All 150 member companies of SIIA that sell to schools have agreed on a vision statement about where schools can use technology most effectively to support their goals, Billings said, so the United States remains globally competitive.
The web site for this “Vision for K-20 Education” framework “includes a survey so schools can see where they are in relation to attaining the vision,” she said. School leaders can benchmark their progress toward implementing technology effectively to support teaching, learning, and school operations, and they can take the survey again the following year to see how much progress they’ve made.
(Watch our interview with Karen Billings below.)
The web site also offers advice on how schools can do better in the areas where they scored poorly on the survey, Billings said. Supporting resources include research reports, case studies, and a video platform through which educators can share success stories on integrating technology effectively in the classroom.
A creative approach to testing
Steen Lassen, senior advisor for the Ministry of Education in Denmark, discussed how that nation uses information and communications technology (ICT) in support of student testing.
Denmark has allowed its secondary students to use computers during written exams for more than 15 years, Lassen said. The initiative began in 1994, allowing students to use computers only as a word processor at first, so they could compose and edit text-based responses.
“But after a few years, we could see that more and more students were using computers,” Lassen said. By 2000, he said, 98 percent of the nation’s students were using computers to take their written exams.
That prompted Denmark’s education leaders to ask: “If we knew beforehand that the student has a computer, can we then make a new type of assignment that uses the facilities of the computer,” Lassen said—so it can used as more than just a word processor?
Inspired by this line of thinking, Denmark rolled out a new type of assessment in 2001 that used a CD-ROM as the method for delivering exams. That allowed educators to incorporate multimedia (such as video clips) into the assessment process, Lassen said—providing a more authentic method of assessment in which students could browse a collection of digital resources to find information, analyze it, synthesize it, and write about their conclusions.
Danish officials put what Lassen called an “artificial internet” on the testing CDs. Students could quote from the material, and they could cut and paste from written texts (with the appropriate citations) to support their arguments. The assessments tested whether students were able to find relevant information, think critically about what they have found, and present their findings, he explained; in other words, Danish students were asked to demonstrate the kind of 21st-century skills that many U.S. companies say they are looking for when hiring candidates.
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