Friday, April 30, 2010

Guest Post by Jennifer Crow: Technology and Testing

This guest post is from Jennifer Crow, education blogger at The Crow's Nest.

It’s that time of year – spring is in the air, the end of the school year is sight, and here in Texas TAKS testing fever is spreading like a wild fire across the state. No, it’s not the latest health risk, but for some the TAKS test can feel like a threat to their wellbeing. Teachers are making that last push to make sure that the students know all the material and students are counting down the days until it’s all over. But here in my district the end is not quit in sight yet for our 5th grade students. The first three weeks of May will be taken over by the administration of the Technology Literacy Assessment (TLA). Recently the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) has talked about creating a computer based technology assessment for 4th grade. Here in the district we have been administering such an assessment for the last five years to all 5th grade students. Like any formal assessment it comes with mixed reviews, however there are a number of benefits to such an evaluation tool.

A little background about the test – the assessment is comprehensive and measures mastery of technology concepts learned from grades Kindergarten through 5th. The test is taken online and covers seven different skills modules: systems and fundamentals, social and ethical, word processing, spreadsheets, multimedia/presentations, telecommunications/internet, and databases. There are two forms of questions used, multiple choice and application questions. Since the test is purchased from a vendor we also use the lesson modules that they offer. The lesson modules are a great way to present the technology concept to the student first and then have them apply it to the actual software. If students start working on the lesson modules in Kindergarten, by the time they get to 5th grade they will have covered all the content that is on the Technology Literacy Assessment.

So, what does this mean for the teachers and the students? Well, yes, it does mean that there is one more test that has to be taken by the students. And by the time you get to the TLA they have just taken three major TAKS tests and they are ready to be over and done with it. However, the students kind of enjoy taking the TLA because it’s the first real test they’ve ever had to take that is entirely online. For those students that are visual learners to actually be able to see what they’re doing is helpful. The TLA also holds the classroom teachers accountable for teaching the Technology Application TEKS (our state technology standards). This means that if teachers are going to be held accountable for the TA TEKS that true technology integration needs to take place in the classroom so that students are exposed to the technology concepts that are tested. The classroom computers can’t be used to “babysit” the students. They need to be used to actually incorporate technology into the daily curriculum. The same thing is true with the computer lab. Students want to use technology…they’re using Facebook, MySpace, and texting on a daily basis. Incorporating technology into the classroom and using it to enhance the curriculum, and not just creating a Power Point just because it occupies time, allows the student to learn how to utilize the technology appropriately. Students have a better understanding of how to use technology and perform better on the Technology Literacy Assessment (not to mention it reinforces curriculum concepts that are being taught). With our students growing up in a technology rich environment (some of them are practically born with a cell phone or PSP in their hand) it’s more important than ever to make sure our students are being taught the technology skills that they need in order to succeed. Having a technology assessment is key to ensuring that students are mastering these critical technology skills.

This blog post is a part of the I Heart EdTech Blog Swap brought to you by


Wm Chamberlain said...

There does seem to be a movement towards taking tests online. I think that this be a positive step for getting more technology into the schools, but that cost and the cost of the added infrastructure is going to be high.

I imagine that eventually the students will test and within minutes the school will be able to see the results. This will add more student accountability (something that our send away tests do not do) and actually allow the teachers to examine the data for purposes of reteaching and re-evaluating their curriculum.

There sure is a lot of implications to consider when it comes to online high stakes testing.

Becky Goerend said...

Many schools in Iowa take the MAP test 2x a year. It is a computerized test and we get the results instantly.

I wish our state held schools more accountable for technology. Right now we don't have any assessments linked to tech. It's sad because it is important!

Jennifer Crow said...

Unfortunately it's not a state assessment yet...our district is ahead of the game. But you're right, technology is important because our students use it on a daily basis. We need to hold the teachers and students accountable for knowing the required technology skills so that they can be successful.

Selena Woodward said...

In the Uk we have ALAN tests which are done online. They also do a whole heap of ICT modules at the computers too. It's great.

I imagine that if these students are 'digital natives' then their scores are generally good. If that helps when the grades for the other tests come out then great. A little boost to the confidence - and maybe some questions about why literacy and numeracy don't come as naturally as IT?

Jenny's Learning Journey said...

I am a great believer in using technology in the classroom. It is a way to engage the students and also a way of managing them by providing them with meaningful and interesting activities.

Jenny She.