Put Down Your Pencils

Put Down Your Pencils

Multiple choice tests have been a classroom assessment staple for decades. I remember many years of listening to teachers drone on about filling in the circle completely and making my mark heavy and dark.

But what exactly do multiple choice assessments test? Process of elimination? Best guess strategies? Certainly not actual real world knowledge, right?

This is exactly what the U.S. plans to overhaul within the next few years. Secretary Arne Duncan announced on Thursday that 44 states will share $330 million to work with university professors and testing experts to design a new series of assessments by the 2014-15 school year.

Instead of testing students’ abilities to find trick answers or eliminate wrong ones, these new tests will require students to design experiments, manipulate parameters, and collect and analyze data. Sounds a little bit more like the real world, eh?

Not only that, the new tests will be computerized, so teachers will receive instant feedback on student progress and misunderstandings and will be able to use that information to better tailor lesson plans. At least, that’s the hope.

So where do games come into all of this? Essentially, if the new tests are well designed, they should resemble a series of games. If you think about it, each game you play is essentially a test. You build your skills through conquering obstacles, then use those skills to reach an objective. Similarly, students will “level up” in class, then use the assessments to manipulate virtual variables, testing their skills in order to achieve a goal.

For young people today, games are fun, and school is not. Thus, the more we can inject a gaming environment into the educational system, the better our chances are of tapping into the potential of the next generation.

When recalling the fond memories of grade school, who doesn’t immediately remember hours of fun with Math Blaster and Oregon Trail? As technology improves, so too should the technological opportunities available to our students. After all, if life is a game, shouldn’t school be the ultimate adventure?