Friday, January 1, 2010

Tech Skills Assessment -> Conversations

This post is, as always, for my own reflection. I have been trying Simple Assessment with my sixth, seven, and eighth grade classes. The product is offered free for teachers to use with their students with no strings attached. I don't think I will use it in the lower grades.

Before Entering the Classroom
To sign up for Simple Assessment, you must first fill in their form on the bottom right of the screen. I was contacted by a representative of the company and walked through a demo of the product using the computer while on the phone. The assessment is straight forward. It is a combination of matching, multiple choice, and screen captures in which the student selects the appropriate area of the screen to perform a task.

I provided a file with student names, ids and passwords of my choice. I was able to group the students in several ways. I chose to group the students by homeroom and grade level. I did not have to have an email address for the students.

Three Things to Remember Next Time
FIRST: When the students were set up, I had to assign the students to the New Jersey Simple Assessment course. I didn't realize this and when I told the students about the assessment and had them signed on -- no one had the assessment available. It was then I realized that I had to go to each student and add the assessment to the student's account.

SECOND: I was told, but I forgot -- Simple Assessment does not work well with Firefox on the Mac. We had tons of problems getting everyone signed in. Only a few students were able to take the test. By the next day, I remembered what I was told in advance and had the students use Safari. Once we did everyone was able to take the test. It didn't seem to matter much whether the machine was older (around 8 years old) or newer (the 2008 model). I have only Mac OS 10.4 and 10.5 in the lab.

THIRD: It seemed best to have the students take the version of the test they felt most met their needs. There is a Mac with Office 2008, Windows/ Office 2003, and Windows/ Office 2007 version set up for me. The nice thing is that the questions are all presented in the same order so the responses are fairly easy to look at over multiple versions of the test. The screen shots change to suit the version of Office.

The Results
The results have taken me a fairly long time to appreciate. At first glance I was not happy with the results. So far, one grade has 75% of the results in. It has helped me to think through how the data is useful.

It became immediately apparent that I have to take each grade's results separately. The assessment is supposed to show what students should be able to do by the end of eighth grade. It used 65 questions to help compare the student's knowledge and abilities against the NETS Student standards.

I think if a person is just looking to say, "My students are all 100% proficient", they might not be happy with the results.

First, I am trying to determine how far toward the end of eighth grade each group is. I have seen the students from Kindergarten through seventh. The eighth grade students had computers from Kindergarten through eighth. If I base the results on 3 trimesters per year then the students could be able to attain a certain percentage on the test.

Sixth = 6 years of school times 3 trimesters + 1 trimester for this year = 70% - so, in theory, a score 70% could mean the sixth grader would be performing "at grade level".

GradeTotal TrimestersTrimesters to the end of 8th
Percent to 100

Using Excel to Analyze
Simple Assessment gives the administrator an easy method to export the data. I brought the information into Excel and set up a grid to help me compare each of the six strands of the NETS for Students. In addition to the NETS questions, there is set of five database questions. Once I imported the data and started color coding, patterns began to emerge.

I can see that individual students strengths begin to emerge. Overall, databases are the weakest area. This makes sense. We really did not have a database package to work with until I started loading Open Office on the tablets last year. As a group they are fairly strong in Digital Citizenship and Creativity and Innovation. They fared well in Communication and Collaboration, Research and Information Fluency, and Technology Concepts and Operations. Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Decision Making had the least students with passing scores.

Using What I Now Know
I now have the power to drive my lessons a little differently. I will still follow the path for this grade, but we can discuss the results as a group. I'm thinking about using Chatzy as the platform for discussion. They really enjoyed using the web site last year when discussing Internet safety. Since I paid for the room upgrade, I can capture all their comments. I am going to give each student a spreadsheet with their passing and failing entries. We'll review the concepts within one NETS standard. Afterward, I will have them write a short reflective piece to let me know how they feel about their comfort and knowledge in that area versus the test results.

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  1. Thanks for your thoughts on this. I still cannot seem to get set up to use this. I've tried signing up multiple ways and never get contacted about it. Were there any areas in Word or Excel or PowerPoint that you haven't been covering that were tested? I have also wondered how they can test some of the standards like creativity for example.

  2. The areas tested in Office are general things most students would want to do such as spell checking. The creativity standard asks students to order the steps to create a podcast, for instance.

    I was originally contacted via email. I think I followed up with a phone call. Once I made the phone connection getting set up was very easy.