#Soapbox: Computer-Based TestingPosted by Markie Hooper on 1/22/2017
Here in New York State, we've been hearing about the implementation of computer-based assessments for a while now. In 2020, those tests are supposed to be here in full force. So what does that mean?
In my humble opinion, there are two different ways to look at this. We can look at the situation from a pragmatic perspective of things we can do to prepare, and we can take a long hard look at what the online assessments say about how we're measuring what our students know.
How Can We Prepare, Then?
First, I would recommend that school leaders take a look at the sample questions and computer-based testing resources and see if you have any questions. Consider if these assessments will meet the needs of all of your students. If you have questions, send them to your local Model Schools administrator or other local expert who receives regular updates about the computer-based testing initiative.
Next, take a look at long-term preparation of students' computer skills. Make sure your students are using the devices they will use for the test throughout the year, and will have the computer skills necessary to take the test. Keyboarding fluency will be essential for writing tasks, so doing writing assignments on computers and using keyboarding programs will help with building that skill. Embed activities like online assessments in Google Forms, Socrative, Kahoot, Quizizz, Quizlet, or Schoology to get students used to different online testing interfaces. Practice tasks that will be difficult for students to do on the test - like using typing and an equation editor to show work for Math questions, or writing essays from scratch with a keyboard.
A few weeks prior to the test, make sure teachers and students have experienced the sample questions. This should help them be familiar with the online test, its format, its features, and some of the potential struggles students may have.
Prior to administering the test, ensure all proctors have been trained on how to give the test. Both from a technical and classroom management perspective, teachers should know what to expect, who to call when they need help, and how to solve common problems.
On the day of the test, make sure you have a plan and help is on standby in case of issues. Students tend to struggle with being attentive to instructions, so make sure you have a quiet signal and a way to check for understanding before they start. Plan to have teachers check that students are done and help them end their test correctly before they are allowed to sign out and shut down their computers. Make sure your computer experts are on standby to lend a hand when issues arise.
What Do These Tests Represent?
We've spent a lot of time talking about the things students struggled with going from paper tests to computer-based tests. It was a challenge to show work with just a keyboard on Math questions. Some students found it difficult to have a reading passage and questions side by side with two sets of scroll bars. For others, writing an essay from scratch on a computer was a new task that they found daunting.
You know what? We know that students can't really solve math questions and show their work the same way on a computer as we can on paper, so why can't we find a better way to let students show what they know?
In my humble opinion, instead of taking paper tests and just making them digital, can we base online tests on how our students use technology?
Maybe it would be like a game. Maybe it would be a real world inspired problem they would have to do research, analyze sources, collect data, devise solutions, and test ideas to solve. They may even have to work collaboratively! (Like the most recent PISA tests! See this Edutopia article for more.) Maybe it would be given ten minutes at a time throughout the school year so teachers and students could use the data to grow all year long. Maybe the test would meet each student at their level to figure out what they know and adjust as they learn more over time.
The point is, computers aren't the same as paper. But computers can do things that paper can't. We can use their strengths to do a better job crafting tests for our students. So why not?
#Soapbox: Must Students Be Taught [Insert Software Title Here] For Work?Posted by Markie on 12/28/2015 8:00:00 AM
There are several companies out there that try to sell schools products. They can say all sorts of things to try to get administrators and teachers to buy in. One of the things they sometimes say is that "students need to use this (specific product I am trying my best to sell you) to do well in the workplace."
In my humble opinion, 99% of the time this statement is a load of farm animal excrement.
Why do I think this?
Were any of the programs you used in school the same as the ones you used after college? Most of the programs I use daily for my work did not exist when I was in public school ten years ago. The programs I did use, like Micosoft Word, PowerPoint, Geocities, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, and even HTML code aren't even the same as they were when I learned them. Microsoft Word, for example, looks completely different and has totally different features. Geocities doesn't even exist anymore.
There are no universal programs or computers that all jobs use. Some jobs don't use many programs at all - some may just use email. Many other occupations use specialized programs, like Schooltool. It would be impossible to prepare students for every type of device they might use, or every type of software they might encounter.
The skills companies are looking for are generally more broad - they are looking for new hires who have skills like collaborating in teams and communicating clearly. Being able to use computer programs is important, too...
(Adams, Susan. "The 10 Skills Employers Most Want In 20-Something Employees." Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 11 Oct. 2013. Web. 27 Nov. 2015. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2013/10/11/the-10-skills-employers-most-want-in-20-something-employees/>.)
...However it would be silly to require a specific program in a job posting when all the employer actually cares about is whether the employee knows how to create a presentation. If the employee learned computing on a Mac that had Keynote, or if they used Google Slides in school, or used Open Office at home, their general "presentation" skills should transfer to whatever program the employer happens to use. (There are a couple exceptions to this, like CAD and the Adobe Creative Suite for engineers and artists, but for most school projects there are multiple tools that could be used to create nearly identical end products.)
If you take a look at what industry professionals and other careers are using in terms of technology today, it is pretty evident that many businesses use a variety of resources. Workers often also individually choose (whether supported by their business or for their personal use) and adapt to the tools that will best suit the way they work. Even workers that work at the same place doing the same job can use totally different tools.
So what should we do to prepare students for an uncertain technology future?
In my humble opinion, use a variety of tools with students so they can adapt to whatever life throws at them later on.
(And don't believe everything salespeople tell you. Even the statistics they quote could have been purchased by the company.)
ITCC Notes: Google Search Tip #6 - Advanced SearchPosted by Markie on 12/18/2015 8:00:00 AM
So by now (if you've been reading about the other Google Search Tips in previous posts) you may be wondering - but what if I can't remember all of these boolean (quotes and AND) and search operators (filetype and site)?
Well, there is a quick and easy solution for that too. If you can't remember how to word your search, or if you need more options than a normal search can provide, there is an Advanced Search.
- To access an advanced search, start by searching for something.
- Once you can see results, look to the top-right of the page for a gear button.
- From the drop down menu, click Advanced Search
ITCC Notes: Google Search Tip #5 - site:.CountryCodePosted by Markie on 12/16/2015 8:00:00 AM
Back when most of us were in school, I think we mostly did research in the library. We read books (written by Americans), searched databases (with journals written by Americans) and back then encyclopedias were on paper! If we wanted to read sources from other countries, we were pretty much out of luck. Today's students, however, have the written resources of the entire planet at their fingertips - and they can locate items from specific countries by using the site search operator with a country code.
The SLLBOCES region is lucky - we live near Canada and are able to hear Canadian commerials. Have you ever noticed what their websites end with? It isn't "DOT COM," in Canada sites end with "DOT CA." The CA part is the country code of the website.
A list of the Internet's country codes can be found here:
Try It Out!
Let's imagine you were researching the American Revolutionary War. Wouldn't it be interesting to compare the perspectives of American historians versus British historians?
Start with a basic Google search.
Example: Revolutionary War UK perspective
How many of the sites that appeared in your results are actually from the UK? (You can tell because the site address should end with ".UK")
Let's try with the site operator. Type site:PERIODcountrycode search term
Example: site:.uk "revolutionary war" AND "british perspective"
Can you see a difference in your results?
They should all end in ".UK," which means that the computers hosting each site are located in the UK (be careful though, it doesn't mean they were all written by British authors.)