Blogging & standardized tests: Using Kidblog to familiarize students with tech


Computerized Assessments

Kidblog has become an unexpected support tool in preparation for students to take the new version of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS 2.0), commonly referred to as the “Next-Generation” test. Up until 2017, students were required to take the MCAS on paper every year in the spring. As of 2017, students will begin to take the MCAS on the computer as a computer-based test. This statewide shift toward technology will be a requirement for all grade levels by 2019.

This change has placed a difficult burden on many urban districts that do not have enough computers or laptops available for every student for a one-to-one ratio. There are over 600 students, grades 6-8, at my middle school, and we only have three computer labs and one working laptop cart. This means we roughly have ninety computers available to students. That isn’t even enough for a single grade level to use computers at the same time. The lack of computers leads to competition among teachers to get in the computer lab with their classes. This results in students not getting enough of the much-needed screen time with computers or laptops.

Smartphones vs Keyboards

In my experience as a teacher in urban districts, I have found that students have extensive knowledge of smartphones and tablets. But limited experience with computers and laptops severely impacts their typing skills. Many districts have gotten rid of computer or technology classes because they incorrectly assume that this generation of children gets sufficient hands-on experience with technology outside of school. While schools are correct in the assumption that children get plenty of time with technology, most of that time is limited to just smartphones and tablets.

In September when I first started bringing my students to one of the three computer labs at my school, I was shocked to see just how limited students’ knowledge of computers, including a keyboard and mouse, was. As I looked around the computer lab, I saw students typing with only index fingers. They struggled to handle the mouse in an efficient way. Students also found it difficult to open up a browser and simply type in a URL. Many of the students tried to just use google as a way to get to websites. They didn’t know how to use the “shift” key to capitalize letters, how to use spellchecker features, or how type using proper punctuation like quotation marks.

High Expectations

Since blogging is 20% of students’ grade in my class, I make it a point to schedule computer lab time for my students at least once a week. I have high expectations for blogging; students are not allowed to use “text-talk.” They know that blog posts won’t be accepted unless words are spelled out, capitalized, and have punctuation.

This high expectation was definitely a battle at first. As a teacher I’d have to tediously check each and every post for my 100+ students. However, as the weeks went on, students became better adjusted to the expectations and standards of blogging. Some students have even started to hold each other to these high expectations. I have seen students commenting on their peers’ posts, politely mentioning spelling/grammar mistakes. This type of blog dialogue makes the teacher in me jump for joy!

I still have a small number of students that need constant reminders to adhere to our blogging standards. For the majority of students though, there has been improvement in speed and accuracy of their typing. We have overcome the obstacles of limited access to, and minimal experience with, laptops and traditional keyboards. I truly believe this continual blogging with high expectations will positively impact my students’ performance on computer-based standardized tests.

About the Author
Originally from Brazil, Priscila Samuel teaches Journalism at Randolph Community Middle School in Randolph, MA. She earned her Master's degree from the University of Pittsburgh where she taught in the Pittsburgh School District for one year before working as an editor of school curriculum for Lincoln Learning Solutions. Priscila returned to her home state of Massachusetts in 2016. ​Journalism is brand new to RPS and Priscila has worked hard to create innovative, engaging, and relevant curriculum for her students. The class focuses on current events, digital citizenship, social media, and fake news. All students in Priscila's class use the blog on a weekly basis in order to engage in digital communication and practice academic digital writing.

One comment

  1. Elizabeth Samuel

    Very interesting point. Some times we need to go back on the basics. I’m very proud of you.

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