tech further— Paul Norman FCCT (@paulsnorman) April 23, 2018
Deputy headteacher and computer teacher, Julian Wood, says that the technology signals a future with either no exams, or a radical rethink in how pupils are assessed.
Wood says: “This [technology] could lead to an inverted pyramid of results. You wouldn't have those pupils who had a great memory or knowledge retention topping tables but those pupils who can think creatively, who are good at problem-solving, artistic pupils and those that can think outside the box.
“Google, apparently, has stopped taking British graduates because they aren't 'left thinking enough', and some argue that this is because of the current National Curriculum heavily leaning towards knowledge and facts."
The technology would mean that teachers are liberated from teaching facts, says Wood, and instead, they could focus on skills, thinking, creativity and problem-solving.
Miles Berry, a principal lecturer in Computing Education at the Univeristy of Roehamption, agrees. He says that the continued development of these kinds of devices could lead to revolution of the exams system – but in a good way.
“I don’t doubt that the first reaction of schools, and the JCQ, will be to ban devices like these as soon as they appear, but perhaps it should give us pause to consider what should be tested, given that arithmetic and looking up facts is now so easily automatable.
“Yes knowledge matters, but perhaps it’s the application of that knowledge to solve novel problems which makes for a better exam, and maybe a better education.”
Specialist leader in education at Exa Foundation, Alan O’Donohoe, says that this technology could be particularly useful for those with additional needs: “Sufferers of ‘locked-in syndrome’ and other disabilities might wholeheartedly welcome this technology.”
But O’Donohoe says that we’re a long way from seeing that in reality.
“While it’s entertaining to imagine the possibilities in exams, I think it may be folly to entertain an exam hall situation where thought scanning technology could be used to not only read your thoughts, but those of other candidates too when the English exam system is still trying to accommodate allowing students access to a keyboard instead of a pen.
“Perhaps in 100 - 150 years once the technology has suitably advanced, the exam boards might consider as a concession allowing candidates to think answers rather than handwrite them?”, he asks.