Another dot in the blogosphere?

Testing times, playing times

Posted on: September 6, 2011

I read this NYT article and I loved this response by Cathy Davidson.

One of the main ideas of the NYT article was that the push to adopt various technologies was not leading to higher test scores. One of Davidson’s responses was that we should not be integrating technology to raise test scores but to promote meaningful learning and prepare learners for the way they will live.

I agree. The problem is not that technology use is not raising test scores. The problem is the view that test scores should be the indicator of successful technology integration in the first place. Traditional test scores should not be the benchmark for determine if technology adoption or integration is successful.

I would go so far as to propose that if you only want higher test scores, forget about creative or meaningful use of ICT or interactive digital media (IDM). Just focus on test preparation!

To put it more simply, if you aren’t going to change anything about schooling, then don’t use technology. After all, today’s technologies serve as disruptive forces to leverage upon, as this blogger argues.

If you really want higher scores, then have newer tests that measure the other opportunities technology brings to the classroom. As one teacher in the NYT article pointed out:

… look at all the other things students are doing: learning to use the Internet to research, learning to organize their work, learning to use professional writing tools, learning to collaborate with others.

To reinforce that point, I quote Davidson:

We must, if we are responsible, educate them for the world they already inhabit in their play and will soon inhabit in their work. The tests we require do not begin to comprehend the lives our kids lead.

So measure these life skills and test if you must. But let us also look at the learner’s ability to organize, evaluate and collaborate.

Tigers Play Fighting in Water 5 by Abysim, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  Abysim 

The other thing I took away from that quote is the importance of play.

In the animal kingdom, other mammals prepare for life through play. While our own mammalian lives are, by our own measures, more complex, I think that basic principle still holds true.

Somehow we are schooled to leave this behaviour behind even though it is the most natural of instincts. We label such behaviour childish.

Do mammals outgrow the need to play? They seem to, but they retain that capacity. Humans are the slowest among the primates to develop independence, so we play more and longer. We retain our capacity to be child-like.

Our sense of play should be encouraged instead of being stifled. It is what makes us explore, take risks and learn from experience. It is tools like the iPad that encourage play and that is why they are so natural and popular.

What modern day kids do in their play is relevant to the world that they will inherit and inhabit. I am certainly not the only one who believes this. The Davidsons, Gees, Squires, Appelmans, and McGonigals of the world certainly seem to think so.

For now we live with traditional tests. Gee would argue that games are essentially one series of tests after another. They just do not look alike and they measure different things. So it is a testing time in more ways than one. I say we deal with it with some serious play.

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