Preparing for PARCC

As teachers begin using their new technology, I have been asked how we can help better prepare our students for PARCC. Will simply using the technology on a regular basis be enough to familiarize students with the unique challenges of a completely digital test? 

According to Jacqui Murray, author and technology teacher, it really comes down to five major tech areas. If teachers work on these elements, their students will be greater prepared for Common Core State assessments. The following can also be viewed (with more information) in her article here.

1- Keyboarding

Students need to have enough familiarity with the keyboard that they know where keys are, where the number pad is, where the F row is, how keys are laid out. They don’t need to be touch typists or even use all fingers. Just have them comfortable enough they have a good understanding of where all the pieces are. Starting [this] school year, have them type 15 minutes a week in a class setting and 45 minutes a week using keyboarding for class activities (homework, projects–that sort). That’ll do it.

2- Basic Computer Skills

These skills — drag-and-drop, keyboarding with speed and accuracy, highlighting, playing videos — are not easy for a student if they haven’t had an instructive course in using computers. It won’t surprise any adult when I say using an iPad isn’t the same as using a computer. The former has a bunch more buttons and tools and the latter more intuitive. And typing on an IPad virtual keyboard is not the same as the reassuring clackity-clack of a traditional set-up. Will students get used to that? Yes, but not this month.

Make sure students are technologically proficient in their use of a variety of digital devices, including computers and iPads. This means students have an understanding of what defines a digital device, how it operates, what type of programs are used on various types (for example, apps are for iPads and software for laptops) and how they operate, and the best way to scaffold them for learning.

Being comfortable with technology takes time and practice. Make digital devices and tech solutions available at every opportunity –for note-taking, backchannel communications, quick assessments, online collaboration, even timing an activity. Make it part of a student’s educational landscape.

This includes the safe and effective use of the Internet. Students should understand how to maneuver through a website without distraction.

One area Terry asks about is vocabulary. The words she mentioned — copy, paste, cut, highlight — these are domain-specific. Use the correct terminology as you are teaching, but observe students. If they don’t understand what you’re saying, help them decode it with context, affixes, or an online dictionary for geek words. Keep a list of those words. Soon, you’ll have a vocabulary list for technology that’s authentic and specific to your needs.

3- Stamina

Expect students to type for extended periods without complaint. Common Core State Standards require this. That’s what “one page in a sitting in 4th grade, 2 pages in a sitting in 5th grade, 3 pages in a sitting in 6th grade” means. The Assessments expect students have that sort of stamina. They’re long tests with lots of keyboarding and other tech skills. Make sure your students have practiced working at computers for extended periods.

A good idea is to have students take some online assessments prior to this summative one. These can be created by the teacher using any number of online tools like Google Forms or use already- created tests like those that follow BrainPop videos.

4- Problem Solving

Make sure students know what to do when a tech problem arises. They should be able to handle simple problems (here’s a list you can start with) like “headphones don’t work” or “caps lock won’t turn on” or “my document froze.” This is easily accomplished by having students take responsibility for solving tech problems, with the teacher acting as a resource. They will soon be able to differentiate between what they have the ability to handle and what requires assistance.

A great starting point when teaching problem solving are Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice. These are aligned with the Math Standards, but apply to all facets of learning.

5- Teacher Training

Make sure teachers administering the online tests are familiar with them and comfortable in that world. They should know how to solve basic tech issues that arise without calling for outside help. This is effectively accomplished by having teachers use technology in their classroom on a regular basis for class activities, as a useful tool in their educational goals.

Hopefully this is a good starting point for those who have questions regarding PARCC student readiness. 5 skills for student focus were found at http://www.teachhub.com/how-prepare-students-parcc-tests and can be accessed there for further information.

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