‘Nothing that we do to, or for, our students is more important than our assessment of their work and the feedback we give them on it. The results of our assessment influence our students for the rest of their lives and careers – fine if we get it right, but unthinkable if we get it wrong.’ Race, Brown and Smith (2005), 500 Tips on Assessment
Today I've been reading the JISC publication Effective Assessment in a Digital Age. JISC (formerly Joint Information Systems Committee) works with UK universities and colleges in the innovative use of digital technology. While I'm not involved in education at that level, I thought it would be interesting to see how the findings of this report could be also applied to primary education.
Currently it's possible for us to make on-screen tests (for example using Google Forms), to use ePortfolios where students can reflect on their own progress (we are investigating both Posterous and Blogger), and we have talked about the possibility of purchasing clickers to use with our SMARTboards for electronic testing (we had a little demo of this during our SMART training at the start of the year). However we are still some way away from the situation in my previous school where the students had a 1:1 tablet programme and submitting their work electronically was the norm. My IB class, for example, was almost entirely paperless and students only ever submitted work electronically, and I then used a stylus on the tablet to annotate and give feedback on their work, before submitting it back to them electronically again. Students were involved in creating their online textbook using a wiki that involved collaboration with students in 2 other schools where they peer reviewed the work posted by other students on the course. In addition we used Turnitin to check for plagiarism in all the internal and external assessments. Despite all this, my students still had to take their exams in the "old" way - in a quiet exam room, at separate desks and using a pen and paper. My son, who was given special dispensation to use a computer because of a writing disability, actually did a lot better than predicted - which has led me to wonder if that was because the way he did the assessment was more closely related to the way he had learned in class and at home during the previous 4 years, using his tablet to do all his work.
The following table, taken from the JISC report, shows that using technology for assessment must be part of a school-wide vision for learning and that the use of technology should motivate learning and improve self-assessment. My own feelings are that it will only be possible to use technology for assessment once it is embedded as part of the learning process and that assessment needs to be tied to feedback, so that students know what they need to do in order to move forward and improve.
Photo Credit: Senteo Remotes by Kentucky Country Day