Computers Invade Exam Week
by Ilve Bayturk on Tuesday, February 12th, 2013
With technology becoming a more integral part of students’ daily lives, it came as no surprise that this year’s English and History exams were taken on laptops rather than handwritten in blue books as in past years. While several history classes tried out the program last year, the majority of the Upper School made the switch in 2013. Overall, most students found taking exams on computers to be more efficient and more convenient than handwriting. Nevertheless, certain aspects of the program could be improved.
Having exams on the computer is not a large change for students. Milton students are used to typed assignments every week. Freshmen new to the school know by the first month that any essay they turn in must be typed in 12-point, Times New Roman, so students are already accustomed to working on computers for academic purposes. With computers being used for exams as well, students can complete lengthy essays much more quickly than they could previously. From texting, tweeting, and posting statuses, students are practically professionals when it comes to typing, and many people can type without even looking at their hands. A time limit puts intense pressure on test-takers, so every student wants to save time on the physical process of writing and spend more time planning and thinking. Students also do not have to worry about presenting legible handwriting, a great relief to the messy calligraphers among us. Vivian WuWong, history department chair, said, “[The new system] benefits both teachers and students because before, when students had to handwrite their exams, teachers could not guarantee that they had given credit for everything the students wrote down.”
Unsurprisingly, most students who chose to take the exams on computers said that they felt less rushed than they had in previous years when exams were hand-written. Had students prefered not to use a computer, they could still hand-write the exams provided that they submit their request several weeks in advance of the testing date.
However beneficial the computers proved to be, many students who took the exam digitally believe that there is still room for improvement. First, most students were not aware of all the functions the exam program provided, such as a word counter, a timer, and formatting help. Had students been able to familiarize themselves with the interface, they could have saved more time during the exams and created works that were easier for teachers to grade. Second, the laptops had very sensitive trackpads that often randomly moved the cursors, causing frustration for many. Students noted that they had to keep a close eye on where they were typing in order to not insert words in undesirable places, a process that made a lot of students nervous and the test-taking experience more taxing. Third, while only the English department asked for no spell-check function, the History exams were also affected.
ATS can easily address the unfamiliar interface and the sensitive trackpads. Students could go through a quick training process, like they did with FirstClass email upon entering the school. ATS could also rent different laptops or encourage students to bring a mouse. Overall, students are embracing this change, since they are free to choose whichever method works best for them. After all, what matters is still the content of their writing, not how it got on the page.
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