I remember when daily interest banking accounts were introduced. Before that only the lowest amount in the account in any given month received interest. If you had a $200 in the account and then you paid your rent of $190 then the next day you deposited a check for $200 you only received interest on the $10. This was not due to any particular maleficence on the part of the banks, it was practical. Interest was calculated by a person. As computers gained power the banks were able, and found it competitively advantageous, to offer interest calculated daily.
The Education-Industrial Complex is ripe for change. They have the computers and they could change but so far there is no compelling reason to do so. One of the areas where computers could make the most difference is student evaluation. Right now, when teachers test, they only test on a portion of course material because it is impractical to test for everything. They don’t want to mark 1000 question tests.
Every course has material that just must be known. In some cases, such as an anatomy class, probably all of the class material can be test for using a computer and multiple choice questions. In other cases, English literature for instance, I imagine computerized testing would be harder to do. Even here though the amount that can be tested by computer is not zero.
The advantages of comprehensive computerized testing:
- Cheating becomes more difficult. All students already know what is on the test, everything. Because the students are being tested on everything there is no reason for all of the students to write the test at the same time so students can not copy from each other. The testing software can also be randomized so that there is no point in having a student tell a colleague that the answer to question one is (b) because every student would have a different question one. Having the answers to a couple of questions written on your hand does help much when the test has 500 questions.
- The testing can be done at anytime. That means that the fast students can complete the material quickly and move on and the slower ones can take their time. Students can stay with their cohort. All students are automatically ‘socially promoted’. It just means that some students will be doing grade 3 math tests and some will be doing grade 10.
- Students can take the tests many times. Testing is its self an educational tool. Taking a test over (and over) would help the learning process.
- Students can be required to know everything before going on. There will be no passing grade 7 math without knowing fractions. Every student will know everything before going on.
- Students can be tested on the same material later. No cramming and forgetting. Pass the same test a month later just to be sure. Spaced repetition is the key to learning.
- The tests can be standardized across a school, a school district or a nation. This prevents lazy teachers from asking easy questions of their students to make up for their poor teaching.
- The tests could be available online. This would help prevent teachers with an agenda from using their class for indoctrination. Yes there is a down side to this if one ideology gains control of the education hierarchy.
- Individual treatment. If a student can not pass a test after 3 or 4 or 10 tries then maybe there is something else going on. Maybe the student has a learning disability. If a student does have a learning disability then work on that. I know about ADHD. If a student has ADHD then there are exercises that will help. Probably all learning disabilities have similar exercises. There is not benefit to pretending the kid is lazy or that he will grow out of it. Computers have the ability to expose the weak mental muscle that is a learning disability. They also have the ability to exercise that weak muscle until it can pull its weight.