Evaluating Technology Tools for Formative Assessment

Technology to Enable Better Teaching… not Replace ItSteve Peha had a great guest blog post recently at Getting Smart titled What Works, What Doesn’t, What’s Up? It touched on how new technology tools and programs are plentiful, which can make it difficult to find those that really work; that the old saying ‘the more the merrier’ may in fact be a paradox or catch-22 that could possibly have the opposite effect of what the technologies were originally intending.

One paragraph Peha writes really stuck out for me…

Of course, one thing technology can do is gather data on its own effectiveness. But to truly discover what works and what doesn’t, we also have to know what’s up—that is, we need to know the “why” and the “how” of technological advances in education, and we have to measure those advances against yardsticks other than those provided by the creators of the technologies themselves.

The approach to evaluating or assessing technologies and their effectiveness takes a path that mirrors that of how formative assessment can be used to elicit evidence of student learning. The fact that different technologies (techniques) work in some but not all situations and then finding the right technology takes time is certainly a path that formative assessment needs to endure for meeting student learning targets.

Of course Peha also writes about how technology can play a strong role in formative assessment itself is also something we’ve discussed:

Technology is uniquely suited to this kind of practice. Adaptive learning software that can tailor the work kids do to their individual needs gives them both practice and testing with the crucial assessment information being gathered and applied in the background. It is the hope of many education technology developers that high-interest content combined with adaptive delivery will be the silver bullet that makes learning both fun and effective.

Not too far back we wrote a three-part blog series on utilizing digital tools to help implement formative assessment in the classroom. While certainly research is still out (to Peha’s point) on technology effectiveness, these digital tools are effective enablers in implementing formative assessment, which has proven to boost student learning.

Within each of the core formative assessment categories (rubrics, all student response systems, no hands-up, feedback, activating self and peers, and eliciting evidence of student learning) there are digital tools that can help facilitate and enable the assessment, most of which are free or affordable. Here are links to the posts:

Digital Technology Tools for Implementing Formative Assessment – Post One – Rubrics and all-student response systems

Digital Technology Tools for Implementing Formative Assessment – Post Two – No-hands up facilitation, gathering student feedback, and activating self and peers

Digital Technology Tools for Implementing Formative Assessment – Post Three – Eliciting evidence of student learning

Research has shown that formative assessment can make a difference in the classroom and while technology tools will always need evaluating there are some good ones out there that can help make a difference. Think of technologies today as tools to enable student learning improvements, not tools to take over teaching, though who knows what the future holds.

What technologies are you currently using in your classroom?

Photo credit to flickingerbrad.