Saturday, April 14, 2012

Writing Exams? Who does that anymore?


In the previous post our students' reflections expressed a changed attitude to writing attributed largely to the mechanics of writing being so much more satisfying when the writing tool is a keyboard rather than a pen/pencil. These reflections have been backed up by the Manaiakalani Evaluation report for 2011 released by Colleen Gleeson.  She noted significant changes in student engagement and motivation, and the asTTle writing test scores of students had improved.


We have just completed the first term of the 2012 school year and increasing numbers of our Manaiakalani students are using their own netbooks - including the entire cohort of students at Tamaki College.


What does the immediate education future for these young people hold?  They prefer writing using a digital device and have a changed attitude towards writing.  They feel their writing has improved and the evaluation evidence supports this.


Nevertheless, many of these young people still have to sit exams and tests using pencil and paper, particularly for NCEA. It is not so bad for the younger students who are doing e-asTTle tests, which can be done online.  They will be tested using the tools they are familiar with.


But our Year 11-13 students have to face up to 3 hours at a time of handwriting 'high stakes' exams on paper booklets.  Is this a bit like asking kids to sit their drivers license using a horse and cart - it shouldn't matter because they would be covering the same content and route, just using a different mode of transport?


What are our private schools and high decile schools who have been 1:1 for up to a decade doing about this?  Is this just a transition period and if so, how long will we be going through it?


60 of our 2012 Year 9 students were in the Manaiakalani pilot classes for 1:1 in 2010.  They will be sitting Level One NCEA in 2014 after using a Netbook as their major learning tool for five years.  How will writing answers using pen in a booklet  allow them to express their true understanding of the questions being asked?


I do hope that the folk at NZQA are getting this sorted THIS year!