Testing in the 21st Century

Written by the Kurzweil Blog Team

There are two questions to ask about test taking; why are tests given and what do they measure? When we look closely, we find that a large number of students understand the content, but cannot process or decode the questions. When this happens, the test results may not present an accurate picture of the studentís knowledge because question decoding and processing challenges prevent the student from understanding exactly what is being asked. One solution is to read the tests to the students. However, this solution has many pitfalls. If you are still reading tests to your students, and your goal is to encourage independence and testing for comprehension, I am sure you can make better use of your valuable time. The students will also be grateful because they rarely ask readers to repeat a question. Another challenge in test taking is when several students are taking the test at the same time; the student has to work at the teacherís pace and not the studentís own pace. The question remains, what does a test really measure?                     

There are basically two types of tests, high-stakes test and low-stakes test. A high-stakes test is any test used to make important decisions about students, educators, schools, or districts; most commonly for the purpose of accountabilityói.e. the attempt by federal, state, or local government agencies and school administrators to ensure that students are enrolled in effective schools and being taught by effective teachers. Kurzweil is accepted as an accommodation for state wide testing in several states as well as, the LSAT, SAT, GRE and ACT. Check out www.KurzweilEdu.com for more information.

The low-stakes test is used to measure academic achievement, identify learning problems, or discover where instructional adjustments are needed, to name just a few objectives. These tests are usually distributed by a publisher, found on the web or created by a teacher and might be available in PDF format, scanned into the computer or created using MS Word or another text program.

Kurzweil 3000-firefly is educational technology that can be used to prepare students for both high-stakes and low-stakes tests, and in some instances is an approved testing accommodation. The main benefit to using technology like Kurzweil 3000-firefly for testing is that it allows students to go at their own pace. They can listen, and re-listen to text answers in high-quality text-to-speech voices. It also helps them to confidently answer fill-in-the-blank, multiple-choice, true/false, short answer, essay and other test question formats. The one caveat is if a student isnít comfortable with technology. This may actually add to their anxieties around testing and cloud the ability to measure what a student knows. To help students focus on the test, and not the technology, use technology in your classroom on a regular basis so that it becomes second nature. Get started today by watching a video, or following the steps below.

Test Making in Two Easy Steps

You can easily maintain the integrity, form and security of the test or classroom assignment, with Kurzweil 3000-firefly. Files can be viewed as an OCR image file and can be set up so they cannot be changed. But a student can annotate and answer questions using a variety of tools. Teachers can also disable access to features that might compromise the integrity of the test. For example, in a vocabulary test, you might not want students to access definitions, synonyms or web resources.

Step One: Creating a Test File

The first step to creating a test is to convert your current test into a Kesi file by printing it using the Kesi Virtual Printer that installs with Kurzweil. The original file can be in MS Word, a PDF downloaded from the web or a document you scanned into the computer using a desk top scanner or a scanner mouse. The Kesi Printer is found under the Print tab and will convert almost any file into Kurzweil.

Step Two: Selecting Test Accommodation Features

The second step is to explore the tools within Kurzweil to help the student take the test independently. Kurzweil 3000-firefly has a variety of toolbars that contain tools that enable easy access to the test. The diagram to the right is an example of the Test Taking Toolbar. By Right Clicking in the gray space on the right of the toolbars, you will find a pull down menu with 16 different toolbars.

Taking the Test

The Test Taking toolbar only shows tools that are useful for test taking. You want students to be able to enter answers that are legible and easy for them to hear, review and edit. The most empowering tools are the reading options so students can listen to the questions as many times as needed. In addition, there is a highlighter for selecting a multiple choice answer, a Text tool for entering text on a page, ABC check (spell check) and Predict (word prediction) to support the writing process. There is even a scanner tool so a student can scan their own test. Toolbars can be easily customized to add or remove any item.

Locking Test Features on the Computer

Since Kurzweil 3000-firefly is used in high-stakes testing, security is a high priority. This is also true when teachers create tests that they donít want their students to share or have access to certain reference tools. Two strategies can be used to implement the security options; lock the features on the local computer and/or lock the features in the document. You can password protect both strategies.

You can lock features by disabling them in the Lock Features dialog box. From the Options tab select Lock Features. These feature locks are applied at the Ďmachine-levelí. Any locks you set while logged on to an account apply to all other user accounts on that particular PC. For example, if you lock access to reference tools, anyone who logs into that computer will not be able to access the reference tools until that feature is unlocked.

Locking Test Features in a Document

High-Stakes tests, and tests that teachers place in studentsí folders in the Universal Library, can have document specific features locked. In this case, lock the features, and then go under the File tab to Properties. From this dialog box you can Save Feature Locks in Document and Password Protect the file. Once this feature is applied to a document, it can only be opened with the password. The student can see the test and drag it to the desk top, but the teacher must enter the password to open the test.

There are many other items to explore when we focus on test taking and test making. Contact us for a personal demonstration, or try it for yourself with a 30-Day free trial.