Editor’s note: Before Agile Technology Systems became a center in 2013. Before then, it was the technology department of the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation and developed the technology for assessments on iPads featured in the story below.
LAWRENCE – It is one of the most popular consumer electronics gadgets in U.S. history, and now with the help of the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation (CETE) at the University of Kansas, the iPad may one day change the way students take standardized tests.
This winter 1,423 students in 4th and 7th grades used the iPad to take their formative assessments in English Language Arts and mathematics, which marks the first time CETE delivered a test on the iPad. School participation was completely voluntary, and 15 schools across Kansas participated during the eight-week testing window.
“This recent small-scale try-out of our iPad test delivery is part of our ongoing work to develop testing programs that facilitate learning and provide optimal solutions for schools when it comes to assessments,” said Neal Kingston, co-director of CETE. “We recognize the tremendous popularity of the iPad and are working to provide schools with options for using the iPad for their assessments.”
“My students use the iPad every day, and they had no problem using it for the math formative assessment,” said Tanya Szanto, 7th grade math teacher at Grant Junior High in Goodland. “Actually, it was easier to take the test on an iPad. Students can just touch the right answer. It was better because students aren’t manipulating a mouse.”
The students in Pam Branaman’s 4th grade class at Southwest Elementary in Pratt also had similar results.
“The assessment went amazingly well as I’m always amazed at how well 10-year-olds adapt to technology,” said Branaman, whose students already use the iPad during school.
Marilyn Sowers’ 4th graders at Central Elementary School in Goodland are already familiar with the iPad and share iPads every day with another class. “My students liked using the iPads for their assessments because they’re used to using the iPad,” Sowers said.
“There are lots of different ways we’re already incorporating the iPads into our teaching and school work,” Sowers said. “I especially love using the iPad for reading and math. Students can use their critical-thinking skills and create projects. There are so many uses for it.”
CETE collaborated with Brockton Creative Group, a Kansas City graphic design firm, to create a computerized test that would work on an iPad. Test questions, answers, instructions and graphics had to be oriented to fit the size of iPad’s screen, which is smaller than the traditional personal computer screen.
Also, test content had to be programmed to be viewed both vertically and horizontally, options not possible when taking tests on traditional desktops. Additionally, the iPad’s finger-sensitive touch screen meant that test content had to be optimized to accommodate the use of fingertips instead of a traditional computer mouse.
Students and teachers provided feedback on their iPad user experience via an anonymous, computerized survey on issues such as scrolling, font size, graphic quality and navigation.
CETE will use the feedback to make improvements and adjustments before the next time CETE delivers an assessment on the iPad in spring 2013. During the March–April spring testing window, CETE will deliver end-of-year assessments, also known as summative assessments, in 4th and 7th grade English language arts and mathematics. School participation will be voluntary, and the option to take end-of-year assessments on the iPad will be available only to those schools that used the iPad to take formative assessments this winter.
CETE is a nationally recognized research center specializing in large-scale assessment and online test delivery systems. For more than 30 years, CETE has developed cutting-edge testing programs and technology tools, including the Kansas Assessment Program, Dynamic Learning Maps™, the Kansas Writing Instruction and Education Tool®, and the Adaptive Reading Motivation Measure. Through its partnership with the Kansas State Department of Education, CETE offers computerized assessments to all 286 Kansas school districts using computer testing software CETE created through its Kansas Computerized Assessment project. During the 2011–12 school year, CETE administered 4.6 million test sessions online, and 99.8 percent of Kansas general and modified assessments were administered by computer using CETE testing software.