Tablets and Assessments – A Closer LookBy Bryan Bleil on February 14, 2012
Tablets, which are becoming increasingly popular in schools and classrooms, present a number of unique opportunities and challenges regarding their potential role in the delivery of secure, high-stakes assessments. The opportunities are somewhat obvious – more portability and a very high-engagement factor for students. I think we’re all looking forward to the day when tablets can be used for statewide assessments.
The potential challenges of today’s current-generation tablets may be less obvious, however, but are equally important. Some of these may even require new solutions from the tablet and mobile Operating System (OS) manufacturers themselves. As districts and state boards of education formulate their implementation strategies, here are a few issues they should consider:
- Many of today’s tablets are capable of taking screen shots and otherwise capturing content, making the security of high-stakes assessments potentially vulnerable to exposure. For instance, one tablet in the industry allows any-time screen capture by simultaneously pressing the Power and Home buttons together. To eliminate this risk, tablet OS’s need to support the ability of applications to shut down or otherwise prevent this type of content capture.
- High-stakes assessment engines need to be able to control and shut off student access to other applications, such as browsers, IM clients, non-approved calculators, and other content that may be available on a tablet for instructional purposes. Test delivery applications will need more support from tablet operating systems to disable “Home” and other buttons, to prevent application-switching without formally exiting the test.
- Test delivery applications will also need support at the OS-level to prevent messages or other content being displayed on top of the testing application. Such displays could allow students to receive information during a test that could compromise an assessment’s integrity.
- Of course, all test items need to be tablet friendly, and some may need additional psychometric research to ensure that they are. On-screen keyboards, that obscure half or more of a screen and require additional scrolling on the part of students may need special research emphasis, given the existing evidence in research literature on the potential impact of item/answer scrolling on student performance.
We’re very excited about tablets and their opportunities, especially at a time when so many of us are focused on “next generation” assessments anyway. The worlds of assessment and technology are evolving at a rapid pace – we just need to make sure that they are evolving together in tandem.
Are there other opportunities or concerns you think we should be watching for as tablets become more ubiquitous? Let me hear from you!
About Bryan BleilBryan Bleil has more than 20 years in educational technology, and has designed and produced over 100 different educational software titles or educational devices. At Pearson, Bryan is Vice President of Online & Technology Implementation, leading online testing deployment efforts to help states make the transition from paper-based statewide assessments to computer-based testing.
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