Use technology for real-time assessment

Subject: Comment, Computing
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Checking – and evidencing – student understanding in real time could be as simple as using your existing technology more effectively, suggests Meir Malinsky

Arecent study by Pearson found many schools fear children have increasingly short attention spans, preferring to spend time online rather than reading a novel, for example. It is not surprising, then, that the modern classroom is an abundance of new technology, gadgets and tools designed to make teaching and learning more interactive and engaging. However, how can we be sure that, despite our best efforts, we have their attention and that the lessons are, fundamentally, sinking in? How much of that technology really helps teachers to know that children are indeed learning as assumed?

Gaining student attention and an instant insight into the level of student understanding during a lesson is an area that can be especially challenging for teachers. There are various techniques that can be employed to help gauge student’s comprehension, such as getting children to raise their hand during a lesson, or asking individuals to re-explain a point during the lesson. However, these predominantly rely on the student actively responding, and research has demonstrated that teachers often select students who are more likely to have the right answers. As such there is an inherent unintentional bias in these types of approaches.

Of course, assessments will give teachers the insight they need as to how much the whole class and individual students have comprehended a topic. However, by the time the tests have been completed and marked, the class will most likely have moved on to a new area of study. This means that students who have not quite grasped the concepts involved may be left behind.

It’s this problem of immediacy that we are especially keen to solve, working alongside teachers to find a way to gain an instant insight into student understanding of a lesson – on a whole class and individual student level.

More effective assessment

We’ve seen some huge changes in how assessment is conducted in the UK following the removal of assessment levels. With schools having more flexibility than ever in how they choose to grade their students, many schools are moving towards online assessment and reporting which has a multitude of benefits. No more mountains of paperwork, better ability to monitor cheating or plagiarism, and most importantly it saves teachers an invaluable quantity of time, that would otherwise be spent compiling results, or entering data manually. That’s why we built a range of assessment tools within Unio By Harness, to allow teachers to easily create quizzes, launch them during a lesson and see, in real-time, individual student and overall class performance. When the results and responses appear instantly on teachers’ screens, they can very quickly identify and address problem areas, giving unparalleled insight into student understanding during the lesson. There is no need to wait to collect worksheets at the end of a lesson or wait to see mistakes in workbooks.

It’s about the teacher and students, not the technology

There is an abundance of technology being poured into schools – unfortunately, there are also too many schools investing in technology that gets left unused, with one report equating this to around £11,800 wasted per school, based on the 24,372 schools in England. So what is the solution? Quite simply, don’t invest more, invest smarter; and make the tech work hard for you, not the other way around.

For example, being able to demonstrate to inspectors that students are achieving and understanding each lesson is a necessity for schools. That is why having technology that is able to help qualify that information right there and then during a lesson is of such value. However, we fundamentally believe that achieving understanding of what’s happening inside students’ minds does not require fancy gadgets. We don’t need to be mind readers to get a better idea of a student’s understanding.

However, we fundamentally believe that to effectively gain a real-time insight into students’ understanding, we have to better use the technology that’s already at our disposal.

With so much in the way of new technology coming every day, we know it can be hard to see the wood for the trees. We need to be more critical of technology and start examining its role in the classroom. How does it add real value? How does it help facilitate better teaching and learning? Technology changes every day; it remains our job to ensure that we focus on technology that facilitates progressive pedagogical change. Oneto- one device schemes can revolutionise classrooms, but not simply by replacing pen and paper. When used properly, technology can give teachers greater control, and a heightened ability to help and support learners.

They say that knowledge is power. Well, when it comes to gaining real-time knowledge of student understanding, technology can offer teachers a greater level of reach and insight into students’ understanding, giving them the ability to make each and every lesson count and have a lasting impact.

And that, in my opinion, is truly powerful.

5 Ways to use your technology better:

1. View student screens in real time to identify areas with which students are struggling.

2. Use quizzes at various stages of the lesson to gauge understanding and progression.

3. Ask students to present their work to the class to demonstrate depth of knowledge.

4. Use polls to give engagement a boost throughout lessons.

5. Reduce paperwork by exporting reports on performance to evidence student understanding.

About the author

Meir Malinsky is CEO of interactive lesson delivery and assessment platform Unio By Harness.