Contemplating Assessment And Evaluation

On Thursday, I had a very interesting conversation with my principal after school.  We are always talking about the use of technology in the classroom, and more recently, we have been talking a lot about how you assess or evaluate activities that students have completed using the SMART Board or various computer programs.  

Until recently, I have not spent much time thinking about this, as I’ve always used the same tools to assess and evaluate these activities as I do pencil and paper activities that my students complete.  Checklists, rubrics, anecdotal comments, and portfolio assessment are just a list of some of the tools that I use.  After Thursday’s conversation, I will continue to use these same methods for assessment and evaluation, but with one difference: I will be cognisant of the fact that I am assessing the activity and not necessarily the use of technology.

In Grade 1 it can be hard, as there is a difference in what most students can write on the computer as compared to using a pencil and paper.  Many young children are still developing their fine motor skills, so making uppercase and lowercase letters on the computer is much easier than it is with a pencil.  Students just need to learn where the Shift button is on the keyboard, but now that they know this, most students are far more consistent at using conventions when word processing as compared to when writing.  Many of the children also enjoy using the computer more for writing activities, and this motivation also plays an important role in what they produce.  I think of myself as an adult, and if I want to do something, I am more likely to do a good job at it, and students are the same way. 

With improved conventions coupled with the same good ideas that students were writing about with a pencil and paper, what they’re writing is significantly better than it was before, and this does tend to result in higher marks on any rubric or checklist that I may use. 

Do not just take my word for this though: have a look at some of the summaries that my students completed on Friday for their Friday Journal.  All week, we read The Hat by Jan Brett.  For Friday’s activity, the students needed to write about the main ideas in the book.  They are supposed to use this summary to help retell the story using the puppets that they made on Wednesday.  Students were provided with a copy of the book to share with a partner, and they could also use the Word Wall, their dictionaries, and the Wordle that we completed on Thursday to help them write their summaries.  To prepare them for future writing as part of DRA (the Developmental Reading Assessment), they were given the format of first, then, next, and finally to help with the retelling process.  While almost all of the students wanted to write their summaries on Google Docs, I only had eight computers to use, so I chose eight students to write them on the computers, with the promise that the other students could do this next week if they wanted. 

This was one of the biggest writing activities that we have completed so far in Grade 1, and the results were amazing.  It is incredible to think that most of the students are now using punctuation, capitals, and spaces correctly.  While before they were writing using predominantly initial and final sounds, now many of them are using conventional spelling or close approximations.  I know that I can’t attribute all of this growth to technology, but my students seem to be far more consistent when using the computer to write, and I do need to take this into consideration.

For others out there that use computers and/or SMART Boards for writing activities, what do you find?  Are your students better writers when using technology?  When assessing or evaluating what they complete, are you able to separate the technology aspect from the writing aspect, and if you so, what do you find?  I know that I’ve suggested here why I get these results, but does anybody else have any thoughts on why you get the results that you do?  I would love to hear what you have to say!


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