Why Test Online?
The biggest advantage for us is the tailored testing which will show us what our students can do, not what they can’t. We look forward to analysing the improved data that NAPLAN Online will bring.
The majority of the students actually said they enjoyed it. The tests were definitely more visually stimulating than previous years.
This was also mirrored in feedback from Year 7 teachers:
The students appeared to be on task and there was little required interaction with them once they got started.
Technical Readiness and Requirements
The success of conducting NAPLAN online greatly relies on having the technology and infrastructure to support it. This was something we worked very hard to have ready. The college invested in significant upgrades to WiFi capability across the campus to ensure a strong and stable connection for a large number of simultaneous users. Come test day, we encountered no connectivity issues whatsoever. The platform loaded quickly and was responsive between student and teacher devices.
From an ICT Manager’s perspective, and as it is with most things, adequate strategic planning, preparation and testing is required to ensure a smooth run. The main things to consider are internet connectivity (LAN or wireless), devices (BYOD vs school-owned), venue (shared hall or classrooms).
Despite an existing BYOD program from Year 3 upwards, the college selected to administer the test from school-owned and managed devices. This was to ensure a consistent and quality experience for the students. College owned devices were Microsoft Surfaces, which are a 2 in 1 device, incorporating a touch screen, a well-sized detachable keyboard and active stylus. These features were considered important for our students to have access to for NAPLAN online. We allowed students to bring a USB mouse if they wished, but found that very few did as the students were already comfortable working on touch screen devices. ACARA recommends student familiarity with the device of administration for the test. Our current BYOD program requires students to have a touch screen Windows device. Part of the decision extend our 1:1 BYOD program down to Year 3 was to allow our students to become familiar and feel comfortable with the technology. During delivery of the test, I was very pleased to see the children interacting with the touch screen, pinching to zoom in as required and making use of built in tools. Exposure to other online platforms in the classroom appears to have equipped students with general transferrable understanding of common interface elements.
It was pretty easy to do the test (on the computer). I knew how to go forward and back. It wasn't hard to figure out how it worked.
Staff and Student Readiness
There was a small amount of training involved. Coordinators were trained by ISQ and QCAA staff. We then trained the teachers administering the test at a school level. This was followed by a student preparation stage which was relatively simple and fast. This involved familiarising our students with the NAPLAN Portal. We were extremely impressed by how adaptive our students were.
Teacher Observations and Reflections
Testing online was conducted over two weeks. This was due to the number of school devices we had available to use at one time. Several teachers agreed that having the tests stretched out over a two-week period was quite disruptive and that they would rather have the testing completed quickly over the traditional three days. To do this in the future, we would have to make use of student owned devices, which would present more challenges in preparation and ensuring a consistent experience. Despite this feedback, general observations and reflections were positive.
I was unexpectedly happy with the whole process. I thought it was going to be far more painful than it was. When we had a technical problem it was easily solved and there were no major hiccups. I liked that it was paperless and that once the kids finished the tests, that was the end of it for the teachers.
I was impressed with the quality of work our students achieved during the delivery of the test online. Our dedicated teachers worked extremely hard at ensuring our students were familiar with the platform and that they understood their responsibility to pace themselves the same as they would during the paper version and not get ‘click-crazy’.
It ran very smoothly. Preparation is definitely the key. I think that using College devices meant that we had much fewer connectivity issues but it did mean that we had sessions running for the whole 9 days as we couldn’t run many concurrent sessions.
Thoughts on Typing Vs Hand-written
There continues to be much debate around students completing the writing task online. Perceptions in year 7 and 9 are more positive than in earlier years of schooling. Wendy Jurss, Director of Teaching and Learning, commented that student output appeared greater on the writing test than it had in previous years. With students in the high school now having taken part in a 1:1 BYOD program for the last 3 years, it could be suggested that a developing competency with technology contributed to this.
Year 3 teacher Robyn Behr is of the opinion that the writing test should remain hand-written in year 3:
Typing does present an added cognitive load to the process. The move toward online writing assessment appears to be allowing the results of prioritised literacy skills to somewhat rely on underprioritised technology competency. Despite there being General Capabilities relating to ICT skill and Australian Curriculum subjects focused on computer science, technology is still regarding as an "extra" in classrooms. Many schools engage with little more than a superficial implementation of technology in the early years of schooling.
If this is to be the future of NAPLAN and other external assessments, schools are going to have to very seriously consider their technology integration in the primary years, which is severely lacking in many right now. Insufficient exposure to technology tools could potentially hamper student ability to perform to their full potential in online testing. This is not a case against teaching handwriting or a call to replace books and pencils in schools with devices. Fundamentals are important and always will be. Similarly, this is also not the only reason for improved technology integration in schools and is in fact a very small part of the argument*. Nevertheless it remains a consideration that I encourage schools to consider as we move towards the full implementation of NAPLAN online.
*Further discussion on the typing vs hand-written debate can be found in a previous blog post here.
The Age of Digital Texts
A similar argument could be made in relation to the reading tests. Previous experience interacting with digital texts could be beneficial to students completing the reading test online. Year 3 teacher Robyn Behr highlighted a potential issue relating to the random assignment of reading material during the test:
There were six pieces of reading (each one at a different level) and students received them in random order. Some got the hardest piece first. For those confident readers the order was not an issue but for those students whose reading is average or below average it would have been very off-putting and potentially detrimental to their results.
Observations during the reading test did reveal some limitations of the interface. The texts were long and quite small on screen. Many digital reading platforms allow students to flick through texts as you might do in a physical book. A lot of students are accustomed to this. Students were zooming in on texts which raises questions as to how well they are actually reading the text or if they are even reading the entire text. There were several instances where students had zoomed in to texts and then lost the frame with the questions. Improvements to the size and presentation of digital texts on the platform would improve user experience.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Our experience with NAPLAN Online was a positive one. I believe this is greatly due to the hard work of our staff in preparation for the test and ensuring that the technology could support the event from an IT perspective. Student exposure to technology through our BYOD program appears to greatly reduce technology related anxiety and complications. There remains the question of exploring the use of student-owned devices in order to complete tests in a shorter time-frame. A more targeted and mindful approach to developing typing may enable students even more. Further development into the interface will help ensure students have the opportunity to achieve their best. Despite our feelings and experiences conducting the test itself, the outcomes are what we will be paying the most attention to. It will be very interesting to compare student data once it is released.
Special thanks and credit to the staff of The Springfield Anglican College who contributed their feedback to help inform this article:
The Hack was back on the weekend and it delivered exciting updates and inspiring stories. The theme was sparking creativity and curiosity, with some great ideas from Alan November and MIE Experts from around the world. Read on to see what my highlights were.
Anthony Salcito, got the party started by introducing Microsoft Translator, which includes an add in for PowerPoint that enables, live captioning, cross language understanding and multi-lingual casual conversation support. This type of assistive technology is powerful in diverse classrooms, language learning classrooms and even in school administration.
You can download the add in for PowerPoint here. Visit the official Microsoft Translator page to learn more.
The best teacher is .... a student!
The super inspiring Alan November, shared student created tutorial videos (from www.mathtrain.tv) and suggested that students can make the best teachers. He cited research by Harvard university explaining that teachers can have the "curse of knowledge" meaning they have too much content knowledge to connect with a first time learner on a subject. It is suggested than another first time learner, having just experienced a subject themselves, can make the best teacher at the introductory level.
A global audience motivates our students
Purpose is a great motivator. They joy of creating content to teach a peer can often more inspiring than working for a grade. Alan suggested that connecting with a global audience can make students feel that their wok is valued and making a difference. Using ClusterMaps, Alan was able to show students the people who were accessing their content from around the world. Suddenly the children were scrambling to create more content to "help others around the world".
Solve vs Involve
Twitter was also highlighted as a powerful tool to connect classrooms and teachers around the world. A final example shared by Alan November was a tweet posted by a maths teacher (Jessica Caviness) where she asks her students to design their own problem, prompted by a picture and the requirement to "involve" volume. The outcomes were wide and varied. It represented a breakthrough in creative thinking in a Mathematics classroom, with student questions pushing their peers to work beyond the standard.
Tammy Dunbar is the teacher we all want to be
If I could go back to school, I would want Tammy Dunbar as my teacher! She was such an animated and passionate professional. Tammy shared her top five ways to spark creativity and cultivate curiosity in her 5th grade classroom:
Lego Mindstorms Education Ev3 Integration
Lego Mindstorms now integrates into Windows 10 with a new EV3 app. Connecting via bluetooth makes the experience even better. You can download the app here.
A new courses for Lego EV3 is also now available via the Microsoft Educator Community here. Upon completion, you receive badges and points on your Educator Profile.
Remix in the Classroom: Digital Inking on Microsoft Photos
Copy, transform and combine. These are the elements of creativity. Taking existing media, transforming it and combining it with new materials for a new purpose underpin the process explored at Renton Prep. The students are using the new video features in the Photo App to creatively share their learning, combining digital ink on top of photos and videos. This has potential across subject areas and could be used in a variety of ways. I cannot wait to have a go!
You can download the Microsoft Photos app here.
For those would like to watch the recording of the Hack the Classroom event themselves, you can check it out here. Be sure to watch until the very end to see Toney Jackson perform his 10 commandments - wow!
A recent update to OneNote is the ability to embed Microsoft Forms into a notebook simply by dropping the direct link on the page.
Microsoft forms allows you to create simple quizzes with multiple choice, ratings, or short answer responses. It boasts a really clean user interface, that is easy to apply an attractive theme to as can be seen below. Creating a quiz is quick and easy to do. You can share your quiz via a link, QR Code, via email or it can be directly embedded. I have found it useful for creating lesson exit tickets as well as formative and summative assessment. In today's lesson with year 6 students, I used it to collect student reflections and peer reflections via the Class Notebook.
After completing their product, the teams had to complete the self reflection in the OneNote Class Notebook. The feedback Form was on the activity page that was distributed to all of the students notebooks (using the Class Notebook add in). The students did not have to leave OneNote to complete and submit the questions which made collecting student feedback and reflections very easy.
The students at my school start working 1:1 with a device from Year 4. There is a lot to learn and this is big step for sure, but I strongly believe that the students are up to the challenge and can do amazing things when you put the skills in their hands.
I was so delighted to see this lovely example come out of a Year 4 Science Lesson this week. These students are only 8 and 9 years old! After learning how to add a picture and doing some work with tables in one of my Digital and Design Technologies lessons the previous week, the classroom teacher decided to go digital with her Science lesson this week. The students conducted a field study of erosion in the school grounds. They utilised the skills learnt previously and applied them to a new situation by creating a table of their observations and adding photographic evidence. The teacher was thrilled with what the students achieved and the ability to add pictures to their field study notes enhanced the activity for the students.
I have to say I was thrilled also. It is always pleasing knowing you are having an impact in your role, but also seeing the independent transfer and application of skills in another subject area - YAY!
This example of student work illustrates two points I want to make:
Read all about my thoughts on teaching in the 21st Century, my experiences with technology in the classroom, running a Maker Space, launching STEAM and Design Thinking with students, coding, robotics and much more!
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