[Editorial] History has it right
by The Milton Measure on Tuesday, December 13th, 2011
Just 30 years ago, people would frequently pay someone else to type up their hand-written documents. Access to computers was scarce and typing skills for the average person inadequate. However, times have changed. Now students balk at the two-page hand written essay on the SAT, and many would gladly pay someone to hand-write their typed documents. The advent of the personal computer has brought a fundamental societal shift away from hand-writing documents towards computer generated word-processing.
This change has been slow yet persistent at Milton. None of us can remember a time when we had to hand-write take home essays, but merely three years ago the majority of in-class History and English essays were hand-written. Thankfully both departments have since embraced the computer labs and the wonderful computers that occupy them.
Last year, the History department made another advancement in embracing technology, as it moved away from blue-books and gave students the option to take their exam on a computer. While students were welcome to hand-write their exam, the vast majority of students opted to type their essays.
The English department, however, lags behind. English students would benefit from the use of computers more than students in any other subject, but they still unable to use them for their English exams.
We realize that typing is not the best choice for everyone: there are some that value the stream of consciousness that only hand-writing can provide. However, for most, typing is hugely preferable. Most notably, there is the simple fact that many students get tired from writing for so long and their handwriting deteriorates into a sequence of unreadable scribbles.
But typing also has a dramatically positive effect on the structure and coherence of the essay. Most people are unable to write a perfectly worded, grammatically correct essay without revising their initial work. Hand-written essays makes the revision process difficult and messy. With the use of a computer, students would be able to make major structural edits in addition to minor ones. If a student thinks of a new idea or point that would improve his or her essay, he or she can add paragraphs to already written portions of an essay without the abundant use of asterisks and arrows.
Other sections on an exam would also benefit from the use of a computer. Computer generated multiple choice not only makes grading exams much easier, but it can also give students the ability to get partial credit through second guesses. Additionally, computers are much more environmentally friendly than their blue-book counterparts.
The History department has already realized the merit of using computers, and for this we praise them. We only wish for the English department to follow suite.
Short URL: http://miltonmeasure.org/?p=2567