Outside Influences

This article by Catherine Gewertz and Lianna Heitin in Education Week caught my attention: Fourth Graders Struggle With Icons, Directions on Computer-Based Tests.

Can we all let out a big DUH?

The students surveyed, an admittedly small sampling, all claimed to have access to computers at home. The students knew some very basic functions, but some others (see figure 2 in the article) like using a drop down menu were not. Oh and reading directions? Well fourth graders apparently are a mirror of what most of the rest of us do – they didn’t read them.

So why did this catch my attention? Well, several reasons. When administering computerized tests, is there some thought given to what tools are developmentally appropriate for, say, fourth graders or is everyone expected to use functionalities the same way adults do?

Secondly,not every one of my own students has ready access to computers. While improved on prior years when perhaps one of 24 students had a working computer at home, some do and some do not. So, that means, the understanding of these icons and keys on their assessments will make for lots of interesting results – not necessarily about the topic being assessed.

This makes me wonder: to what degree will students’ familiarity with technology tools affect their performance? And since student performance on tests is also associated with my evaluation, how will this skew things?

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One thought on “Outside Influences

  1. Indeed. And now that GED testing is all computer-based, too, the same concerns go for so many adult learners who are working toward a high school credential.

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