Saturday, 2 June 2012

Assessment and technology

Using technology as an assessment tool is a great way to usher the use of technology into the classroom.  I once worked in a school in a lower income area, with a very high English Language Learner (ESL) population.  Gaps in education, literacy and numeracy learning sometimes made it difficult to accurately assess a student’s ability.  It pushed me to consider alternate forms of assessment. In my view, assessment is based on the outcomes, not on how the student can express their knowledge of the outcomes.  Using technology is a great way to understand what a student knows.  
Recently, a colleague was telling me how overrun she was trying to accommodate students in grade 3 and 6 writing their provincial English and French writing examinations.  Instead of attempting to split herself into a hundred pieces, she decided to use simple technology to help the students and herself.  She used a voice recording application, recorded the instructions to the students then the students recorded their story.  The students could go back and review their stories and make edits orally, then the teacher sat down and scribed the story that the students had expressed.  
 Even in the last 3 years, the accessibility of tools to assist in assessment is much better.  Here is a list of how I have used technology to assess students.
  • Using a word processing program for all students to write text, especially those with fine motor difficulties, difficulties with letter formation and spelling
  • Using a simple text to speech app for students to record their thinking.
  • Using voice recorder in phones, ipods and laptops to record student thinking
  • Recording a students steps and thinking in solving a mathematical problem using Smart Notebook Recorder which records the screen and audio.  With the new direction of the Mathematics curriculum, it is important for students to explain their thinking.  Recoding their writing and audio provides not only the teacher with a snapshot of students thinking, but it can also be used to in instruction to use the thoughts of students to teach other students.
  • Put readers onto a Smart Notebook file (or PowerPoint), including the text and images, and have students record their voices reading.  Again the teacher gets an assessment snapshot, and other students can use the file again to practice reading with peers voice.
  • Using video cameras, cameras, phones etc to record student thinking and process in group work.  Teachers can’t always observe every group so students can create recordings of their process that can be included in the assessment.   This is especially valuable in math and science where the process and skills are very important.  \
  • Using various programs and media to complete projects in any subject area.
  • Digital stories (more to come...)
The possibilities are endless with using technology to assess students.  Of course, there are the possibilities of completing projects with curricular goals with various tools, programs and online spaces.  Even simpler, is using the things we have in the classroom to maximize our abilities to observe students, and for them to show us what they know!


  1. What a great list, and one you can add to for the rest of your career. I'd suggest putting it on a wiki or a google document and inviting your PLC to contribute ideas. Always good to crowd source things like this, because your PLC will inevitably think of things you would never find on your own.

    Another angle on assessment is how teachers can use technology to provide assessments: voicethread, audio and video feedback, etc. I'll bet we could come up with a pretty good list of those too!

  2. Technology and ELL learners go hand in hand. It seems that students from even the poorest countries know how to use microsoft office and google. My first conversations with new ELL students often take place at a computer using Premier Literacy Translate. With my new Cuban student we use Reading A - Z she reads the English version - I read the Spanish version and we correct and laugh at each other's attempts with the language.