Friday, December 7, 2012

The Computer Almost Got Me!

So I took (and thank God, also passed) the FTCE: General Knowledge Test today, exam 1 of 4 towards obtaining my professional teacher certification. I had been preparing by using the Cliffs Test Prep book (pictured to the right) and followed the advice in the book that suggests we replicate test conditions while studying. I was fully aware that the entire exam was now going to be done on the computer but I was not prepared for how that fact would affect me. Being that I was using a physical book, somehow my mind had prepared me to still write something. When I did my practice essay, it was on paper. When I practiced the English Language Skills and the Reading subtests, also all on paper. I practiced the math section by literally turning the pages. I think you get my point. 

I was completely thrown off when I got to the testing site and that almost affected my performance. The format of the problems and the reading passages were not like the book. Even the very brightness of the screen in contrast to the tan-colored pages of the practice book really made a difference. I hesitated, even switched my essay topic midway and took a few minutes to get adjusted. They provided us with a tutorial before we began and it was much needed. For instance, passages being a split screen instead of the linear format in the book tripped me up a few times. Without the liberty of being able to turn the pages as an indicator that I was now reading a new passage, it would often take about a minute or two of disorientation to realize why the questions no longer made sense and the I needed to scroll up to read the next passage.I found myself a bit apprehensive that the readjustment may take some of my time. This affected the math and essay portions as well. These are the portions that require the most interaction, either looking at a reference sheet, working out problems or writing down thoughts. During my practice sessions, this is done horizontally by peering over the booklet or lined paper. Doing these tasks on a vertically standing screen did in fact lead to some forgetting of concepts I had studied not long before because much of the energy went to processing the change of having a computer in front of me. 

This makes me think about our students. All of this technology is great but we must be aware of the adjustment they must mentally make to translate their work from paper and reading from a book to doing learning activities online and vice versa as the influence of technology increases. Students who are "digital natives" may have a truly difficult time switching gears from almost exclusively digital screens to paper and physical books. This testing experience I had today forced me to consider another aspect of utilizing technology in the classroom. Now as I plan to implement different learning activities I will strategically think about how students need time and tools to readjust to new formats. Transitions will be a huge part of this strategy. I can imagine this issue gets swept under the rug but I think it is crucial to foster the most inclusive use of these new technological tools that take all learning modalities into account. Students without access to the technology at home may struggle when they are expected to complete computer-based activities, for instance. The same for students with disabilities. There is a lot to undertake to maintain a balance when introducing the use of technology along with traditional methods and assignments.


  1. I do think it is a little easier for our students to make the switch, if only because they spend so much time doing both. Very few schools are capable of full immersing students in technology--most of our kids have to switch between computers and pencil/paper quite often. I do see your point, however, and know that it can truly affect their standardized test scores, especially if the kids are more used to pen and paper work, and are then suddenly asked to take an examination on a computer. It messes them up. It's one of the reasons I think drill and practice programs are so important, especially with all of the CBT they make us do. Congratulations on passing your test--only three more to go!

    1. Thanks Steven for reading and for the congrats! Yes, you make valid points. They probably do switch more than we can imagine. However, I do think there's a difference between the recreational switching and the solitary work. I do agree that drill and practice programs would help this dilemma a great deal. Please keep checking in, I plan to keep this blog up long after our class ends :) Happy holidays.