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Phasing Out the Bubbles: The Rise of Computer-Based Testing

Photo by biologycorner, via Flickr.

The common pre-test instruction, “take out your #2 pencils,” may soon be a thing of the past. The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) released the first results of its computer-based writing exams on Friday. By 2014 the GED will be an entirely computer-based test, and in two short years all of Connecticut’s state-wide standardized tests used to report student progress will be computer-based.

Results from the NAEP computer-based writing test show that three-quarters of the eighth and twelfth graders who took the 2011 exam performed at the proficient or basic level on the new scales and achievement levels established for the exam.

As one might expect, students whose teachers more frequently asked them to use the computer to draft and revise their writing scored higher than those whose teachers did so less frequently. This highlights an important point when it comes to computers in the classroom:  Is technology being used for technology’s sake, or is it a tool to enrich learning across the curriculum?

Student responses to a new opinion poll by Dell indicate that technology is used primarily to help learn technology skills rather than to enrich learning. Students in China reported their schools are the most likely to integrate technology into all curriculum areas, whereas U.S. students say they use technology primarily for research and special assignments.

Parents, students, and teachers in the U.S., China, and Germany responding to the poll all think that technology helps students’ ability to learn and prepares students for the jobs of the future, but they also agree that technology needs are not sufficiently met in schools.

Similarly, a recent poll found that most teachers and parents believe that having access to a high-speed internet connection at home gives students a big advantage when it comes to classroom performance. Unfortunately, many students still lack access. According to a report from the Federal Communications Commission, 19 million Americans still lack broadband access, and 40 percent of those who live in an area with broadband capabilities fail to make use of the access due to cost, lack of digital literacy, and other factors.

How is technology used in your school? Is computer use at home a big advantage for students?

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