My colleague cariaso is in Thailand for a few months, teaching computer skills to refugee and impoverished children. He shared his final exam with me – and I was struck by the first question:

1. What is a harpsichord?

Keep in mind, we’re on the Thai / Burmese border. These kids have some English … but certainly not ‘harpsichord’ level English … and this is a final exam. So what is the point? The point is that it would be stone cold impossible to study for this exam in any traditional sense … but if he’s done his job, then this and other basic definition level questions are beyond trivial. What he’s testing, after several months of exploring the internet with these kids, is whether the core idea of the information age has stuck in their heads.

As The Matrix put it:

“Can you fly that thing?”

“Not yet.”

He proceeded to a couple of others. One of my favorites was “What city is this? (link to a google maps location)”.

Finally, at the end, there were the basic office skills questions I was sort of expecting to see up front. “Make a google document with this information, and share it with me.”

I think that we may finally be living in the future, when refugee kids halfway around the world no longer have to say “I don’t know,” but instead, “let me google that.”

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