How can technology be used with assessment, evaluation, and curriculum redesign?
Modern technology offers educators a variety of new tools that can be used in the classroom. Technology can help teachers track and assess their students' -- as well as their own -- performance in the classroom. It can also be used to facilitate communication between students and teachers and to create digital records of student growth and development that can easily be passed along from grade to grade.
Teachers can use technology to make their own work more productive -- teachers can use spreadsheets to track student work and also track their teaching plans. If a group of students is performing poorly in a particular area, this kind of record keeping can highlight areas that the teacher needs to focus on in their own teaching.
These tools can also help administrators assess and improve teacher performance.
The Internet is another tool that can be used to communicate about assessment, evaluation and curriculum redesign with the wider community. This workshop series is an example of this idea in practice. For more information about the Internet and classroom education, see Why the Net? An Interative Tool For the Classroom.
Using Technology in Classroom Evaluations
What goes on inside a student's head is often a mystery or a "black box", says Dr. Anthony Petrosino, Associate Professor at the University of Texas, and an expert reviewer of this workshop series. Technology gives us a way to get feedback continually during the teaching process, instead of at the end of the teaching process -- when you end up with only a retrospective understanding.
How can technology assist in understanding the minds of children? You can gather a lot of insight by talking to a child at length, but that is often not practical in the classroom. Given the constraints of the classroom, technology can provide another set of ways to assess what children are understanding and learning. It allows for continuing evaluation of the classroom lessons.
One example of a new tool is a program called Diagnoser, developed by Jim Minstrell and Earl Huntand at the University of Washington. This program is designed to give teachers insight into a student's conceptual understanding of high school science. The program asks a series of questions, which are designed to test deep understanding. The goal is not to elicit the correct answer, but to understand how the student arrives at the answer they have chosen. Gravity, for example, is one of the modules the program addresses. Gravity is frequently misunderstood, and many students often believe that heavy objects fall more rapidly than light ones. The Diagnoser is designed to ask a series of questions about the behavior of a bowling ball and golf ball -- if both are let go at the same time, which will hit the ground first? -- and then, through a series of questions, the teacher gets an insight into the students' understanding of the basic principles behind their choices. What are their miscomprehensions? With a clear view of his classes' misunderstandings, the teacher can shift emphasis and redesign his instructional plans in mid-course.
Technology can also be used in the production of portfolios. There are now available a whole new range of devices that students can use in producing materials for evaluation. Students can use scanners, digital photographs, and computer-generated movies as part of a multi-media portfolio. Speeches, musical performances, and compositions can also be included in appropriate file formats, allowing for the documentation of athletic, dramatic, musical, and other performance-based activities. One of the advantages of a digital, multi-media portfolio is that it can be made available to a variety of communities. It can be designed so it can be reviewed by the student and their teacher, or by their classmates. It can even be placed on the Web, where students work can be made public. This becomes a wonderful opportunity for parents to see and react to their children's classroom work. One major advantage to digital technology is that the work can become part of a larger, broader conversation. Feedback can then be received from an expanding universe of communities.
Continual feedback between teachers and students generates a way of teaching that is very different from the traditional approach. It becomes more like sailing a ship, with the teacher constantly adjusting course. The goal is set, but the actual path responds to the needs of the individual students. That is a model for what assessment looks like when it occurs continuously during instruction.
Technology is just a new set of tools, which are useful only if they add value to the learning experience.