I want to marry this opinion piece and have its babies.
In UK paper The Independent yesterday, Brandon Robshaw writes that It’s time to ditch written exams for students and go digital. I couldn’t agree more, if for no other reason than:
It seems obvious, but is seldom remarked, that students are being obliged to do something that they never do or need to do in real life: write with a pen for two or three hours non-stop.
To be honest, I don’t even care if exams don’t go digital…but putting an end to pen-and-paper exams must surely become a priority as the skills of extended handwriting and unaided recall of extensive amounts of facts go the way of the dinosaurs.
Robshaw argues that a computerised examination system would not only “be far kinder to students, it would also be far more useful, requiring them to employ a skill that is used outside the exam hall.” Amen to that. The most salient point for me, however, is not the usual evangelising about digital learning. In my experience, while many teachers can be convinced of the benefits of using digital technologies, the reality of poor funding and resources at both the school and system level make this utopia seem like a distant dream. Or, at best, an unholy uphill battle and minefield of ‘teething problems’ that we’re just too tired to contemplate.
No, for me the point that really needs to drive this campaign is that as extended handwritten work becomes more and more antiquated, the continued use of pen-and-paper exams becomes an increasing barrier to learning, as well as a significant equity issue. Fact:
no one writes at their best in an unfamiliar medium.
How can we, in good conscience, continue to set our students up for failure in this way? If we know that students are not going to do their best in a written exam, why do we persist with them? Especially when the impact is going to be felt most heavily by students with already low literacy skills. It’s no exaggeration to say that
Change can’t come too soon. The present system is akin to forcing candidates to write on slates with chalk, or chip away at stone tablets with chisels.
Thanks to @principalspage for the link to this article. It made my day!