Blog Post

The Technology Test

As technology is incorporated into classroom lessons at increasing rates, school administrators, teachers, parents, and elected officials try to assess if its presence is truly effective.  There's one resonating question: Is there a way to accurately test for skills and knowledge acquired through technology, and if so, what would it look like?

When I think of using technology in the classroom, I think of how it bridges that great divide between what students want to be doing and their experiences versus what they need to/have to learn and what the teacher wants to accomplish.  Technology serves as the great facilitator.  I am not sure that a separate assessment could be designed for technology as it is used in the classroom right now.

Consider that most students might use technology, that is computers, to type papers and work on other types of school projects.  Students might learn how to put together websites for their favorite book, they might create a Facebook page for a famous scientist, or wiki page about the origin of a mathematical concept.  However, only a small population of high school students - those who schedule computer science classes and/or digital media classes - are truly immersed in learning how to competently utilize programs and programming language (I am not sure to what extent younger students are being introduced to computer science and more advanced digital applications).

If educators, administrators, and elected officials want to seriously consider developing a technology assessment, curriculum needs to be redefined such that all students are required to schedule significantly more technology classes to acquire a testable amount of knowledge.

I cannot say that I am for or against more required technology classes.  I am worried that because of standardizing testing and the need for students to perform well in certain subjects (reading, writing, and math), that curricula is becoming less diverse.  Consider too that so much depends on students scoring highly on standardized assessment tests - schools' reputations and teachers' jobs to say the least.

Testing students' technology skills now on an assessment might involve an additional section, where they are asked questions about how to use a computer and the Internet.  Indeed, knowing how and where to perform a search and which application to open to type a paper are very important.  There could be questions about how one might effectively utilize technology to design a class presentation or solve a math problem.  But again, students who only have access to technology in school may not demonstrate as thorough a knowledge of these functions as students who have access at home.  This sparks another debate about the haves and have-nots in the classroom, an entirely different blog post.

Back to my original point: technology is a resource students use to better express themselves and teachers use it to engage students in their content area.  I think it is best to think about technology as it stands.  Trying to push assessments in this area requires a great deal of change, namely a revised curriculum with an emphasis on digital literacy and computer science.  This is not bad, but like most things, it's a process, and one that I am sure we will eventually pursue more dramatically.


1 comment

I like this line of thinking a lot.  It makes me wonder about which technology skills are relevant to which academic subjects and why.  Perhaps it would be useful to distinguish between general technology skills and subject-specific skills.  (Of course, as your post implies, the concept of "skill" may be too limiting--i.e., learning how to do something meaningful with technology may involve more than "acquiring a skill").