Daily Tedium

U Can’t Touch This

Apple’s Touch Bar is proving problematic for the North Carolina Bar. It’s the latest such example of tech's drumbeat unwittingly making it easier to cheat.

By Ernie Smith

Our computers are becoming so sophisticated that they might just include built-in cheating functionality—even if it’s not really intended. Which should make life pretty interesting for teachers and assessment boards.

Today’s example involves Apple’s modestly useful Touch Bar, which was met with a modest level of derision when it was first announced in September. Sensing a problem, the Board of Law Examiners of the State of North Carolina recently announced that it would require people taking the bar to turn off the Touch Bar, out of concern that it would allow users to cheat.

“If you are planning to use the newest version of the Mac Book Pro with Touch Bar, you will be required to disable the Touch Bar feature prior to entry into the Bar Examination Site,” the board stated on its website.

The Touch Bar, as 9To5Mac explains, is designed to offer context when typing in commands and searching, something that is usually a good thing, but is problematic when you’re testing students on what they remember rather than what their computer can automatically tell them.

There is a long history of technology disrupting the way that we learn or take tests—as I pointed out in 2015, when I discussed the phenomenon of the graphing calculator, which taught me more about playing games than it did calculus. It’s a challenging question to figure out: How do we balance useful technology with the need to test our knowledge?

But let's face it, cheating is in our blood, whether we want to admit it or not. If given an out, we’ll find a way to cheat.

(Thanks Zaid Al-Timimi for the excellent tip.)

Ernie Smith

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Ernie Smith is the editor of Tedium, and an active internet snarker. Between his many internet side projects, he finds time to hang out with his wife Cat, who's funnier than he is.

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