Tuesday, January 26, 2016

How to Prepare Students for Online Standardized Testing

Whether we like it or not, online standardized testing is a hurdle all students will need to cross. Here are some ways to help prepare them.

Develop good organizational skills.
Students need to know where things are, even if they can't see them. Visual learners may need to map information locations. Habitually messy students need to know how to use good file names and search features. "Out of sight, out of mind" often applies to that minimized window hiding in the task bar or the file somewhere on a flash drive.

Develop screen transfer skills.
Help students understand that it is OK to write physical notes from screen content. It's not one or the other, but a collection of tools that help them. Students need to understand that plagiarism does NOT mean digital content can ONLY be viewed. Help students dig deep into screen content and draw connections to physical documentation. The inverse is also true. Students need to learn how to transfer physical documentation and transfer it onto a screen through typing, illustrations and outlines.

Develop troubleshooting skills. ​
As students (and adults) get older, we find it convenient to blame technology for perceived shortcomings. Help students understand how to analyze a problem and look for a solution. This article gives a five part model of how to incorporate problem solving into the curriculum.

Develop the ability to think with a keyboard.
This is different than typing speed, it's the ability to "get thoughts on paper" quickly through the keyboard tool. Until a student is comfortable and proficient with the recording tool they cannot record their thoughts with any speed or accuracy. This is often why students are forgiving of typos and prefer shortened texting codes.
  • Lower grades should increasingly require students to compose using various keyboards: PC and iPad in both landscape and portrait mode.
  • Upper grades should increasingly require more documentation in typed format. This includes the polished, finished product and the immediate thought capture such as note taking and brainstorming.
  • A suggested tool to use is Google Forms. Start with short responses and increase to longer written responses. In the computer lab, my middle school students balk at a 140 character requirement (the same max size for a twitter post).

Develop the ability to comprehend audible instruction without reading the text.
Some online tests have audio instructions without video or accompanying text. Give students audio recordings to interact and follow. Students often have lazy listening skills because they rely more on video and written text.

Require screen reading.
Reading text on a screen is very different from a book. If it's the Internet, students have trouble discerning important text from advertising. Because they cannot physically annotate without copying, teach students how to mentally break apart visual text. Begin by printing visual instructions, then demonstrate how to deconstruct and organize the concepts. Also have students practice reading instructions and content from screens of varying sizes.

Use online calculators.
Math look completely different when using the ten key number pad and a giant on-screen calculator. Have students practice working out problems on www.mathway.com instead of paper and pencil.

The goal should be to develop students who are calm and confident with the digital tools modern standardized testing requires. This gives them the best opportunity to engage the content without stumbling over the testing mechanism. If you would like help implementing any of these items, please contact me. With a little tweaking of our current practices, we can give students another edge in meeting the challenges of the future.