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Technology for Online Standardized Testing vs. Technology for Teaching, Learning, and Creative Inquiry

By Patrick Ledesma — May 20, 2012 5 min read
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As an educational technology geek, what is more exciting than reading about predictions and rumors if the next iPhone will have a larger screen or if the next Macbook Pros will be sleeker and without a CD/DVD drive?

Reading about predictions about technology in schools- of course!

After all, it’s online testing season here in Virginia, where all students are taking their state standardized tests online.

So imagine entire districts and schools this month preparing the computers to test all students. Yes, for many schools that means taking away all those desktop and laptop labs for setting up individual testing stations. I remember one picture of a gym in a high school with over 350 laptops on tables setup as testing stations- complete with manila folders tapped to the sides of the screen to prevent cheating. And some schools close their libraries so students can test on the computers.

And for the network folks, it’s geek fun time to see if the wireless network has enough bandwidth for all those multiple choice “A, B, C, or D” answers zipping through the air.

Fun times.

So, during testing season when all our technology is focused on giving online multiple choice tests, reading about the future technologies in the New Media Consortium Horizon Report K-12 Edition is almost fantasy inducing.

What else should students be doing with technology besides year long online test preparation and taking high stakes multiple-choice tests online for several days in May?

The NMC Horizon Report > 2012 K-12 Edition is a collaborative research effort between the NMC, the Consortium of School Networking (CoSN), and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). This report contains the preliminary results of the “top emerging technologies, trends, and challenges that the advisory board believes will have a major impact on teaching, learning, and creative inquiry over the next five years.”

The full report will be officially released in June at the 2012 NMC Summer Conference in Boston, hosted by MIT, but we get a preview now. Last year, I wrote about the 2011 report.

What will be the technologies in schools one year from now?


  • Cloud Computing: The ability for educators and students to access services and files from any device at any time.
  • Collaborative Environments: The ability for educators and students to easily work together online anytime and anywhere, usually through a web browser.
  • Mobiles and Apps: Computing anywhere at anytime through multiple devices, as often seen through the emerging Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiatives happening everywhere.
  • Tablet Computing: Student access to tools and information, anywhere at anytime, using iPads, smartphones, eReaders.

What will be the technologies in schools in two or three years?


  • Digital Identity: Access to all your stuff through one login anywhere.
  • Game Based Learning: Because students learn best through simulations and problem solving of complex scenarios.
  • Learning Analytics: Using a wide range of student data to improve learning and make informed instructional decisions.
  • Personal Learning Environments: Self directed and group based learning.

What will be the technologies in schools In four to five years?


  • Augmented Reality: Using technology and information to learn and interact with your environment in real time.
  • Natural User Interfaces: More efficient human interaction with technology
  • Semantic Applications: Allowing educators and students to more effectively sift, query, and gather relevant information.
  • Tools for Assessing 21st Century Learning Skills: Finally learning to better assess the skills needed for the century that began 12 years ago. :-)

The report identifies some key trends, including:


  • The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is increasingly challenging us to revisit our roles as educators.
  • As the cost of technology drops and school districts revise and open up their access policies, it is becoming increasingly common for students to bring their own mobile devices.
  • Education paradigms are shifting to include online learning, hybrid learning and collaborative models.
  • One-to-one computing is spreading to a large number of countries and regions.
  • People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want to.

The report also identifies challenges, including:


  • The demand for personalized learning is not adequately supported by current technology or practices.
  • Digital media literacy continues its rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession.
  • Economic pressures and new models of education are bringing unprecedented competition to traditional primary and secondary schools.
  • Institutional barriers present formidable challenges to moving forward in a constructive way with emerging technologies.
  • Learning that incorporates real life experiences is not occurring enough and is undervalued when it does take place.
  • Putting 21st century technology into 19th century schools is a major undertaking.
  • We are not using digital media for formative assessment the way we could and should.

I’m looking forward to the full report. Until then, here are more questions to chew on:

1) Do you believe these technologies will be in your school or classroom in the near future?

2) Given the learning potential of these emerging technologies, does your school have a healthy balance between how technology is used for high stakes test preparation and for activities that integrate higher-level thinking, collaboration, problem solving, and creativity?

3) Are ALL students in your district benefiting from technology?

If you answer “Yes!” to all these questions, congratulations, you and your students are maximizing the power of technology. This report will be a “I do it and I’m ready for it!” checklist.

If you answer “No!”, then what accountability policies will we need beyond our current fixation on high stakes multiple choice test scores to drive these innovations in schools? Is a balance possible?

Follow me on Twitter at @Patrick_Ledesma

The opinions expressed in Leading From the Classroom are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


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