Sunday, January 16, 2011

How Should the Digital Age affect Tests?

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 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.)


  1. Indeed. Our world is constantly changing so having a printed atlas is really...inefficient. I wonder how excited youth will be to go to antique shops, or even thrift stores and see things from the past. David and I went to a thrift store the other day and found some things that are not from so long ago, yet seemed ancient. It really is a bit mystifying to look at and touch a computer from the 80's or early 90's.

  2. Yeah I think those are probably outdated things for kids to be tested on, too... which makes me old... I definitely used those things growing up...
    -Lisa :)

  3. I believe the Amish are very fond of the horse and buggy...

  4. Yes, well, in the context of the question "how to deal with the changes brought about by technology", the Amish response is "Don't."

  5. I like a physical encylopedia - I find lot's of interesting things to read about which it never would have occurred to me to look up in an online search...

  6. Ken said he read through the encyclopedia, too, or most of it. I've always found it too boring to do that. But I'm sure we'll have plenty of various informative books around to learn random things from.