Posted on 15-06-2008
Filed Under (Creativity, Examination) by gashed

Having recently had the opportunity of observing a student using a laptop for his Junior Certificate, it was again obvious the advances the integration of technology into the classroom would bring.  The student completed most exams on computer, but those that required filling in the boxes or blanks, he wrote.  It was evident that they were much more comfortable when using the computer, rather than a pen and paper.  There was much more fluency of expression and they could focus fully on the answer rather than the technique required to record it.  I have no doubt that had the Department of Education provided the exam papers in electronic form, appropriately formatted so the student could type the answers, they would have done much better in the fill in the blank exams.

Philip Flynn, of the Digital Hub Development Agency, interviewed in the Irish Independent called for more IT in schools, both for the delivery of the curriculum and for assessment.  He also said how

the lives of young people outside the classroom, where use of computers was commonplace, was not sufficiently reflected in the classroom.

The absence of technology in the classroom is not just effecting the students capacity to learn and develop, and depriving them of the skill and competencies needed for society and in their future careers, it is also an example of the widening disconnect between the adult world, reflected in schools, and the world in which students inhabit.  This schism is having a major effect on the growth of Irish youth.

With the government looking as though they are about to renege on their commitment of 252 million euro for ICT in schools, it looks as though preparing these young people for the future is not a priority.

While most students don’t have marked difficulties with writing, it may be that they too would benefit from using a laptop.  One of the prerequisites for being creative is that you are proficient in the medium you are looking to express yourself in.  Pen an paper is alien to students outside the classroom; most written expression take the form of text messaging or typed communications in social networking sites.  There seems little point in forcing students to struggle on with a pen and paper.  Although they may get the chance to use computers in school, I wonder how often they are encouraged to really express themselves while using them.

There is also the consideration of changing literacy.  In these times, literary expression covers a much broader range of activities.  Often work does not contain words, but also pictures, or video, or combinations of above.  Written work is now invariable written for public viewing and appraisal.  It is never finished; it will be continually revised and amended in light of the feedback received.  Students will also need to develop the capacity to be able to, not only write alone, but collaboratively.  Computers allow the teacher to create the environment for the learner in which they can develop these competencies.

I had the experience of returning to a university course after years away from assessment.  I had not used a pen to write a foolscape page in almost a decade.  My writing then was poor, but after such a break it was appalling.  Having to actually write the exams with a pen was torture.  The physical process of writing exams with a pen was much more draining than typing the same amount of words or for the same length of time. 

I feel for the students as they finish their exams, after their 20 hours of writing.  They can relax now and put their pens away and take their computers out; that is until school starts up again.


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