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Technology and K-12 education

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New York is often seen at the leader when it comes to technology. But the state is playing catch up in K-12 education, according to Dr. Oliver Robinson, the superintendent for the Shenendehowa School District in upstate New York. Kids today are called "digital natives" because they are born surrounded by technology. While students may live in the 21st century at home, they take a step back into the past at school, especially with standardized testing.

“What’s happening is that you have kids coming from this high tech world outside and they’re coming to school. They’re slowing down,” he said.

Dr. Robinson said students still take their notes and exams the old-fashioned way with pencil and paper. Some schools are now trying to use what comes natural to kids to enhance the educational experience by incorporating computers into their lesson plans. But Dr. Robinson said New York State is behind several other states. Florida, for example, has already switched over to computer-based testing. Testing experts say cyber tests are simply better. They provide faster feedback to teachers, allowing them to adjust their curriculum to fit the students’ needs. In addition, they typically cost less according to Pat Ward, owner of Internet Testing Systems, a company based in Baltimore, MD.

“It’s not a question of if. It’s a question of when they’re going to switch from paper and pencil to computer-based testing. It’s clearly more efficient and more secure,” said Ward.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently called for an overhaul on standardized exams. Overall, 44 states, including New York, will get more than $300 million to completely change standardized tests over the next four years. The tests will also be computer-based.

Innovation Trail alumnus Dan Bazile is former reporter for WMHT in Albany. He has covered a wide range of topics, from town board meetings, to the September 11th terrorist attacks.