So this is a question that, to me, has an obvious answer but to others may seem a little complicated. If you are a history major, you know your writing hand starts to tremble the second you walk into the room for your midterm or final: why? It’s not because you don’t know what you are talking about. It’s because it knows it has to write three essays in three hours and thus over 10 pages. You’ve been doing calisthenics for the past week, trying to strength train your hand muscles. Still, you know what is coming and mentally you are prepared, physically you are not. My last history final of my undergrad days was three essays and 10 identifications in 3 hours… just because you went to Yale does not mean I am capable of your superhuman mental capabilities Dr. W!
Ok, maybe that’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but essay exams still hurt! And I find it so much harder to sit down and plan out an essay for a test by hand rather than on a computer. What I mean is it’s way easier for me to organize my thoughts on a computer screen than in writing.
So the question is, is it far to let kids use Microsoft Word for written assessments when possible? I think so. The point of assessment is not to punish but to give them the opportunity to succeed. I know personally that the ligaments in my hands are too close, it makes writing for a long time painful, and I can’t hold a pencil the proper way (I also can’t snap my fingers, in case you were wondering). My left hand has gotten better as I have learned to play the guitar, but my right hand, my writing hand, is still pretty weak. Typing is sooo much easier for me. Shouldn’t we give all students this option? Sure there are issues, not every school has a computer lab. Also, even if it does, it may be hard to reserve it. And, how do you know they’re not using the internet to cheat? Well turn the internet off! I just know that my essays come out much better when I can type them. My penmanship is lousy at best and so is my spelling. Using Word, I can also format so you can tell when a paragraph ends and begins. I can underline, bold, or italicize important parts of my essay, and I can easily delete parts that I no longer want- way better than the scribbly cross out or the erased, but not completely erased smudge of a pencil eraser.
Pen and paper just seems outdated to me. We have resources that can aid students’ work, why not let them use it?