Thursday, March 27, 2014

Are Our Kids Ready fo Computerized Testing??

Last month, Michelle invited us to read an article from the padlet.  I read a great article entitled "Are Our Kids Ready for Computerized Testing?"  To show what they know on computerized assessments, even digital natives may need help manipulating the technology.  It was an interesting article that made me realize that I need to do some formative assessments in order to find out how ready my students are for the technology portion of the assessments that are on the way.  This year, fourth graders are taking the CMAS, Colorado Measures of Academic Success.  They are taking the social studies test on April 15 - 17th.  The author participated in a pilot program with a school and then debriefed the students after they took the test to find out what their experiences were with the technology-based assessments.  There were two groups, a third grade group and a high-school group.  The question he asked after the test was, "When it comes to using technology, is there anything your teachers should know that would help other students be successful on this test."  The answers were unexpected...
3rd Graders: "The Bubble in the Straw"
There was an interesting piece of feed back that the author received from a third grader.  The student said that it was very important that you know how to move the bubble inside the straw to make the page move this way and that.  The student was referring to the scroll bar! There is much that students will need to practice in order to even access the information.  There are many aspects of technology that we take for granted and need to make sure that students understand before they take the test.

As a result of reading this article I decided to take my kids to the computer lab to take a practice CMAS Social Studies Assessment.   I sampled the test myself before I brought them and thought I was ready to assess them on the assessment.  Just like the experience the author had, I asked my kids to be ready to share with me anything I should know in order to make sure they did well on the test.  Just like the experience the author had, I didn't anticipate the challenges.  Kids had difficulty with the size of the text.  If it was too large, they had to scroll more to read passages, too small and it was just difficult to read.  I found that the platform was unlike any other that they had seen before.  Some of the writing spaces had icons that were similar to ones you might see in Word, but there were others that we had to problem solve together.  There was a ruler (for a social studies test?), an answer eliminator, a button for flagging skipped problems and a review button for checking your progress. The ruler is there to help kids track their reading and they can use it if they like. Naturally, kids found they could spin the ruler around and it became more of a distraction than a help.  There are also options for kids to use a magnifying glass and I heard from Caitlin that it was a distraction as well for her kids.

So, my plan is to take kids to the lab to give them one more shot at the practice test before they have to do the real thing. As usual, I learned from my first attempt and will make some changes this time based on another article I read called, "Five 'Key Strategies' for Effective Formative Assessment."
  1. Clarifying, sharing and understanding goals for learning and criteria for success with learners. I jumped in with both feet without giving my learners a good idea of the purpose around this practice.  Our purpose is to better access the content of the test by exploring the tools and the ways the test takers have developed the test.
  2. Engineering effective classroom discussions, questions, activities, and tasks that elicit evidence of student learning. Again, I will ask students to provide feedback to me around what is difficult about this test.
  3. Providing feedback that moves learning forward.  This is a tough one because this is a lesson about technology, which I am not a fan of.  I believe that if technology gets in the way of the learning, or is overly cumbersome, we shouldn't use it.  So I am not a fan of providing them feedback on something that they will not use again until they are in fifth grade, and it isn't something that is going to make them better learners, just better test takers.  We don't really have a choice though do we?
  4. Activating students as owners of their own learning.  This is important because we want to help kids understand that they can own their learning by doing their best on the test.  There is value in doing your very best on a test and feeling a sense of accomplishment in completing this task.
  5. Activating students as learning resources for one another.  We will spend time discussing the test as a group so that students can share their findings.
  We will see how it goes!


  1. I. too, gave my 8th graders the practice run for their science CMAS test coming up. Students were also distracted by the different options including changing the background color. Really? I took the test myself and especially struggled with the answer eliminator and how to turn it off. The content part of the test itself has many flaws. I guess that is what should be expected when you hire a publishing company rather than teachers to design a test. It's funny, too, that teaching students how to take a test is a necessary part of their (and our) survival.

  2. This article caught my attention as well. My point of view is two-fold, as the ESL teacher and as a mom. For my students, I was concerned, rightfully, that they lacked experience with technology and would be learning/practicing technology skills while being tested. As a parent, I wondered, whether or not my own kids still had PC skills in this day of Kindles/iPads and touch screens.
    Luckily, I happened to be using the copy machine while Cailtin was taking her students through the practice run and was therefore strongly motivated to take my middle school students onto the computers to practice the technology skills and let them experiment with the various tools. I have found it helpful to the students to let them experiment, experience new things/objects/gadgets before I want them to use it. (My own kids got to have the same experience--playing with the tools before the test.) In concert with Dana's practice, I hope that they were being testing on the information rather than their tech skills.
    Jon, I agree with you about the designers.