Are these five educational technologies really ‘success stories’?

• Minecraft. “The internet has facilitated but not changed the standard teaching techniques: lecture, group work, individual reading, and slide presentation,” according the report. The computer game Minecraft is a new way for teachers to instruct students—a dynamic game that has “nearly exhaustible flexibility.”

Minecraft is a “sandbox” computer game that is open-ended, with no defined narrative or game-play objectives. Players approach the game similar to the way children play with Legos or blocks. Players gather resources and build things with those resources, and the worlds that the game generates for players are unique and large.

According to the report, Minecraft has several features that allow it to serve as a teaching tool, including teachers’ ability to conduct a lesson in a virtual world. More about the game and teachers’ use of it has a teaching platform can be found in the report.

• Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT). According to the report, the technology of standardized testing has changed very little over the past 50 years. CAT could revolutionize the field owing to its greater precision and practical advantages over traditional test formats. By combining two old technologies of computers and adaptive algorithms, CAT has more reliable test scores that paper-based testing (PBT); CAT scores have greater reliability that PBT; CAT costs significantly less to administer than PBT; CAT takes student less time to complete, freeing up instructional time; CAT has the option to include confidence-boosting test items; and CAT is easier to use for special education student, says the report.

“Plato once said that you can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation,” said Valerie Shute, Mack & Effie Campbell Tyne-endowed professor in education at the Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems for Florida State University, during the Brookings panel.

• Stealth Assessments. Stealth assessments embed formative assessments into games. Shute and her colleagues developed the first stealth assessment with the intention of capturing data “unobtrusively.” They collect data about student learning, which teachers can then use to improve and individualize instruction.

“Stealth assessments capture different data than high stakes assessment because the student’s behavior changed when engaged in a game as opposed to when focused explicitly on an assessment,” according to the report. “Students’ willingness to play stealthy assessment games out of the classroom could provide a huge boon to teachers, because it would provide data without using class time.”

Stealth assessments are especially important, says the report, because education reform efforts have focused on developing the infrastructure to gather large data sets on student learning.

Follow Associate Editor Meris Stansbury on Twitter at @eSN_Meris.

Meris Stansbury

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