Image of a classroomEducational assessment is evolving quickly, after years of stagnation and reliance on conventional testing. Part of that evolution is due to a better understanding of differentiated instruction and learner types. It’s been recognized that there’s no one-size-fits-all type of lesson, and the results have thus far been promising. So it only makes sense that there’s no one-size-fits-all method of assessment, either. Standardized testing exists to describe what students should know and accomplish in each subject in each grade, K-12. There has already been a push toward compliance with Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and most states have already adopted the CCSS and have been working to build assessments around them. According to this white paper “Preparing for the Common Core State Standards” by Comcast Business, significant changes must be made for the 2014-2015 school year. Among those changes in testing will be the way in which they are delivered. The states that do comply with the Common Core State Standards are encouraged to administer the tests online. Guidelines of the assessments stipulate that once online testing is in place, all students in a grade must take it simultaneously. This means school districts need to provide and support the bandwidth infrastructure that is needed to administer testing. The other catalyst for the big-picture change has been technology, and it’s increasing availability in classrooms. New technology has spurred improvements in assessment, allowing educators to understand where students are excelling, and struggling, in real time. The potential of these innovations is great, as educators develop creative ways to use technology in the classroom. It’s not just about the future, though. There are enhanced assessment tools available right now that are improving the classroom experience for educators and students.

Real-Time Feedback Assessment Tools

Some school systems are unable to provide connected devices to students and educators, but this tool is a great option in schools with those capabilities. During a lesson, students can respond to key points using their device, and the educator can immediately see class-wide results. It allows students to indicate confusion, without the self-consciousness of speaking out in class. With the results, the educator can adjust the lesson on the fly, reinforcing or finding another way to frame key points. One such tool is Socrative, a free app highlighted in a recent Education Week article on digital learning tools.

Online Learning Assessment Tools

Once reserved primarily for higher education and distance learning, online learning is now finding its way into K-12 classrooms. Developers are busy creating platforms geared toward younger students, which can then be hosted through familiar providers like Blackboard. In most cases, the online classroom is offered as supplement to in-class learning, rather than a substitute. Online platforms allow educators to offer collaborative, engaging at-home projects. Students can ask questions and get answers more readily, from educators and peers. Online learning also provides some natural assessment tools. Some platforms, for example, allow educators to track student reading habits, and collect regular feedback on comprehension through quizzes. This allows educators to focus in-class sessions on the most important topics, and provide help to individual students in need outside of the classroom.

Text to Speech Assessment Tools

Part of improving assessments is making the process more comfortable for students. For students, traditional assessments are stressful. Plenty of students who know the material end up forgetting it when faced with complex, difficult instructions and test questions. Text to speech allows educators to present information in a way that’s easier for students to digest, so educators can focus on assessing how well students know the material, instead of how well they manage test-day anxiety. A student who has trouble reading text-based instructions and questions often just needs to hear the information through a different medium. The same is true for reading assignments, and other types of homework. Text to speech makes it easier for students to learn on their terms, which ultimately leads to more accurate, useful assessments. Even at this relatively early stage, it’s clear that digital tools will have a major, positive impact on education at all levels. Instead of forcing students to conform to rigid lesson structures, now the lessons can conform to the students. For educators, digital assessment tools allows early intervention, so students can be led back on track long before a poor test score indicates a problem. That’s a major breakthrough, and tools like text to speech, in the hands of creative educators, will only continue to raise the bar. [enhancing_learning]