Miss, can I phone a friend?

Phoning friends, using iPods, and looking things up on the internet, have all become acceptable methods of achieving your pass mark in a pioneering experiment in Australia.

The project is being run by teacher Diedre Coleman and carried out by Year Nine (15-year-old) English students at Presbyterian Ladies' College in Croydon, Sydney. By the end of the year, the scheme will be expanded to all subjects.

Ms Coleman said her students were being encouraged to access information from the internet, their mobile phones and podcasts played on MP3s as part of a series of 40-minute tasks. But to discourage plagiarism, they are required to cite all sources they use.

Not cheating, but researching

"In terms of preparing them for the world, we need to redefine our attitudes towards traditional ideas of 'cheating'," said Ms Coleman.

"Unless the students have a conceptual understanding of the topic or what they are working on, they can't access bits and pieces of information to support them in a task effectively.

"In their working lives they will never need to carry enormous amounts of information around in their heads. What they will need to do is access information from all their sources quickly and they will need to check the reliability of their information."

15-year-old student Annie Achie was positive. "Phoning a friend really helped," she said. "It was good to have someone else to talk to and brainstorm some ideas with."

But all this isn't to suggest there's no point in good old-fashioned book learning. The really smart kids will learn the syllabus off by heart and change their mobile numbers to premium phone lines during exam season.