By the Brooks: Testing Leads to Technology

Sean Brooks | Column Writer

 

By the Brooks is a column written to answer your questions twice a month. If you would like a question answered, or are just generally wondering about LHS, email me at sean.bro@lvjusd.org

In recent years, the use of technology in school has been on the up and up. The question is, why? I knew that using computers and such could help students learn a lot more than they could from any textbook, but there was more to it than that. For example, a question that is often times asked concerning the usage of technology in our school has to do with the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, or CAASPP. Now, for those of you that don’t know, the CAASPP is the online test that replaced the Standardized Testing and Reporting, or STAR tests that students take during the school year. These tests are required by the state to monitor student progress, in order to make sure that every student is ready to enter college.

While it is understandable why we take these tests, a lot of students wonder why we take the CAASPP specifically. The CAASPP always seems to have problems. Either the test freezes and you have to retake it, or it just glitches and breaks and makes you lose progress. And so, to answer these questions, I decided to investigate. My first step was to talk to one of our school’s Vice Principals, Erik Taylor.

Taylor was happy to have an interview with me to answer my questions. First, I asked him about why so many schools now purchase Chromebooks. As it turns out, the Chromebooks are one of the only ways to take the CAASPP, so their inclusion in school is necessary. But besides that, they are a good tool to use in class.

But the biggest question here was one many students would probably ask: why take the CAASPP? The reason was rather simplistic. Our school district follows a set of rules known as Common Core. The Common Core Assessment itself is online, and so it makes it easier if students take the test online as well. Then came the problem almost every student has encountered.

Last year, LHS students took the CAASPP for five consecutive days. During that time, it wasn’t uncommon for one’s test to freeze, shut down, or experience other such problems that made one lose progress. The source of the problem turned out to be due to a few factors. Sometimes it was something technical, meaning the Chromebook itself was malfunctioning, and other times it was just user error. Sometimes it was problems with the school’s network, and other times the CAASPP servers themselves would lag and shut down. All of this attributed to many students’ loss of progress, and is a big reason as to why these tests have received such negative feedback from students. Taylor did assure me, however, that steps are being taken to prevent this in the future.

“We’ll be upgrading from a two lane street to a four lane street,” he said, explaining how the school was upgrading the network connection to prevent further problems.

Another question we ask is, will they return to the booklets? Quite a few of the students prefer the paper tests over the online test. There’s no danger of something going on to make you lose progress, it’s much easier since you don’t need to provide proof, and it just causes far less anguish. Unfortunately, the news I received, although expected, was not what I had been hoping for. Because, as of now, LHS will not return to using the STAAR tests. However, this is not due to a decision made by the district. This is because of the requirements made by the state. Since the state itself has made the decision to switch to the CAASPP, the district does not have the power, nor the authority, to allow schools to continue using the STAAR test.

My final question had less to do with the CAASPP, and more on technology itself. I asked if technology was going to become more involved in schools. And in response, Mr. Taylor told me about a plan the district hopes to utilize called Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). This plans on having students bring their own devices to school to use during class for educational purposes. The thinking is that when schools buy computers and such, there will be students who don’t care enough to take good care of the equipment, which will rack up expenses down the line. However, no one is going to mistreat their own device, and so by allowing students to use their own phones, laptops, and other such things, there will be a far more minimal cost to the district, and the schools that follow this plan. What’s interesting is that students will be able to use things such as their phones in situations where they’re normally not allowed to. Although some are okay with it to a certain degree, many teachers have forbidden the use of cellphones in class. However, if this plan is put into action, then most, if not all, teachers would have to let their students access their phones in class. It’s an interesting advancement to use technology so widely in school, as well as a financially beneficial plan.

In short, technology is going to become a fundamental part of our education in the near future. We already have one of our most important tests online, and lessons and assignments are someday sure to follow, and are already being technologically integrated, what with the use of Google Classroom, Google Drive, Turn-It-In, and other such websites. A transition to technology provides a lot of benefits for learning. After all, the internet is the greatest source of knowledge ever created. The only question left is, what comes next?

Leave a Comment