Technology and the classroom

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Technology and the classroom

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Marcus Brown
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The format for standardized tests in Iowa’s public schools may potentially receive a technological facelift in the 2016-2017 school year, when proponents hope to make an improvement from traditional pencil and paper tests.

A new test format called Smarter Balanced would provide an interactive testing experience for students that adjusts its rigor to the performance of the student taking the test. The move toward Smarter Balanced testing corresponds to some degree to the benchmarks laid out in the recently implemented Iowa Core, which hopes to establish maintainable statewide scholastic performance.

Smarter Balanced testing carries the potential to more accurately gauge student performance in proverbial blind spots in standardizing testing, such as students who consistently reach the higher percentiles of grading. Furthermore, the widespread use and early introduction to tests formatted in a manner similar to Smarter Balanced would prepare students for the technological advancements in testing technology they are sure to encounter as they progress through the world. Adaptive testing technology is not limited to the scholastic measurement of K-12 performance, it is also seeing use varied application in a variety of fields.

While the implementation of Smarter Balanced has a litany of benefits once successfully implemented, concerns have arisen about the cost of the project as well as the ability for the testing to be woven seamlessly into the Iowa public-school system. The introduction of Smarter Balanced testing would be costly, with estimates of “about $8.3 million” as well as the money needed to improve infrastructures in the school to support the new platform. Schools will require computers for students to use as well the necessary bandwidth to make the new testing format viable.

However, the pros and cons of adopting Smarter Balanced testing cannot be evaluated solely in dollar amounts and statistics. The effects of shifting away from traditional testing methods and further integrating technology into the classroom must also be considered. The use of technology has become ingrained in 21st-century life, and we are now witnessing the inevitable fall of one of the few last bastions of screen-less living, i.e., the classroom. Once the screens become embedded in our classrooms and minds of students in their formative years, there may be no turning back.

As we move forward and graciously accept all the benefits technology has to offer, we must also keep in mind what is being lost in the transaction. Innovation and technological advancement come at a cost, and we are rapidly coming to a crossroads where we must decide whether the merits of touch screens and processors are worth giving up our pencils and loose-leaf paper.

Of course, one could argue that room must be made to allow for progress, but with stakes as high as the academic future of our state’s students, it wouldn’t hurt to take caution in ensuring the school system has not become enchanted by the allure of bright screens and sleek technology. Only time will tell if scantrons and the like will become antiquated relics of a time now obsolete, or if the move toward the next best technological innovation will leave us nostalgic for graphite and potential carpal tunnel syndrome.

 

 

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