When it comes to technology, most schools don’t assign separate grades for “computing.” Most of us in the EdTech world probably wouldn’t suggest doing that anyway. Technology should be integrated rather than being treated as an add-on; it is just part of “what we do” in the classroom, and not a separate subject.
Are Tech Skills Making the Grade?
This doesn’t remove it from being necessary to grade, though. Too often, graded aspects are what we focus on, what is taught, and what is learned. When we grade reading, math, or writing, we decide on learning objectives, teach those objectives, and then assess students on the learning. These same principles apply when we teach technology, but the final product may look a little different.
Finite technology skills and the ability to create using technology can both be assessed in the classroom. But instead of a separate grade, these skills are typically part of an assignment for another “subject area.” More often than not, they are not assessed in any way.
So when there are aspects of the technology use that we want to reinforce and highlight, what are the best ways to do this?
I would contend that there should to be some sort of assessment or “grade” for tech skills. Here are some ideas to make it happen:
- Use a rubric: If a teacher already uses rubrics in the classroom for assessment purposes, there are probably already technology integration categories that are included. If not, just add a row! A more traditional teacher may be more comfortable with traditional grading practices. If this is the case, take a few minutes to explore some easy-to-use sites. There are many options that are very simple and adaptable to any grade level and subject area. Some great options to try include Google Forms, this Chrome Extension, and this rubric template from Alice Keeler.
- Have specific skills that are both taught and assessed: Regardless of which subject area the skill is applied in, you should be explicit about which tech skills students need. If a rubric isn’t the answer for your classroom, then scoring specific performance tasks is an idea to consider. This typically needs an integration component, such as creating a Keynote about an American president. There can be a grade assessed for the content and for the application of the knowledge about the technology. Specific criteria should be used that can demonstrate a command of the technical knowledge needed for the program, app, or hardware.
- Don’t forget to focus on design: In addition to the specific application skills, it is critical that we don’t lose sight of the role design plays in the students’ learning. This may be an area that we feel less qualified to assess. For example, what does good “design” mean?
Here are few ideas for how this may happen: Allow students to score each other for how appealing their designs are; give points for neatness and attention to detail; allow students to mimic the designs of items they enjoy in their life; and give specific lessons on color, scale, and art elements that need to be considered while designing. Here is a good article for a step-by-step guide to getting started if you haven’t considered teaching design principles before.
- Remember the objective: Through all of this, the learning objective can’t be lost—either in the skill portion or the design portion. For those teachers who work in a project-based environment, it is critical that students don’t forget that teachers are also focusing on their technical know-how. Sometimes the academic standards—those that are emphasized on state tests—are the objectives we stress the most. We shouldn’t forget the ISTE standards that we can also include, not only in grading, but in our lesson plans and learning objectives. This will help to ensure a scope and sequence for the technology standards. Students will then have a minimum level of tech expertise as they pass from grade level to grade level.
Through all of these ideas, another thing to keep in mind is that what we assess is what we are focused on—both as the teacher and as the student. Getting started with grading students’ technical skills could be as easy as adding a line to a rubric, or could be as complex as designating certain tech skills and design principles that are needed at different points in the year. In some manner, if we want technology and design skills to be focused on, we must assess them through integration, rubrics, or standalone lessons, always keeping the learning objective in mind.
Check out Boxlight’s full training line-up to get up to grade on the tech you are using or want to use in the classroom.