Not At the Touch of a Button

By Rachel Gang — July 24, 2008 1 min read
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Are cell phones, video games, and other technology gadgets to blame for students’ poor critical thinking skills? Educators in Texas think so, because fewer than half of North Texas students pass the short-response section of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS), The Dallas Morning News reports.

Most of the TAKS consist of multiple choice questions, asking students only to fill in a bubble—a task they seem to ace. But students from low-performing districts to high-achieving ones stumble on the short-response section.

Some educators and testing experts say the low scores reveal a lack of critical thinking and communication skills. They also point to students’ shorter attention spans, on which they blame cell phones, video games, and less recreational reading. And teachers are frustrated because they feel pressured to teach skills most emphasized on the tests but an even bigger undertaking is how to engage uninterested students. “They can read but they can’t think critically about what they’ve read and apply it to the world around them,” says Sue Warriner, a 7th grade English teacher. The biggest challenge is “making it relevant,” she adds.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.