Photo by Jose Fontano on Unsplash

Today, my students and I got to try out the beta test of the “locking quizzes” feature in Google Forms/Google Classroom. Without revealing too much, the “locking” feature forces the Google Form to expand and fill the entire screen of a student when they open a quiz. This blocks them from attempting to open other tabs or cheat. If the student “leaves” the quiz and opens it back up again, the teacher is notified.

We had a vocab test to take anyway, and my students, with my full blessing, did everything in their power to break through the lock. They signed in under a Guest account, they tried to screenshot, they tried every keyboard shortcut they knew. To no avail. Nothing would let them cheat. We had a fun day, and I loved using the feature. It was a neat tool.

I KNOW! Clutch your pearls, eduheroes! When the feature was first announced at ISTE 2018, a dozen think pieces were published about how

  • it doesn’t inspire critical thinking
  • multiple choice exams are DOK 1
  • if a student can Google the answer then teachers weren’t asking the right questions

Edu-twitter exploded with people clamoring over themselves to disapprove of the feature. The hottest of hot takes were misguided at best and condescending at their very worst. The common thread throughout implied “if you’re a teacher who wants this feature, you’re lazy and unmotivated.”

Before today, I had access to GoGuardian on my students’ Chromebooks. I could see their screens, lock them remotely, block entire sets of websites…etc. I seldom use it. During tests throughout the first half of the year, I watched my students cheat on their No Red Ink exams and vocabulary exams and 8.-something something CCSS exams. The students knew that I defended their right to Google during exams, and it didn’t help them!

I tried to convince them that they knew the answers to these questions, they didn’t need to cheat. For many of them, searching what a reflexive pronoun is on Google didn’t give them the ability to use it in a sentence. It was a security blanket that rarely worked out. The ability to block their tabs was a culture building exercise, a digital “taking the training wheels off.” I framed it as confidence building, and we had a great day.

Shockingly, I posit that there are certain aspects of curriculum and content that can’t be assessed with a 3D Printer. Perhaps there are situations where locking a Google Form would be helpful? Perhaps, it’s possible to create DOK 2 questions or Google forms that push and challenge students? Maybe it’s possible to demand an ounce of the same test security protocols that technocrats have no issue giving to standardized testing corporations.

It’s a tool in a teacher’s utility belt, possibly the Twitter edu-disruptors can take a moment and maybe trust us to use it correctly.