Saturday, 2 July 2011

The Young Teacher's Guide To Internet And Assessment

This article is designed as a starting point for young teachers new to using the internet as a tool in their assessment. Being proficient at using the internet itself, is not a guarantee that you will immediately succeed in using it for assessment. Nor is being inexperienced with using the internet going to prevent you from using it to create an effective assessment task.

The advice that follows is the culmination of my experience introducing the internet as an assessment tool during the late 1990s and the early 2000s. It is important to understand that my staff and I began with varying degrees of experience with the internet.

Below is the advice I would offer to a young teacher joining my staff in the first year of his/her career.

• Make sure the assessment technique is not a test of how to get to use the internet.

• Always do the test yourself first, looking for 'glitches'.

• Allow more time than you feel is necessary. Computers and networks abide by 'Murphy's Law'. Websites can often be unavailable due to an upgrading process.

• Have more than one internet site available for use if possible.

• Always review the task after you have used it and rewrite it, if necessary. Don't disregard it because it didn't work well the first time. It may just need fine tuning to make it a great assessment task. You may need to add extra websites or update your list.

• Try to write instruments that are procedural in nature and don't depend on the website to be visited. Thus, you can use the procedure over and over again changing only the topic/data and the websites to be used.

• Remember to check your answers to the assessment task before marking as the website/s may have been upgraded since you wrote the assessment task.

• Learn to use a variety of search tools,.e.g. Google and Yahoo.

• There are sites that offer assessment items that you might use or adapt, e.g. had lots of quizzes on a variety of topics in Maths and other subjects that students could do on the internet. The site would email the teacher the results of his/her class. This site may no longer be available but there may well be others of a similar structure.

• It is important to check the websites you use for any bias. If you still wish to use a site, discuss the concept of bias with your class before you give the assessment task based on that website.

• Where students are allowed to find their own websites, they must acknowledge them. This will allow you to test the integrity of the site, if necessary.

• For lower year levels and the less able, make sure the websites you use or recommend are easy to use to facilitate the students getting started quickly on the assessment task itself.

• It is important that the websites you use or recommend have reliable data. Check it yourself beforehand.

• For the most reliable results, all students should have access to their own computer. Sharing computers can be more time consuming and can lead to claims by students that they did not get equal time to do the assessment task. Inexperienced students do take longer to do the tasks.

Remember that you don't need to be an expert web surfer to get started. Start simply. If it doesn't work the first time, change it and try again.

You can always use the results as a guide rather than a final grade or not use them at all. It can simply become a learning experience, both for you and your class.

In conclusion, the internet offers you this great advantage. You get real life data and the relevance to life that your students so often crave in their learning situations.

Rick Boyce taught for over forty-five years. The last fifteen years before retirement he was the Head of Mathematics. He gained a reputation as an innovator in the teaching of Mathematics and introduced the use of internet into the Mathematics assessment program in his school and became a presenter of professional development on the use of internet in assessment to teachers.

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