No, I'm not talking about taking tests digitally. I'm talking about the questions that get asked on tests.
So Kyrie was doing quite well on that test I gave her the other day, until she got to the part that gave an excerpt and asked it if was from a newspaper, an atlas, an encyclopedia, or a dictionary. This was followed by more questions about the four of these things. Kyrie didn't know what any of them were except a dictionary. So we had a little talk about it and I explained how they all worked, and I think she gets it ok now. But as I was thinking about it, it occurred to me that "dictionary" might actually be the only one of those words I care about her knowing.
There's lots of talk about how newspapers are slowly going the way of dinosaurs, because people are turning more and more to getting their news online. And who needs an atlas when you have Google Earth on your iPad and a GPS in the car? Likewise, actual physical encyclopedias are being replaced by Wikipedia. Dictionaries are the only one whose digital replacement (dictionary.com, merriam-webster.com, dictionary apps) actually get called by the same name as their physical counterparts.
So I'm sitting here thinking that these questions really shouldn't be on kids' tests anymore. These words will be as irrelevant to their lives as 8-track tapes are to mine, as irrelevant as the horse and buggy is to pretty much everyone now alive. (Which is not to say that they will disappear completely.... the horse and buggy are still around as a quaint entertainment. 8-track tapes are too, I think; encyclopedias may do likewise.)