Thursday, April 7, 2011

Raising the bar

    This year I’ve been teaching our high school 1-semester Technology course for the first time (though I’ve taught middle schoolers technology for a decade). 

    One thing has been apparent both semesters – it’s time to raise the bar.  Our technology requirement is seriously out of date; we require students to be able to demonstrate that they can keyboard at a reasonable speed (25 wpm with no errors), and can competently use Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel.

    Here’s the thing:  students come into class already capable users of Word and PowerPoint, and usually able to pass the typing test without practice.  Only Excel gives them problems. 

But there are so many other critical skills my students need, including:

·    evaluating websites and internet information for validity (a gaping skill deficit here) 
·    evaluating their digital footprints and online safety
·    finding and figuring out how to use free internet tools
·    avoiding plagiarism online
·    collaborating with others using technology.

    If we require that students have technology skills to graduate, shouldn't these skills be included?  I teach all these skills, usually in a cross-disciplinary framework.  But how should I assess them?  Since these aren't part of the formal requirement, my assessments here have been formative - lots of practice and feedback.

    It’s easy to do a summative assessment of whether a student knows how to use Word or Excel; I give them a task and see how well they accomplish it.  Either they’ve shown me they know how to bold text or use a header, or they haven’t.  

    But these newer skills are based on judgment, so inevitably the assessments I use are about judgment.  So how do I assess these skills?   

    Rubrics, here I come.


  1. I've recently come across a tool used by other educators in my district that touches on some of the important technology skills you highlight. TRAILS is a free online assessment that tracks progress in five areas: Develop Topic; Identify Potential Sources; Develop, Use, and Revise Search Strategies; Evaluate Sources and Information; Recognize How to Use Information Responsibly, Ethically, and Legally. I haven't set up any account yet but will be soon. Hope this may be of use!

  2. Thanks for the tip, Ryan. I'll check it out.