As we approach the start of spring, it’s hard to escape the thought that testing, too, is right around the corner.
Educators are all too familiar with the challenges that moving to online assessments can pose for both teachers and students. One of the biggest obstacles that we must tackle when it comes to online assessments is being able to provide our students with experiences that teach them those key digital literacies that ensure success in student assessment situations. It’s a terrible feeling to watch a student struggle more with the technology than with the content of an online assessment.
So how do we, as educators, set our students up for success when it comes to online assessments?
First, students must develop a comfort level with the online testing environment and an ease of use when it comes to navigating their devices. For many classrooms that don’t have access to devices for students on a 1:1 basis, there are hundreds of websites and pieces of software that teachers can utilize with their interactive whiteboards or interactive flat panels at the front of the classroom. Promethean’s ActivInspire software allows students to highlight, select, cut/paste, and drag and drop key information on a Flipchart page similar to what can be expected of students in an online assessment environment. Students can work in groups or in centers at the Promethean Board or Promethean Panel to practice these skills on a daily basis even without access to individual devices all the time.
Another way that we can better serve our students when it comes to preparation for online learning and testing situations is to correct some misconceptions about our students’ understanding of technology. As educators, we sometimes assume that our students understand how to work in different modalities when it comes to digital tools simply because our students have never known a world without technology. In Promethean’s web-based lesson delivery software, ClassFlow, students can become familiar with scrolling, tab toggling, or subject specific tools like calculators, rulers, and protractors that they need to manipulate on a device during an online assessment situation. Students must be able to move back and forth between the physical and digital spaces. If a student uses a physical ruler to measure the length of a line on a worksheet, he or she might then later measure the length of another item just in a digital space. The ruler and the math concepts are the same in both modalities. However, the way that a student manipulates the online tool is different.
Giving our students the same experiences with both physical and digital tools scaffolds their digital literacy skills and helps them transfer what they know in the physical world to the digital world.
Finally, we know that a lack of typing skills can truly impact student performance on an online assessment. Depending on the grade level, students are often asked to type an answer to an open response or writing prompt type question. By using Google Docs and the G Suite tools, students have the opportunity to practice their keyboarding skills throughout their daily lessons. Students could be marked down on conventions on their online writing prompt simply because they didn’t know how to use the Shift key to create a capital letter. Students should be scored on what they know about a subject matter, not their understanding, or lack thereof, of technology.
Because all of our Teaching and Learning Consultants at AXI Education Solutions were former teachers, we understand that teachers have to embed these digital literacy skills in their everyday teaching for our students to come out ahead on digital assessments. All of our professional development is customized to meet the unique needs and initiatives of each and every group of teachers that we work with. We believe that changing the way teaching and learning happens in the classroom is possible and imperative in order to prepare our students for the colleges and careers that lie ahead of their K-12 experiences.
As we continue to work so diligently on helping our students excel in digital environments, one thing we know for sure is that, “Digital literacy matters. It is a requirement for success in almost any field and is not a privilege or convenience, but an expected and required part of being a productive and responsible citizen.”1