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The world is embracing the use of technology to improve education at a very fast rate. Employers are now turning to the use of testing software to carry out staff recruitment exercises and for a long time, professional bodies have been using online testing software to test candidates. Online assessment methods are now also being implemented by educational establishments to assist in guiding students from early ages of schooling.
This paper looks at the role played by technology in the education field and more especially, in the area of assessment. Specifically, two online assessment tools; Scantron Performance Series and Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS), are discussed.
The quest for accountability in the education system and the desire to ensure that students are taught well has continued to grow over time. This has driven stakeholders to start considering alternatives to guide the teaching process for the good of both the teacher and the student.
Educators are faced with a tough challenge to come up with innovative ways that guarantee the success of the education system besides ensuring that they are able to perform to the expectations of the public.
Review and Literature
Generally, the goal of any education system is to create of a healthy learning environment that provides the students with the opportunity to successfully learn and develop to their full potential. The key hurdle to deal with here is the huge variation that often is noticeable among students in terms of learning abilities.
While others are perceived to be fast learners, some tend to be slow and require some special treatment and a lot of patience, understanding and support to enable them benefit from the entire learning process.
The traditional approach to teaching requires the teacher to use his/her own intuition to make judgment about the students’ abilities. While this might help especially is the teacher has the interests of the student at heart, more often than not it is flawed and leaves a lot to be desired.
We cannot with certainty use our human judgment to clearly tell where each student is at in the learning process and who among the students have need of support. As a result, slow and poor performing students receive a very unfair treatment.
The need to use improved assessment tools arose from the fact that teachers wanted to have faster, reliable ways of evaluating students so as to identify the challenges faced by the students in good time to be able to rescue them from any difficulty faced. Good feedback received within a reasonable time will help the teacher to know a student’s weakness and offer the appropriate form of support.
Initially, very rudimentary methods were used to accomplish this very important step of the learning process. Teachers would have to carry out the assessment manually and since every stage of the entire process is manual, too much time has to be taken process and give the results. In most cases, feedback would come in very late for the teacher to use to address the student’s difficulty.
Education officials then figured out that there was need to improve the assessment approach and make the whole education system relevant to the needs of the society. One development in this area was introducing the use of computers and palm handheld devices.
These devices provide a means to quickly be able to evaluate students and with the outcome of the testing being received almost instantaneously, the process of helping the students becomes easy and reliable. Needless to mention that this has led to a great improvement in the way students are taught in school.
With the hand held devices and computers teachers are able to set benchmarks used not only to gauge the students’ performance, but also identify areas where the teachers need improvement. Eventually, we have teachers who are self aware and well placed to make positive contributions.
In view of the above challenges, and the benefits brought about by the use of technology, the use of online assessment has continued to gain popularity.
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Technology is proving to be very useful as an aid for the teachers. Both teachers and students are able to see their weaknesses and do what they can to make improvements. Teachers are able to see areas where their students need help. The idea has been widely accepted and technology is now being applied in numerous learning situations.
A number of online testing solutions exist that are meant to help create a difference in the way the educators run their programs. Among the solutions are Scantron and DIBELS. These tools have significantly reformed the way teachers gauge student performance. They are discussed further below.
Scantron Performance Assessment
This was developed by Scantron Corporation and it uses a computer adaptive system to test students. Tests are designed in such that they can allow the maximum possible time required for a student to complete a test. Each student being tested gets a unique test and depending on how the student answers a question, the next question could get more or less difficult.
Scantron performance assessment program comes with a backup system in place that guarantees recovery to the point when problems were encountered. Students taking the test are therefore not worried about any interruptions occurring while they are still taking the exam.
The Scantron system is however, not without a negative side. Young students find themselves in difficulties and get confused when using the system. This means that the students have to be well trained to take advantage of the system. Students without computer skills are also greatly disadvantaged when it comes to using the system. Another noticeable danger is that teachers may end up delegating the teaching process.
Due to the adaptive nature of the test some students may complete a test within a shorter time when others take a longer duration. Slow paced students who see their peers finishing early could easily get discouraged.
According to SPSTR (2010), given the fact that a teacher might be required to supervise a huge number of students taking a test and with the examinees probably sitting close to one another, the test integrity is also questionable. It is therefore important that students are warned against sharing answers with peers Again.
Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS)
DIBELS is an early literacy assessment approach used to mainly establish whether students are experiencing reading problems and also, to monitor the students’ progress. The method uses benchmark goals that can be used by educators to check the progress of all students. The benchmarks are set by using well researched indicators (University of Oregon, 2008).
The method offers great help in identifying students experiencing difficulties in the learning process. Furthermore, proper usage of the system can also provide a good basis for measuring the effectiveness of the student support system.
Data collected can be used to identify students who are making progress in their learning process as well as those having challenges. Teachers are also able to interact and share ideas using the program.
The test results of the DIBELS program can be used as indicators of how well a student is able to learn. By using the scores, an educator can tell if a student is doing fine or if they need support (Dessoff, 2007).
A concern for critics of the DIBELS program is the use of words made up including some that do not make sense to test the student’s reading ability. To some, this does not make sense at all. Others are strongly opposed to the idea of timing the DIBELS test and advocate for students being let to read at their own pace. (Dessoff, 2007).
Despite being considered disruptive especially for starters, and also being looked at as taking up teachers valuable teaching time, the use of technology in education has brought in major advancements.
An efficient use of technological advancements will no doubt radically transform the education system to the benefit of the entire public. Unlike the traditional manual approach, we are presented with faster ways to carry out assessments as well as great feedback on students’ progress.
We, however, must be very careful not to let technological assessments to be the ultimate solution. Though credible to a larger extent, the results obtained may not always be reliable.
Dessoff, A. (2007). DIBELS Draws Doers and Doubters. Norwalk: Professional Media Group. Web.
Scantron Performance Series technical report (SPSTR). (2010). Scantron Corporation. Web.
University of Oregon. (2008). General Information about DIBELS Measures. Web.