Testing and testing on the computer is a part of our children’s lives. It is something that happens I am guessing in most schools across the country. We know our children are considered computer natives. They know computers, smart phone and tablets. They can help their parents navigate in and out of web sites, maps and other apps. They are amazing but there is something we are not seeing when we think yes our students can test on the computer – they get computers but…
Over the last three weeks it has been my job to support first through fifth graders in taking a fall reading and math test online. I know these students have played many games on computers, have messed with their parents phones and a few may have phones of their own (although not many since this is a high poverty school). They also have game machines – they get the electronics but that does not mean they are ready to read and do math online.
Here is what I saw
- students using their fingers to track text across a large screen and losing their place over and over again
- students counting on fingers and making marks on paper – asking for blocks and counters – they are first graders – they need things to move around to help them think
- students sitting on their knees to make themselves high enough to really see the monitor
- kids just not understanding so they click at anything that moves until they hit next
- kids who can focus for a few minutes and then need to move or walk around a bit before settling again
I could go on but you get the idea. Students know computers, they love computers. In fact they were so excited to come and test with me because they would use the computers but developmentally they are not ready for the tasks we put before them.
They tried. They really did but the tests they took did not measure their math ability or their reading skills. The teachers already know that by reading and working with their students each day. The test just confirmed that young children need to use manipulative, need to hold books in their hands and turn pages, they need to have the materials up close and personal to make sense of the task in front of them.
Once again we are asking our children to grow up so quickly with expectation that just don’t fit. Playing a game, clicking around on a phone held in your hand is very different than sitting at a good size desk top computer tracking text across a screen or thinking through math questions without manipulative or conversation to help you process.
Really what are we thinking! Can we just let them be elementary students? Can we hand them a book and listen to them read? Isn’t school more about learning than seeing what they can do with a computer?