7/09/2014

Open Book Tests - Search Mojo

When you're young and in school, they tests you all the time.  How well did you memorize the subject material.  What I liked were the open book tests.  Because if you were resourceful, patient and knew where to look, you had a good chance to get a good score.  If you are tested on memorization, you have to know every possible question the teach may ask.  So you fill your brain with a random series of facts, you hold on to that information just long enough to pass the test, then it's gone forever.  What did you learn?  How to pass a test.

Working in IT as a programmer, it's kind of like taking an open book test.  Sure, it helps to know the foundation of what you're doing, but if you run into trouble, you can always reference the great search engines in the sky.  The all knowing.  The great encyclopedia of facts and information.

Similar to open book tests as a youth, what happens is the process of looking up the information, you actually learn the material and retain it longer.  The info doesn't evaporate the minute after turning in the test to be graded.  And that's a great feature about programming, nobody know everything, but when you need an answer, there are places to go for assistance.  It's kind of like pass/fail exam, you either find your answer or you don't.

People don't recognize the skill of searching for answers on the web.  In an interview, do they ever ask you how you solve a problem which you don't know the answer?  No, they ask you fact based questions, how do you accomplish this, what is the specific syntax for doing this, how many years have you done this?  Search Mojo.  It should be on technical people's resumes.  How fast can you find the answer to this technical problem, what steps do you take to narrow down your search, how do you know if the article on the web is correct, what are you major sources of information for looking up solutions?

I'm just saying that memorization skills are great, but in the world of programming, you really need to solve problems using any methods available at the right time.  Is that cheating?  I would think not.  So why does the school system place so much emphasis on memorizing facts?  Perhaps this explains the shortage of creative minds, problem solvers and lack of STEM graduates today.  Perhaps there should be more open book tests.  And perhaps the schools should teach people how to fish, so they can survive on the job, because we've all run into issues that have no easy solution and it takes a bit of "search mojo" to get you to the answer.

Just saying~!

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