Improving Instruction With Technology

By Naomi Dillon

As the assessment director for the South Dakota Department of Education, Wade Pogany oversees an increasingly prominent yet polarized aspect of public schools. While data about student learning is valued, not everyone agrees with the methods used to gather that information, or how to analyze it.

So, it was a welcome surprise when Pogany heard praise, even enthusiasm, among the rank and file when his department expanded its state-level writing test last spring.

“I’ve never seen teachers more excited about a state assessment, I gotta tell you,” he says.

Behold, the power of technology, which is altering the landscape of student testing, in much the same way that student testing altered public education decades ago. Interestingly, both fields began modestly and stayed that way for some time.

Technology made it easy to quickly score and return test results, a feature that, in part, drove the standardized test movement into high gear in the late 20th century.

But it wasn’t until the past decade that test developers and researchers moved beyond using technology to process information into the deeper but trickier mission of figuring out what a student knows and how to improve instruction.

“In the 1990s, there wasn’t a lot of assessment with technology. If there was, it was all around efficiency, so we can do more testing more efficiently,” says Michael Russell, associate professor of educational research, measurement, and evaluation at Boston College.

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