September 4, 2017

Here is two facts about me:
1. I am an impatient person, when I discover something new I want to try it immediately.
2. I hate marking; I would rather do anything than mark.

With this in mind, why do I suddenly find myself taking the cautious road when it gets to doing formal assessments online? Just to be clear, I am not talking quick test to get a feel for where my class is, or for them to test themselves; I am talking assessments that “are for marks” – as much as I hate that expression.

There are of cause the obvious practical reasons. Until every learner in my class has a personal device, they won’t all be able to do the assessment online. While I don’t mind printing hard copies of a quick test for the one or two who does not have tablets, doing an assessment in different formats would not be fair.
I also don’t trust our network 100%. If somebody disconnects and have to start again during an informal assessment, I don’t mind, but if the same thing happening during a formal assessment it is a crisis.

But the main reason for my reluctance has got nothing to do with technology. It is because I have not taught my kids how to do online assignments yet.
“Teach your kids how to do an assessment?!? What kind of teacher are you?”

There is a difference between teaching for a test and teaching how to write a test. From the first test, they write in primary school we teach them how to read a test, how to format your answers, how to do rough work, what to do when you made a mistake, etc. You will find this in no lesson plan or curriculum, but we all know it is necessary. Until they have been taught the same about online assessments it would not be fair to use them for marks.

But what are the difference between an electronic and paper test?  For a start, the learner needs to get familiar with the website/app they will be using. If time is a factor, they also have to be comfortable typing on their device.

But learners also need to get used to some things that are unique to your subject. A self-mark test is limited to true/false, multiple choice and one-word answers. However, it doesn’t necessary mean one step questions. There is an art to setting and answering multiple choice

To illustrate this to our maths department, I created a true/false quiz for the teachers. I gave the question and answer and they had to decide if the statement is true or false. However between the question and the answer is about five steps worth of calculations.

Within 5 minutes one of the teachers exclaimed:
“I can’t do this on a computer; I want to write!”
I then had to explain to all of them that just because the quiz is online, the idea was never that they should be doing it in their head. They should be doing their calculations on a piece of paper and according to their answer decide if the statement is true.

If research and projects are more your scene, imagine this:
Instead of asking learners to hand in 10 typed pages as a project, ask them to create their own website.  If they have never created a website, they might end up spending more time researching how to create the site, than on the history.

These are but two examples of how learners have to learn how to deal with online assessments, and until they do, I will just have to grin and bear my marking load.

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