Increasing Teachers’ Time on Task with Technology

Friday, October 11, 2013 -- Ketsia Hamilton

Ketsia Hamiliton, Edmentum’s National Assessment Consultant, continues with part three of her series, “The Educator as Analyst.”

Time is of the essence when working in education.  In my first year of teaching circa 1998, I remember typing up a multiple page world history test, making classroom copies for ALL my students (4 period block, 27 students each) and then hand grading each test.  I always tested on Friday so I’d have the weekend to compute all scores and “disaggregate” the data to begin planning lessons for re-teaching on Monday.  Once I discovered Scantron forms, my assessment life improved dramatically!  Now, I created a class set of exams and a key - just had to wait in line to scan my forms as we only had a couple of machines in the building to share.  An improvement, I had one full day to enjoy the weekend.  Fast forward to 2008, I created quizzes or tests online using computer software and all my students completed the assessment online, in my classroom.  I, at the click of a button, had results delivered to me and could quickly see where I needed to begin to remediate, accelerate, and adjust my instructional strategies. Alas, the return of my weekends!

In teaching, the idea of “time on task” has usually been reserved to describe how students spend every minute of a class period.  However, with the advent of increasingly rigorous standards, accountability, and redesigned teacher evaluation systems, supporting more assessment efficiency in daily classroom instruction must be priority in order to meet the demands of 21st century education.  We have seen computer based tests utilized with summative assessment; but the use of technology tools for formative assessment is still growing in practice, yet has the potential to help teachers immediately evaluate strengths and needs of students and respond to them in a more efficient manner.  Through formative assessments, teachers can check for understanding of prior and new knowledge; gauge how well students are transferring their knowledge in unique ways; and observe students’ ability to respond to differentiated learning.

Classroom Response Systems or “Clickers” have been popular tools to measure classroom learning.  Edmentum’s Study Island product uses this technology to support differentiated instruction and formative assessment.   In addition, with schools moving to 1:1 devices and implementing BYOD programs there are other exciting tools available to engage learners and maximize teaching time.  Check out these tools from around the web to develop formative assessment in your classroom.

Google Forms:  Teachers can create a survey or quiz which students access via a link.  As students respond to the questions on the form, their responses are added to a Google Spreadsheet which the teacher can access and review. https://support.google.com/drive/answer/87809?hl=en

Answer Garden:  Teachers could use this tool to illicit short responses regarding student comprehension of discussions or topics.  Students must be concise in word choice as they are limited to 20 characters.  http://answergarden.ch/about-AnswerGarden/

Poll Everywhere:  Teachers create a quick poll and receive instant feed-back; multiple polls can be created and students may answer in real time using mobile phones, Twitter, or web browsers. http://www.polleverywhere.com/

Padlet:  An online sticky note tool that could be used to gather responses during class discussions. http://padlet.com/

Assessments for learning should be a regular part of dynamic classroom pedagogy.  While technology integration within this context has many positive benefits, it is important for teachers to ensure they are designing lesson plans that assess, as well as include time for feedback of the data they are collecting.  A wise principal advised her staff to “Maximize Your Minutes!” every day, using technology to formatively assess can make that an achievable goal.

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