Why Blended Learning is Your Common Core Assessment Prep Solution

Posted by Zack Blois on Oct 21, 2013 1:35:00 PM
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Estimates released by the two Common Core online assessments, PARCC and Smarter Balanced, state that it will take an average of 7 to 10 hours for each student to complete a yearly allotment of online testing, per Education Week.

bl_online_assess_imagePrevailing thought would have us believe that today’s digital native generation are all naturals at working on a computer or tablet, so they’ll be fine testing online for an extended period of time. However, that simply is not always the case.

According to a 2012 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessment, only 27 percent of the eight graders assessed showed proficient ability to utilize technological tools to complete skills similar to those found on the online CCSS tests. The lack of familiarity with the new set of tech skills is is a bit shocking, and that does not even take in account the stamina required to focus and looking at a digital screen for 7 to 10 hours within a week or two.

Preparing your students via blended learning environments

Now, the results of the NAEP report may be alarming, but the challenge is not insurmountable by any means! At Wowzers, we believe the institution of an effective and reliable blended learning environment serves as a “natural” bridge towards helping students prepare for the online Common Core assessments.

For starters, even though it may seem as if today’s students are born with a device in their hands, they may not have practiced a lot of the specific functions required on the PARCC and Smarter Balanced assessments. So, the kids have “proficiency” in pulling an ornery bird back in a slingshot to knock pigs off a platform, but can they drag an equation into the proper field or explain their math reasoning via a keyboard?

That’s a huge question, but it’s also one you can answer by offering day-to-day offline instruction that integrates with educational technology. Simply put, educators can better prepare their students for the required “deeper dive” of understanding and heightened technology proficiency by blending online learning content that aligns with the depth and functionality of the online tests.

Digital manipulatives are coming

As we all know, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) specifically ask students to apply their understanding in real-world scenarios and modeling. The CCSS-aligned online assessments seek to reflect that idea by offering interactive test items known as digital manipulatives.

These manipulatives require students to complete a variety of steps via their testing device, whether it be "drag/enter the correct digit into a box" or sorting a group of numbers by their desired outcome (click here for more on the different manipulates and questions types found on the CCSS online math assessments).

Once again, blended learning can come to your students’ (and your) rescue. Effective and fun online learning content can help your students master digital manipulative functionality. More over, the model allows you to assist your students' development of the needed functionality schema and understanding by modeling a seamless transition within your instruciton, from online learning to project-based group activities and one-on-one deeper instruction.

Building online testing stamina is key

Finally, it’s important to note that student testing stamina is a very important, but often overlooked, element. With the advent of high-stakes tests, your students are most likely used to testing in long increments. However, many of these long-form tests require the use of pencil-and-paper. Now, students will need to check their minds into the content of a screen instead of a Scantron sheet.

Blended learning can help students condition for those multiple-hour online testing periods in two very valuable ways:

  • Models shift between online and offline settings
    • First, rotating between online and offline learning within a blended learning environment helps students gain understanding of the mental process needed to successfully engage, and disengage, from the online learning within a given day.

  • Develops understanding and appreciation of testing duration
    • Secondly, you can help students scaffold towards extended testing sessions by utilizing the tools provided in a blended learning environment to slowly work towards longer periods spend focusing and engaging via digital devices and content. Start the year with short 10-15 minutes online sessions, and then slowly work up towards those 2-3 hour periods (per day) that may be required.

Share your experiences with Blended Learning and Online Assessments

Has your classroom or school looked at blended learning as an online assessment test prep solution? What concerns do you have about the format or content of the tests in relation to your daily instruction? Visit our Facebook page to join the conversation or Tweet us your thoughts at @Wowzers.

Click here to download the free Wowzers PARCC eBook

Topics: Blended Learning, Common Core Assessments

Wowzers is a comprehensive online math program covering all Common Core State Standards for grades K-8. The research-based program adapts to each learner and allows for an individualized path through the curriculum. Content is presented in multiple ways, and appeals to tactile, auditory, and visual learners. Assessments mirror those found on high-stakes achievement tests and provide teachers and administrators with the information that they need to personalize learning for each student.

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