A student’s eye view, narrated, of the open computer test experience, talking one’s way through a sample problem with the resources of the internet.

A teacher’s eye view of an open computer testing experience:

For much more about Open Computer Testing, including links to several sample tests, perceptions of students, and links to other resources, click here.

As part of a continuing exploration here, I am happy to share this next example of and reflection upon “Open Computer” or “Open Internet” Testing at St. Gregory.  As I’ve written before, I think this assessment approach is a highly valuable one for promoting deeper learning, information literacy, and analytic and organizational skill development over memorization and regurgitation.  I think that many tests in most subjects can be, with the right intentional design, “open internet” and that they will be the better for it. 

Some argue against tests altogether, but I still love a good test, and taking the time to think through as a teacher what kind of questions can we ask which will continue to be meaningful assessments when Google and Wolfram Alpha are available is, I think, a highly productive exercise, and, of course, will generate a more authentic assessment experience far more well aligned with the real world of professionals for which we are preparing our students. 

Below is a report about another experiment with this approach from our Theater teacher and director, Lisa Bodden.

Comparing my approach to teaching this course with the last time I taught a similar version I realized that the major thing that has changed is the student’s access to technology. Did I still need the students to buy a heavy, although comprehensive, textbook? No, the information is available at their fingertips.

Did I need to order lengthy videos describing very limited topics and spend time plucking out the important details? No, YouTube is almost too easy and has a plethora of informative  videos, performances, and interviews with scholars and professionals.

Therefore, did I really need the students to regurgitate information or could I ask them to utilize  Internet resources and their class notes to compose essays based on questions that they helped craft?

The “answers” the students created in response to the essay prompts not only proved to me how well they understood the information, but also allowed them to maintain their individuality, voice, and opinion. I asked for historically specific information, but they could choose who and what on which to focus. The test went very well, in my view, and I will happily turn to this method again and again. Although this will not be my only method of assessment, I consider it a success. (more…)

As I wrote about last year, I am greatly enthusiastic about the opportunity Open Computer testing plays in assessing our students in their development of 21st century skills.     I think it is a really exciting way to take assessment into 21st century information environments, and to situate students in much more real-world situations as we prepare them for the contemporary world of work.

The above slideshow displays what I think is a very well designed “Open computer/open internet” exam, and Dr. Scott Morris has added on every slide his annotations of how he expects students to use the internet in answering these questions, and how these questions, with those resources, demand more of his students, particularly the higher order thinking skills of critical thinking and analytic reasoning, and a deeper understanding of the course material. (If the slides are too small for the print to be legible, click on the full screen link at the bottom right).

As I frequently discuss with Dr. Morris, with whom I have prepared this post and with whom I am co-presenting on this topic at the NAIS Annual Conference in March, our rationale is that our students are preparing to work in professional environments where they must tackle and resolve complex problems, and we know that in nearly every envisionable such environment, they will have laptops or other mobile, web-connected, digital tools to address those problems.   Let’s assess their  understanding in situations parallel to those for which we are preparing them.

But it is not just a matter of situating them in real-world environments, but that with open computer testing, the format of exams, (and yes, as much as I am a huge fan of PBL, exhibitions, and portfolios, call me retrograde but I still think there is a place and a role for exams in the range of assessment tools we use,) but the format of exams changes in really meaningful ways. (more…)

We know that content memorization must no longer the goal of our learning programs; what our goal must be is that students can make the most sense of the voluminous and fast-accelerating quantity of information which will forever be at their fingertips, and about which they must be able to think critically, to select, to evaluate, to apply, and to amend as they tackle challenging problems.

So why shouldn’t our school-tests evaluate our students ability to do exactly this?  Why not structure tests appropriately, and then invite and welcome (and require) our students to use their computers on their tests? Isn’t this real world, and real life, preparation?

Radical maybe, but it is happening.   In Denmark, for instance.

At five to nine, the room falls silent. CD-roms and exam papers are handed out together. This is the Danish language exam. One of the teachers stands in front of the class and explains the rules. She tells the candidates they can use the internet to answer any of the four questions. They can access any site they like, even Facebook, but they cannot message each other or email anyone outside the classroom.

The teachers also think the nature of the questions make it harder to cheat in exams. Students are no longer required to regurgitate facts and figures. Instead the emphasis is on their ability to sift through and analyse information. (more…)

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