A recent article in Education Week says technology may affect test scores. States and districts are finding that when students take online assessments on tablets, some questions may be more difficult to answer than if they were using laptops or computers – or old fashioned paper and pencil. In short, some devices may not be as much of a help for test takers than paper based methods.
Researchers and test providers believe this may be due to “device effects” for tests and subjects, on certain types of assessments. These effects are minimal, but have significance.
There is not a clear pattern for results, and much more information is needed. However, one reason could be that neuroscience shows that more of the brain is engaged, just as it is in reading a real book turning pages, when students write paper and pencil rather than keyboarding a response.
When tests are administered online using devices, it is important to ensure that they are in proper working order and that students have plenty of previous experience with the devices and online testing.
Director of the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation at the University of Kansas Marianne Perie affirms the need for more research. She said that she would not advise schools and districts to avoid using tablets, but there are “absolutely some questions” concerning how well students benefit from using them and how they are affected.