Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Computerized Testing For Young Students: Helpful or Hurtful?

When I was a student, actually - let me be completely honest, we didn’t have computer access when I was in school until I was in college (one of my math professors from Loyola talked to me about email, and that was freshman year). There were three computers in the entire school and we basically had drills (similar to what I assume they would have at the CDC) before we could even “touch” the computer. Before they had us walk into the “computer room”, they gave us a twenty minute lecture of how we were to respect the computer and that we were dealing with high tech materials that could cost the teacher in front of us their job. And of course, we had to go to the sink and wash our hands with soap, there was no such thing as "sanitizer" back then. It was good old fashioned, soap.
Fast forward (several decades later) to 2015, and there has never been a time more than ever where clients have been complaining to me about how their child cannot perform well on computerized standardized tests. It’s come to my attention that children are asked to perform monumental tasks that (as I breathe a sigh of relief) I cannot imagine performing at such a young age.
A few years ago, a first grader in one of the City Districts took one of these exams, for the first time. He was excited to take a computerized exam because, like most children, computers and technology do not signal, “testing” or “reading”, it signals "fun" and "recreation" like challenging your friend’s high score on Temple Run. When his mother saw his score, compared to his peers in the district, she was mortified. I remember meeting with her at one of my favorite coffee shops and her eyes looked bloodshot as if she spent the entire night either crying or had to take a bottle of aspirin to rid herself of the headache also known as "raising kids to be smart, sociable, and successful". His mother was not the first mother to complain to me, and she certainly was not the last. We came up with a plan to increase his scores on that computerized test and the last time I saw his score, he was in the 98th percentile in the district. Sadly, every year I have parent after parent call foul on these computerized assessments that feel more like a polygraph test administration than an actual test of basic skills.
Let me be clear: despite our technophilic tendencies, many children still learn  to read in a more traditional way. For the first few years of a child's life, many parents snuggle up with their children and read them a bedtime story. They use a non-technological device called their fingers to teach their children how to track the words on the page and use the volume of their voice to emphasize certain interesting or exciting parts of a story. Children begin to engage in the reading by flipping the pages of a book and readjust their focus as they find their place. Nowadays, these behaviors have quickly been replaced with a computerized screen that does not have the ability to change the location of the  text or allow you to touch or mark it. As you can already imagine,  it’s a highly stressful and frustrating experience.
Most adults, let alone most children, need time to absorb information when reviewing material on a screen. As one reads through a passage, several processes must take place when you are reading in order to understand it proficiently. If you are like most people, you must prime  yourself  before answering any type of question. Here are some tips for your young reader to help them take their next computerized test:
3 Skills For Great Computerized Test Takers
Use Your Imagination
As I read through the words of a book or an article, it’s important that I take a second and use my imagination to understand what the writer is trying to convey. Sometimes the idea of “imagery” is a difficult concept for students when they are thrown into a computerized test.
Be Organized
The other process that takes place when reading through information is that you must organize the details as you read. Sometimes the glare of  the screen or the other distracting noises that you could hear as you are given these tests could be a strain on your attempt to organize the data.
Use Your Memory
Lastly, the ability to recall the information can only be done if, you have a way to remember. If your student is stressed beyond belief, then they may not remember key pieces of information to help them answer some of the reading comprehension questions.
If you or anyone you know have questions about education, testing, learning challenges, or just want to talk about your child, feel free to contact me at: or visit our website at .

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