Some may know that the computer-based vs. pencil-based testing debate has become near and dear to my heart; so dear that it is actually the main thrust and focus for my doctoral study for which I will begin collecting data next week actually 🙂 Insert happy dance here!
And so as I am transitioning into the world outside of the classroom to my new exciting role as Pearson Canada‘s Digital Learning Research & Communications Manager, I have been learning even more about how districts are tackling this debate.
In my reading, I came across an online social networking community actually created and maintained by the larger Pearson in the US called FWD. [SIDE NOTE-I encourage you to check out this online community as it hosts a lot of topics, like next generation learning, educator and leader effectiveness, and instructional improvement that I know will resonate with my fellow Canadian educators and thought leaders. Besides which, we have a lot to add to the conversation from our perspective]. In one post by @bryanbleil last year entitled, Lessons Learned, he shares first-hand tips and tricks from the field to make the transition to online testing more manageable from an implementation point of view. Some practical suggestions include ensuring the district has necessary bandwidth, and testing the testing instrument ahead of time. Prudent moves indeed, but one other BIG caveat I would offer is to FIRST ensure students have the pre-requisite skills to complete online assessments. Before assessing a district’s readiness for administering online tests, I might suggest educators need to ask themselves, “Are my students ready?”
At the very least, shouldn’t both conversations happen simultaneously?
Student Readiness a REAL factor
In its joint feasibility study and report with the Texas Education Agency regarding Texas’ readiness for state-wide implementation of online testing, Pearson researchers noted:
A majority of districts discussed “digital gaps,” such as the lack of equitable access across the student population to computers and the technology skills necessary for online testing. The digital gap was perceived as being primarily attributable to the student body’s socio-economic status; districts reported a belief that students from lower socio-economic families with more limited access to computers outside of school might be at a disadvantage with respect to online testing when compared with other students. (2008, p. 5)
I am encouraged by the recommendation that before online testing occur, that staff AND students receive the training they need to set the testing experience up for success. How much and how to access student technology training is another blogpost for another day…
Texas Education Agency. (2008). An evaluation of districts’ readiness for online testing (Document No. GE09 212 01). Austin, TX; Texas Education Agency.