Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Tech Tools on the Tech Coach Blog

I have committed time in the past to making sure that I write a blog post (nearly) every Tuesday. Sometimes I stop, with fear. I could say I'm too busy, but really I'm scared. What if no one reads this stuff anyway? What if I feature a tool that people already know about? What if I brag about a tool and then it doesn't work? Fear - maybe I'll think of a better way to do this that will help everyone! Stalling with fear.

I just finished attending one of the best installments of the Slate Technology Conference in WI Dells that I have ever been to. (Search the hashtag #slate2015 to see what you missed!). Kevin Honeycutt was the opening keynote speaker. He said, "Perfect is the enemy of done. Start!" How true is that? I have stalled myself out with worry and in the meantime, missed out on sharing ideas, tips, tools and technology integration with my teachers!

No more! In fact, I'm going to do you one better. I'm not sure if you've heard, but our high school students spend one class period per day fixing broken Chromebooks at the high school. Yes, you read that right. We have a technology repair workshop in our very own district run by high schoolers. You're probably a teacher, a principal, a secretary, support staff... so I don't have to tell you that kids can be amazing.

Our class is called Student Technology Integration and Innovation, or STII for short and these repair students have certain job duties that rotate each week. Several of them diagnose, troubleshoot and repair broken devices; one enters data in our data warehouse spreadsheet; one is a Quality Control Manger and makes sure that the repair is done correctly in a timely fashion and that the Chromebook is cleaned up and charged to be returned in better condition than it was received. Each week, Ms. Amblang takes a couple of students to the public library to help community members with their technology on Tuesdays. And, two students have Special Operations assignments (aka Special Ops). These tasks vary depending on the needs of the workshop and workflow.

Starting next week, there will be a new position for 1-2 students. They will research, vet, and explain technology tools and techniques that could interest teachers in our district. They will blog about those tools or techniques right here on the Tech Coach blog!

So, stay tuned... because when it comes to my STII students, I like to brag about how amazing they are. And this, this is going to be awesome! You'll see, #mightycardinals, the best is yet to come!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

How to Sell Items on Watercooler and Make Your Buyers Love You

Being part of the watercooler group is somewhat of a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you can find things for sale that you never even knew you needed until you saw it posted for such a good deal! But, on the other hand, there are so many emails that clog your inbox. Even if you filter the messages or even ask them to skip your Inbox, it can get overwhelming. Then, as if that isn't enough, you get follow-up emails from people that say when things have been sold. And, yet, there are still about 400 people on watercooler, including me! So, I have some suggestions on how to sell multiple items on watercooler, while also decreasing the impact on people's inboxes and making buyers love you!

First, we can leverage the power of Google to set up a virtual thrift sale. Just create a new folder and set the sharing settings to "anyone with the link can view." People will be able to open your folder and look at all of your goodies. You can right click on the image to enter the name of the item and a price. You can also put a Google document in that folder that provides descriptions and prices. As people purchase your wares, simply delete the photo from the folder and it will not appear to your shoppers.

To start a new folder, use the red "New" (Or "Create") button on the left side of your Google Drive Screen and choose "Folder." A new folder will be created in your Google Drive. You can single-click on that folder and then use the image of the person with the plus by it to change the sharing settings of the folder. You will need to do this in order for people to be able to open your folder. You will likely want to set it so that people with the link can view the folder so that no one except you can delete images from the folder.

Then, begin dragging and dropping or uploading your photos to the new folder. You will want to probably set the folder to thumbnail view so that people see a gallery of photos in the folders.

Once you try this once, you'll see that the setup is pretty easy and then you'll have it all set to go next time you have things to sell. Once your shared folder is set up, then you can share it in your email with the watercooler group. When you compose an email, click the Google Drive symbol near the "Send" button and you can choose your shared folder. That folder will appear as a clickable link in the email.

This way, you can send one email to the watercooler group with information about the types of things you have for sale, and a linked folder of images and/or descriptions. As you sell your items, delete them from the folder and they will no longer be available for viewing. If you need help setting this up, just get in contact with me. You'll make the other 399 members of watercooler so much happier to decrease their watercooler emails by about 75% while still being able to shop for things you never even knew you wanted because it is such a good deal!
For an example, feel free to see my shared folder "Items For Sale" by clicking the link below.

Folders for shared images work really well for other things also. If you have photos from a field trip, you can upload them to a folder and set it so that anyone with the link can view and send the link to parents. Parents can see and download images of their own students without worrying about attachment limits. You can share a folder of images with students to help further illustrate certain concepts in your classroom. What other things have you used shared folders for?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Got Spelchek?

Just as in other Word Processors like Microsoft Word and Word Perfect, Google Docs also has spellcheck capabilities, but this is a function you can turn on or off. Teachers have noticed that some students have this turned off and are not notified of spelling errors in their documents. Using Spellcheck can be an easy way of catching little mistakes and typos.

To turn Spellcheck, make sure that you select 'Show Spelling Suggestions' on the View menu as seen below.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Almost Like Magic

If you have ever wished there was an easy way to convert an assessment, exit slip or study guide to a Google Form, your wish has come true.


Doc to Forms is an Add-On available in Docs.  This Add-On opens a sidebar in your Google document and makes it very easy to move the text from your doc to the form questions.  Select some text, click here, cut and paste there, add a few semicolons and voila your form is mostly done.

Finish applying your theme and adjusting other necessary settings in the new Google Form and you are ready to start collecting answers.

Now, if there was an Add-On that would create the form questions automatically based on formatting styles - that would be magical.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Google Search Results by Reading Level

Doing research using Google searches with younger students or struggling readers can be difficult if the students can't comprehend the content of the websites. You can use the Search Tools in Google to return search results by reading level - Basic, Intermediate or Advanced. Reading level seems to be based on the length of the text as well as the level of vocabulary.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Reading Paper vs Reading Screens

As our high school has transitioned into becoming a high school 1:1 with mobile computing, teachers have had discussions of the impacts of technology right at the fingertips of high school students. Discussions sometimes hinge on whether or not students should utilize online text; and the differences between reading online and reading offline.

There is research trickling out that supports teachers' instincts to question the difference between reading online and reading offline. First, to define the difference. There are some tasks that take offline reading, say reading a novel, and put them on a device in text format. Researchers are suggesting that there isn't much difference in the reading skills needed to read a novel on paper and read a novel on a device. In fact, often times, applications have built-in dictionary and highlighting options that could enhance the reading of novels. Putting a textbook online doesn't change the skills needed to actually read that textbook.

However, our approach to materials on screens and to materials on paper can differ greatly. According to Dr. Donald Leu, a University of Connecticut - Storrs researcher, there is an overlap in the skills needed to read materials online or offline. Skills such as sounding out words, developing vocabulary and building background knowledge are important to both types of reading.

Where reading online becomes a different exercise than reading offline is when students (or adults) are using the internet to find information. Our approach to reading becomes different on the internet. We are skimming, scanning, looking at a large number of sources to find answers. If students begin to take this same approach to reading a textbook on a laptop, they are no longer gaining a deep understanding of the text. Placing informational text (such as a textbook) that contains the answers, conclusions and outcomes the teacher expects students to gain in front of them requires completely different skills than seeking desired information from a myriad of sources.

Dr. Leu explained that "online reading almost always involves trying to solve a question or problem you've got" and for teachers this means teaching the "reading skill of evaluating the reliability of a web source..., effective email communication or how to synthesize information from multiple sources to draw a conclusion." In a textbook, students are looking for an answer that is already there and has been deemed reliable; on the internet, they are searching for an answer and need to ensure it is from a reliable source.

There seem to be two things going on here: our psychological approach to screens versus paper, and the skills needed to filter online information for reliability. No matter your opinion or nostalgia for feeling and smelling the pages of a paperback novel in your hand or cracking open a new textbook your first week of college, the truth is that both types of reading - online and offline - are important skills for students to know. Students can search for answers with Google at home in their bedrooms much more quickly than consulting Encyclopedia Britannica, but are we setting them up to become fountains of mis-information if we don't ask them to evaluate the millions of results rendered from their query? What can we do to help students become purveyors of web research?

Quotes based on transcripted interview from Education Week, "Growth of Online Reading Fuels New Achievement Gap, Researchers Say."  Sep 2013

Monday, March 9, 2015

Education, In 30 Seconds

George Couros is the Division Principal for Parkland School Division and an Innovative Teaching, Learning, and Leadership consultant. He presents all over the world and extensively uses social media to connect with other educators and leaders. According to his blog, The Principal of Change, he believes that teachers should inspire kids to follow their passions, and to allow them to inspire us to follow ours.

George recently started a new project called EDU in 30, or #EDUin30. It is a Twitter project whereby people use the new 30-second video feature of Twitter to record a response to an question prompt. Each week he will post a new question. 

The rules for participation are simple:
1. Post a video answering the question.
2. Tag the post with #EDUin30 and #EDUin30w1 (for week 1, then w2 for week 2 and so on).

This got me thinking. We have some pretty amazing and innovative teachers here in Chippewa Falls and I think we should give George Couros a run for his Canadian dollar (and that's only about $.79 US)... 

My challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to flood Mr. Couros's Twitter feed with our totally amazing #EDUin30 posts. Make sure you also tag #cfausdrocks. And mention @gcouros if you're feeling daring...

The question for week 1 is: What is one practice in your classroom that you would like to share? So, what is something amazing you do with your students? Share it with the world in 30 seconds or less!

If you've never used Twitter before, sign up for an account at Start by following Cara (@caramcs) and myself (@thinkbigmuch) and we will help you from there. If you're not comfortable posting yet, use the Twitter search bar to search #EDUin30 to get some ideas for your classroom!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Badger/SBAC Accommodations for IEP or 504 Plan

The previous post Tools All Students Can Use on the SBAC Badger Exam we discussed how, in the age of online assessment, students can be provided with some built-in test-taking supports that were not previously easily accessible in paper format assessments. In Tier 2 Supports for Badger/SBAC pt 2 we discussed built-in supports for students who struggle with reading, writing or test-taking, but are not serviced in special education. Still one more layer of support is available for students that have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan. These students must be identified and set up in the Test Operations Management System (TOMS) prior to the test administration.

Students with these specific needs can get support like directions and Math/Listening portion content provided in American Sign Language. Closed captioning on listening tasks is also available. Students with vision impairments proficient in Braille will have the opportunity to have content presented to them in Braille and answer using a Braille keyboard.

Text-to-Speech is a Designated support available for tier 2 level students in certain areas, but students with an IEP or 504 plan may also be able to access text-to-speech options for the ELA portions of the exam (only for students in grades 6-8). This is a very small portion of students - recommended to be only 1-2% of the testing population because students are no longer reading the content they are being tested on, they are listening to it while reading.  Keep in mind that students who are recommended to use text-to-speech on any portion of the Badger should have ongoing experience with text-to-speech in their education. Computer-read content is much different than human-read content. For assessment purposes, as well as college/career readiness and life skills practice, students should experience text-to-speech throughout their educational experience using tools like Read & Write for Google, Kurzweil or Read Out Loud/Solo. A small percentage of students could also qualify to have the test read aloud by a trained human voice, an option called Read Aloud.

Students who have an IEP or 504 plan that includes other technology supports and accommodations can have access to those types of supports on the Badger exam as well, including: using an abacus, a physical calculator, such as a talking calculator, or a multiplication table provided by SBAC/Badger. Students with physical impairments can also utilize alternative response options, such as using a switch to navigate the screen for choosing answers. In rare circumstances, such as photosensitivity due to epilepsy, can have stimuli printed for reading.

For the writing portions of the exam, students may also qualify for a human scribe to write verbatim what is dictated. Use caution with this option is these students must also have practiced this skill throughout their schooling experience and be able to take part in writing planning portions of the exam using a scribe as well. This option is most often used with students with severe motor impairments or temporary motor impairments, such as a broken arm. Students also have the opportunity to use external speech-to-text devices to compose written responses. Using speech-to-text should be a regular part of this student's educational experience in order to ensure that it is beneficial for the test-taking experience.

If you have any questions about these supports, the Power Point presentation by DPI is a great resource. That link can be found here.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Where Did My Chrome Bookmarks Go?

One of the biggest differences from using Internet Explorer and Chrome, from a user standpoint, is that preferences and bookmarks can be saved in the cloud, meaning that you can access them from any computer on the internet. But in order to take advantage of having your Chrome bookmarks wherever you log in, you must be signed in to Chrome before you save a bookmark.

To sign in to Chrome, look to the top right corner of your Chrome screen. If there is a silhouette image of a person, then you are not signed in to Chrome. If it says your name, you are. Click on the image of the silhouette and choose "Sign in to Chrome."

Once you are signed in, your bookmarks will save to the Google cloud and be available for you anywhere you sign in. Some teachers have been experiencing loss of their Chrome bookmarks when their machine is reset or rebuilt. If you are not signed in to Chrome, your bookmarks are saved on the computer and when the computer is wiped and rebuilt, those bookmarks are lost.

Signing into Chrome has other benefits as well. If you explore Google Apps or Extensions, these will also be available to you when you are logged into Chrome on your machine. Also, when you click on the link to open your Gmail or Google Drive, you will already be signed in.

To easily add bookmarks, click the star icon in the address bar when you're on your favorite website. You can also click the chrome menu (three lines in the top right corner of the window), click Bookmarks -> Bookmark This Page or just drag the lock or page icon in front of the URL in the address bar down to your bookmarks bar. If you are signed into Chrome and can't see your bookmarks under the address bar, try clicking the chrome menu, then Bookmarks -> Show Bookmarks Bar. 

For more information on managing and organizing your bookmarks, visit Google Supprt at:

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Google Add-Ons for Everyone!

Google Docs was born through the acquisition of a smaller company in 2005 and was officially made available to Google Apps users with its current name in 2007. If you have used Google Docs for more than a month in your life, you know that it is updated and changed frequently. Features are added; layouts are changed; updates are made. As frustrating as this can be sometimes, there is no argument that Google Docs has come a long way in the last few years. It will probably never rival the power of other paid word processors, but for a free application, built with all of the collaboration and sharing features it boasts, it definitely is still up there as far as usefulness in education goes.

Sometimes releases of new features come in Google Labs, written by creative little Google minions, based on need and customer feedback. Often times these Labs, if popular and effective enough, become part of the regular Google Suite. Most often Labs are seen in Google Mail and Google Calendar. In the realm of Google Docs, additional features are called Add-Ons. It used to be somewhat cumbersome and complicated to link Add-Ons with your Google Docs, but Google has made that more seamless as well, offering Add-Ons right from the Google File menu.

To browse Add-Ons, click Add-Ons on the File menu in a Google Docs, then choose "Get add-ons...". Below are descriptions of some Add-Ons that may be useful in the classroom.

Easy Bib - Provides citation, note-taking, and research tools within a Google Doc. This is a quick and easy way to cite sources to help promote ethical use of others' works and increase good digital citizenship skills.

Thesaurus - Dictionary, Spelling check and a Research function are built in to the Tools menu of Google Docs. There are a number of thesauruses available as extensions or add-ons. Students can make their word choice more interesting and avoid redundancies using this add-on feature.

TextHelp - This includes free highlighting features which are part of a powerful paid extension Read & Write for Google. Summarizing, identifying main idea, locating thesis statements, and citing evidence in written text are just some of the ways teachers can leverage the power of this 4-highlighter system, which allows highlights to be easily extracted to a separate document to share or turn in.

gMath - Can be used in Docs and Google (spread)Sheets. Utilizes LaTeX syntax, but also includes clickable, editable shortcuts to common expressions. Works with other Add-ons to quickly create quizzes using Google Forms, and using QuizNinja to differentiate quizzes and set up automatic grading features, with advanced features for validating mathematical responses.

Table Formatter - Sometimes what separates Google Doc capabilities from those of other word processing applications is the presentation of the information. This add-on allows you to easily format tables with colors and heading features similar to those available in Microsoft Word without having to format rows individually. You can even create your own custom templates for colors/arrangements you use most often.

Easy Accents - Writing in a foreign language is a complicated cognitive function. This add-on has made adding appropriate accents to your writing much easier. Open the add-on, click on the accent you'd like and it is automatically added to your document wherever the cursor is.

Kaizena Mini - Ever get tired of typing? Give your fingers a rest and let your voice give the feedback. With the Kaizena add-on, you can highlight words, sentences, paragraphs or portions of text and give voice feedback to your students. (Kaizena is also available as an extension, with a slightly different format).

Mapping Sheets - Google spreadsheets also promote a number of add-on features. Mapping Sheets allows you to plot your own data on a google map - easily. When you add mapping sheets to a spreadsheet, click Start Mapping. The Add-On creates a customized spreadsheet with headings. Fill in the information and click the build button. A Google map will be created with tags that include the information entered on the spreadsheet. Use to visualize historic events, plot geographical events from novels, write notes about geographical features, etc.

Allowing students to choose multiple ways to show what they know and identifying tools that are appropriate and helpful are skills students will need in this 21st century job market. There are many more add-ons available, and new ones being created all the time. If you need help adding or using any of these Add-Ons, or want help with ideas on incorporating them with your curriculum, contact Sarah Radcliffe or Cara Schueller.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What is EdCamp?

Have you ever been to a conference, attending 50-minute sessions throughout the day, only to realize that the session you really wanted didn't exist? Or that the session description misled you in regards to the actual content of the session? Or you already knew everything the presenter was talking about? Or found that time networking after-hours revealed more beneficial, practical information than the conference sessions themselves? Have you been looking for a way to overcome these conference woes? If so, EdCamp - Eau Claire is your answer!

EdCamps occur all over the country. They are designed as an un-conference... no presenters, no pre-planned topics, no limit to the discussions that can take place. Born from the power of collaboration among colleagues, EdCamp began in May, 2010 in Philadelphia. Planning goes into registration, promotion and donation-gathering. No pre-planning goes into securing presenters, selecting topics or choosing presentation proposals.

This may seem strange at first, but have faith. When teachers gather, they already know what they want to talk about. It might be effectively using Twitter to reach high school students; or using collaboration tools in Google Docs to give students meaningful feedback throughout the writing process; or strategies for effective classroom management when using technology tools. Anything goes!

EdCamp Eau Claire first debuted in April 2014. Over 200 educators attended last spring and the feedback was phenomenal! On the morning of EdCamp, attendees submit their ideas for sessions. EdCamp planners choose rooms and times for the ideas. Attendees choose sessions to attend, and discussion begins, collaboration ensues, and magic happens...

Unlike a regular conference, attendees at EdCamp may choose sessions for different reasons: first, they may choose a session because they are interested in listening, asking questions and learning more; second, they may choose a session because they are passionate, experienced or knowledgeable about the topic and interested in helping lead the discussion. Each session ends up with a different feel, different discussions and a different outcome.

If this sounds like something for you, consider attending EdCamp - Eau Claire on April 18th. We will host this amazing event at the Chippewa Falls Area Senior High School - 735 Terrill St, Chippewa Falls, WI. Registration will open March 1st. There is no cost to attend and food will be provided!

Follow: @EdCampEC on Twitter to get up-to-date information, including where and how to register.

For more information about EdCamp Eau Claire, including registration, visit:

For more information and to find other EdCamps in the area and across the country, visit

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Tier Two Supports for Badger/SBAC pt 2

**This is part two of a series of three posts on SBAC/Badger test supports. Please see this post for more information about Universal Supports available to all students.

The second layer of support for students taking the SBAC/Badger assessment is called Designated Supports. These supports are available to any student that needs them, whether or not they have an IEP or 504 plan. These supports are akin to a Tier 2 level of support in relation to RtI. These supports may work well for struggling readers, English-language learners, students with attention problems, vision difficulties, and physical handicaps (such as a broken arm). Need for these supports is determined by teachers and support staff that work with the student. Ideally, these are supports that are offered during instruction and other assessments. Designated Supports must be entered in the Test Information Distribution Engine (TIDE) platform prior to administration of the assessment. DPI has posted a tool, called The ISAAP Tool on their website to help determine some of the necessary supports for students. 

Designated supports provide a second layer of support for struggling learners. These are not in lieu of the Universal Supports, rather in addition to the Universal supports available to all students. Embedded designated supports include: adjusting the color contrast of the screen, masking areas of the screen to show less of the passage or answers at one time, translation of glossary words and test directions into other languages, and the ability to turn off any universal tools that may be distracting to the student. Text-to-speech is also available as a designated support. Students with this support may have math stimuli items, and ELA test items read aloud, but cannot have ELA reading passages themselves read aloud.

Non-embedded designated supports include access to a bilingual dictionary, screen overlays that provide color contrast, magnification of the screen, a separate setting to decrease distractions, translated directions read by a bi-lingual adult, and a printed PDF of translated glossary terms. Students can also have access to noise-canceling headphones or be provided soothing white noise via headphones to drown out sounds and noises in the test-taking environment. 

In the previous post of this series, the importance of continuing to teach good study and test-taking skills with students and drawing connections between those skills and completing the Badger exam was highlighted. As with those universal supports, it is equally important to practice the use of designated supports prior to a high-stakes state assessment. It only makes sense that if masking test items on the Badger exam is expected to support test taking and increase performance, it is equally important during instructional tasks and classroom assessments. Some of these designated supports can be practiced with or without technology in the classroom.

For instance, a low tech way to practice masking is to show a student how to use a blank piece of paper or file folder to follow along with reading practice or test questions in the classroom. Students who benefit from a color overlay with text can use colored transparencies over their books and worksheets in the classroom as well. Students should also experiment with and practice using noise-canceling strategies during classroom tasks and assessments before using them on the Badger exam. 

Reading test questions aloud to struggling readers can be a way to practice text-to-speech but an even more powerful way to ensure adequate practice with this skill is to use screen readers available on iPads, Chromebooks and desktop computers. If you have ever tried to listen to text being read by a computer versus a human being, you know it can be difficult to get used to the non-human, slightly robotic voice. Students need practice self-adjusting speaking rates and selecting text to be read. 

It must be stressed that providing these types of tools on a high stakes assessment without offering them during instruction and classroom assessment is not recommended. Use of tools on high stakes state assessments that have never been used before may actually be detrimental to the student’s assessment performance instead of being helpful. In order to demonstrate a need for Designated Tools on the SBAC/Badger, the student should have demonstrated a benefit from these tools in the classroom prior to administration of a high stakes assessment.

Please see Accommodations for Special Needs for a third tier of supports available only to students with an IEP or 504 plan.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Tools All Students Can Use on the SBAC Badger Exam pt 1

**This is the first in a series of 3 posts on SBAC Badger test supports.

I recently posted about some of the technology skills necessary to complete the SBAC - Badger assessment in a few months. High stakes online assessments are relatively new for everyone in Wisconsin; and the idea can be overwhelming. But, these online assessments do more than supplant paper assessments with online assessments; these new assessments have some embedded benefits. Support tools are available that can only be easily made available using technology are accessible to a wider variety of students. Much like the tiered notion of RtI, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium has built in supports at three different levels: Universal, Designated Supports and Accommodations. The SBAC also uses the terms embedded and non-embedded. After researching the resources on the DPI website, these terms can be simply differentiated by thinking of embedded supports as those that are on the computer within the SBAC browser; while non-embedded supports are things that are in our real time and space - materials students can manipulate or human support.

Universal Supports are available to all students, regardless of whether or not they have an IEP, 504 Plan, accommodation plan or documented disability. Some of the examples of embedded Universal Supports are: scheduled breaks, on-screen calculator, online English dictionary and glossary, spell check, zoom, highlighter and strikethrough for multiple choice questions. Embedded universal supports also include expandable passages to allow students to show a passage or stimulus on a larger portion of the screen; a clear/empty digital notepad for each item; a global notepad for full-write ELA performance tasks that retains information from segment to segment for all of the items relating to one passage. Students are able to use keyboard shortcuts, like down arrow, to navigate the screen, mark items for review, and utilize various on-screen math and writing tools. Non-embedded Universal tools include access to a paper dictionary and thesaurus, scratch paper, and breaks.

Already at the universal support level there are many tools available to students to utilize on the assessment. Examining the list closely will reveal that some of the same good test-taking strategies teachers have taught are applicable to this online assessment as well. Using highlighters to highlight important information in a passage is a good study technique regardless of if it is on the computer or on paper; using strikethrough to eliminate incorrect distractors is a good test-taking strategy regardless of if it is a high-stakes state assessment or a quick, ungraded formative assessment in the classroom. As these study skills and test-taking strategies are taught in the classroom, remind and guide the students of the availability of these supports on the Badger assessment. Guiding your students to higher achievement on the Badger exam can be woven through the practical reading and studying techniques you already use. If they know how to take notes on reading passages, then utilizing the global notebook tool effectively this spring will have a much smaller learning curve.

This is a summary of Universal Tools on the SBAC Badger assessment in the hopes that after reading this, the documentation from SBAC and DPI will be less confusing than it was for me the first few times I read through it. For more details about universal assessment supports, please see:

Look for further posts about Designated Supports and Accommodations available to a more limited population of students. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Technology Skills for Online Standardized Tests

In recent years, there have been quite a few changes in education. That is an understatement. Perhaps one of the more significant changes has been in the way our students are assessed. State assessments have moved from the fall to the spring; students are assessed based on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS); results will be available much more quickly; assessments are completed on the computer rather than on paper.

This last change should be the least significant change for students. Students use technology often in their personal lives and, for the most part, are comfortable with computers and even enjoy using them. However, what would be somewhat detrimental to demonstration of our student achievement is if students' technology skills (or lack thereof) got in the way of the student demonstrating what they know. And for that reason, teachers are worried about now assessing new standards, the increased rigor and change in the types and formats of questions on the assessment and the technology skills needed to complete the assessment.

Below, I have attached a checklist created by Middletown Public Schools Technology Department. They used other published technology skills checklists as well as observations during the Smarter Balanced field test last spring. Theirs is a very comprehensive list, and a bit overwhelming at first. But, students may already possess many of these skills. Observations of students on keyboarding devices may begin to narrow down skills they've mastered and ones they still need to work on.

These skills apply not only to the SBAC (now called the Badger exam) but also to other online assessments such as the ACT Aspire for 9th and 10th graders. At this time, the ACT Plus Writing and ACT WorkKeys, now required for all 11th grade students, are still on paper for 2015, but it would not be surprising to see them transferred online in the future.

As teachers utilize mobile devices, such as Chromebooks, in their classrooms and take advantage of time in the computer lab, keep these skills in mind. Pick a few skills to concentrate on each week and talk about with students. And know, that while you are doing that, you are working on assessment skills, life skills, and job skills all at one time.