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Looking back on electronic midterm tests

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Looking back on electronic midterm tests

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TOWAMENCIN- Change is a struggle for everyone and North Penn students can all agree that the switch from testing on paper to online was a change that was difficult to grasp. But after it became a reality, opinions have either changed or stayed the same.

Prior to midterm week, teachers took time out of their lessons to give an additional test run after the previous one during Knight Time before winter break. So by the day of the midterm, every student should have been prepared for the test.

On January 15th, it was the world language listening midterm and for most students, their first midterm. For students who take Spanish 3, many believed that the last section threw many of them off because they were unable to multitask by listening and knowing the next question ahead of time. North Penn High School Spanish teacher Señora Atkiss believed that it went well but like her students, she felt that that same section could have been made easier and less complicated.

I think the only thing that I would change is giving [her students] the questions from the last sections so you could look ahead of time—I was able to do that before my 8th period and thought it was beneficial,” said Atkiss.

Other than that issue, students found their listening midterms to be easy and the Chromebooks did not interfere with their testing as much as they were expecting. As for the world language multiple choice midterm, students weren’t affected at all by the Chromebooks.

The only midterms students feared taking on the Chromebooks were for science and math as they both required more work. For North Penn High School Biology and Chemistry teacher Amanda Franek, she was anxious about the midterms for her chemistry students but soon found out that it was better than she thought.

I thought they would have a tough time finishing the multiple choice because LinkIt! was an added step. However, getting the codes into LinkIt! replaced filling in scantrons. So it wasn’t too bad”

— Mrs. Amanda Franek, NPHS Science Teacher

“It went pretty smooth. I was worried that my chemistry students would have a tough time finishing the midterm because there is an open-ended section and a multiple choice section. I thought they would have a tough time finishing the multiple choice because LinkIt! was an added step. However, getting the codes into LinkIt! replaced filling in scantrons. So it wasn’t too bad,” mentioned Franek.

Likewise, math and history ran just as smoothly as it did with science.

But as for the English subject, English Department chairman Lucas Henry stresses how the entire experience encouraged more students to not spend as much time taking the test despite how similar the scores were to tests on paper.

“My main fear was students not reading thoroughly. Our tests were designed to be given on paper. They have lengthy passages that require thought to accurately answer a set of questions. But the trouble is when you’re doing this assessment on the Chromebook, the passage and the questions are side by side. When the questions are staring at you and so is a long passage that you have to scroll through, you can either read this entire passage through or just take a guess. Despite the scores being relatively similar, I know that a lot of students did not read thoroughly. I had students finish  the test in 10 minutes and it’s designed to be a full period test. It’s impossible that they read the passages that were designed to be read to answer these questions,” expressed Henry

He also emphasized how the idea of physically annotating has become obsolete after years of teaching students to do so.

“We taught you to annotate the passages and then we’re giving you an assessment where admittedly there is a highlight option but we’re completely breaking everything that we have taught you to do for all of the years of your schooling. I just think its a disservice,” added Henry.

The main issue that took place during that week was having to connect to LinkIt and many had to deal with it loading for a period of time. For North Penn High School principal Pete Nicholson, he mentions that that was a minor issue and was easy to resolve.

While there were a few technical glitches during exams, these were very minimal and, in most cases, were due to Chromebooks that hadn’t been shut down and rebooted in quite some time.  Once the Chromebooks were rebooted, they worked fine and in most cases only took students about two minutes to accomplish”

— Mr. Pete Nicholson, NPHS Principal

“While there were a few technical glitches during exams, these were very minimal and, in most cases, were due to Chromebooks that hadn’t been shut down and rebooted in quite some time.  Once the Chromebooks were rebooted, they worked fine and in most cases only took students about two minutes to accomplish,” said Nicholson.

Other issues that came up was the format. Many students wished it was set up so they could get an overall view of the entire test because they were only able to only see one question at a time. Although it didn’t interfere with the test scores, it made it hard for students to get through the test.

“It was a little frustrating to constantly switch through the questions online, especially when it lagged between. With paper tests, I enjoy having the liberty to write on the paper itself from annotating the question to computing the solution,” said North Penn High School junior Divya Sood.

“For math based subjects like chemistry, I usually glance at all of the questions and attack the ones easiest to do, despite what order the questions are actually in. This saves me a lot of time which I can then use to tackle to harder questions. However,  it is more time consuming to scroll through and look at all of the questions on the Chromebook, since unlike a flat piece of paper, I can’t look at the whole layout of the test in one glance. The questions take a while to load if I try that method. So I end up spending more time on the easier questions because I am unaware of the difficulty of the harder questions ahead,” said North Penn High School sophomore Siddhi Date.

In the contrary, many students had a good experience with the midterms being online.

“It went well for me because I didn’t have to deal with shuffling through papers and worrying about if I filled in each bubble correctly when the computer could tell me if I missed the question or not,”  said North Penn High School sophomore Lauren Kotulka.

Based on the survey given out district wide, 78% of students were concerned about taking the tests on Linkit! but after midterms, 73.5% of students said it was either “About what I expected” or “Easier than I expected.

As for the teachers, 88% of teachers said the experience was “About what I expected” or “Better than I expected” and 83% of teachers stated that students did as well or better than they expected. 52% of teachers said that in the future they have no concerns about students taking assessments online.

“Not having to manage the paper was really nice. Typically, I’m the guy who gets all the copies for the entire department and I’m running around making sure that everybody has everything that they need and I’m collecting all of the bubble sheets from everybody and making sure that everything gets scanned and that’s a pain. So to not have to do any of those things, for me as one individual, was nice,” Henry stated.

So overall, the experience went well statistically and as of right now it’s just a matter of getting used to for both students and teachers.

“There has to be some level of compromise between what we know to be tried and true and effective and the reality of how things are because I think there is value in holding a physical book in your hands and I think there is value in annotating on paper,” said Henry.

For North Penn Assistant Superintendent Dr. Todd Bauer, he emphasizes that having the skills to take a test on paper is just as beneficial as having the skills to take a test online.

“I think there is value is doing both… You need to be flexible and know how to take tests on paper but also know how to take tests online,” mentioned Bauer.

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