Technology and Testing

The Classic Method

If you have never experienced a standardized test in its original format, you have certainly missed out on an experience. After hours of grueling hard work, you exit the testing site, mentally drained and physically exhausted, uncertain as to whether you went back and answered questions #6 as you meant to. The process is tedious and involves using a pencil (only #2, mind you!) to fill in a vast array of bubbles on a “Scantron” sheet and more paperwork than a secretary is likely to see in several lifetimes. 
Bored college students sleeping in lecture hall
Good News!

The good news here is that this process may become just a little bit easier for students to tackle. In fact, Julia Lawrence, in an article for Education News, suggests that computerized testing may be closer than you think, “in the next two years, the majority of states will be adopting a new suite of standardized tests administered with the aid of a computer.” Imagine that. Save yourself from the hassle of reams of paperwork and arthritis-inducing pencil scribbling for several hours by simply sitting down at your nearest computer terminal and engaging in an otherwise extremely high-stakes and stressful test.

test comps

The Facts of Life

We have the good, now a little of the bad; there may be some drawbacks to computerized standardized testing as well. Patrick Ledesma of Education Week describes in his blog how some schools in Virginia are already using digital standardized tests, “for many schools that means taking away all those desktop and laptop labs for setting up individual testing stations. […] And some schools close their libraries so students can test on the computers.” So, during certain parts of the year, valuable technological resources are no longer available for any of their laundry list of potential academic uses. For students, there is really no decision that need be made. “Get out of class and just use a computer for hours? Where do I sign up?”  A study from Boston College also showed that “it [computerized standardized testing] adds considerably to the cost of testing and creates new test security concerns” and “it would penalize low-tech students with poor keyboard skills.”

girl testing


Decisions, decisions

Any new technology comes with a series of affordances and drawbacks. Ultimately, it will be an effort on the students part to make testing work, and the effort on the part of schools comes from choosing appropriate testing and creating/maintaining a positive space for students to learn and take these tests. Will it be worth removing the paper middle man in standardized tests, or will the traditional methodology stand the test of the ages? Time will tell.

References: – The Gap between Testing and Technology in Schools – Technology for Online Standardized Testing vs. Technology for Teaching, Learning, and Creative Inquiry by Patrick Ledesma – Samples from New Standardized Exams Show Up Online by Julia Lawrence

Pictures from: – Students on computers – Sleeping students – Girl smiling


One thought on “Technology and Testing

  1. Aaron,
    I enjoyed this a lot, as well as the prospect that students wouldn’t have to sit through standardized testing and scan-trons and number two pencils anymore. As I read this, I imagined myself telling my future students that they would be taking the state exam in a few weeks, and when they groaned and sighed, I’d go off on a tangent about how good they have it, and paint the picture you just did of the standardized testing process that we went through. Although you do point out a few potential drawbacks, I certainly wish this happens in the near future!

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