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July 18, 2018

6 Tips for Getting Started with K-12 Online Assessment

To anyone who has been interested in getting started with K-12 online assessment, this post goes out to you! We assure you, using online assessment tools is easy and enjoyable. But don't just take our word for it....we asked for tips from seasoned Pear Assessment (formerly Edulastic) educators across the country who are already using online assessment. After hearing their words of wisdom, we compiled the top six tips for anyone who is just beginning to use digital assessment. By bringing your assessments online, you are already on your way to saving time, asking better questions, and getting instant data. We hope by the time you're done reading, you'll feel confident about how to get started with online assessment.

1. Start out small

Diving into a new technology can be intimidating. The best way to avoid getting overwhelmed is to ease yourself in and start small. Although teachers generally find Pear Assessment to be very straightforward and easy to learn, experienced users agree that the best way to start is by playing around with the app and creating something small to get a sense of the tool. Technology coach Susan Lehr says, “Just start somewhere and start small. The kids love it and adapt easily, and you will love the data!” Don’t overwhelm yourself trying to use every question type right away; focus on getting familiar with the basics (multiple choice, fill in the blank, etc) and then try out one new tech-enhanced question at a time.

2. Get organized

Knowledge is power. Get to know your digital assessment platform and understanding the tools and resources embedded within the app. Knowing what’s at your fingertips will help you get the most out of Pear Assessment and ultimately allow you to be more efficient and reduce your workload. Before you sit down to create an assignment, take a little time to peruse the question banks; with over 80,000 items at your disposal there is a chance someone else has already created exactly what you want.

Use the “Like” button to easily flag assessments you may be interested in for future use, and consider syncing Pear Assessment with Google Classroom to make use of Google single sign-on and streamline your assessment delivery process. Many teachers suggest exploring the live dashboard and reports tab which provide you instant feedback regarding achievement and gaps in student progress. Math teacher Joshua Miller likes this feature because, “It helps me find where I can use intervention and enrichment strategies so I can differentiate my lessons and activities.”

3. Recruit a Pear Assessment buddy

There is strength in numbers! Find a teacher friend to try online assessment with you. While many teachers are successful on their own, having a buddy is helpful for times when you might get into a rut, or when you make a big breakthrough and need someone to share that excitement with. Teachers who have had success using Pear Assessment often find it helpful to have someone to brainstorm and proofread assignments with: “Whether it’s in your school district or virtually, find a Pear Assessment buddy to help you when you have questions,” says chemistry teacher Michelle Harris.

4. Model Pear Assessment for your students

Guide your students to success! Students these days are pretty tech savvy. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t use a little online assessment guidance. Students do best when they know what to expect, and practicing in class will help ensure there are no formatting confusions when it comes time for testing. Walk them through the graphing functions and show them what to expect when they get to the end of a quiz. This type of guidance will make sure students can focus on the content when they get around to taking their online assessment. Social Studies teacher Kyle Nielsen finds it helpful to, “assign a practice assignment with one or two of the same question type, and go over it in preview mode with the whole class. That way, students are not thrown off when they are taking an assessment and encounter that type of question.”

Teachers also suggest that before you assess students, take it yourself in the same format as your students. “This assures you discover any oddities in questions that require students to manipulate objects within the quiz. I have found this lets me better assist my students when they have difficulty," said Bilingual teacher Katie Breitholtz. Teachers also recommend finding fun ways to introduce Pear Assessment to your class. Starting with a fun assessment will get them familiar with the platform using lighthearted content. Or, try starting off the day with a low-stakes five minute Pear Assessment task. From there, students will get comfortable with the platform and you can build up to higher-stakes formative or summative assessment assignments. Remember Pear Assessment can be as impactful for students as it is for educators. Empower your students to take charge of their learning by directing them to the student dashboard where they can track their own scores and progress.

5. Know where to look for help

Questions or concerns? Help is only a click away. Tutorial videos for each question type are embedded within the app, and you can find detailed instructional materials on our YouTube channel and help center. The teachers on the Pear Assessment Innovator Team also encourage you to join the wide network of Pear Assessment users on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as a way to feel instantly connected and to draw inspiration from others who are in it with you.

6. Persist and explore

Jump in! Whether you are in your classroom, at home, or in a coffee shop right now, just give it a try and see what it’s like for yourself. In one case, all it took was two district leaders in an airport to realize it was a great fit for accomplishing their district goals. After you get started, you can always go back and adjust later. Create a class and start making assignments. Experience the look and feel of the platform. Explore the Assessment Library, preview assessments, and test out any of the 50+ different technology-enhanced question types. Whatever you do, don’t give up! The more you stick with it, the more data you will have to understand your students’ progress. Utah teacher Mike Isaacson says, "You won’t create the perfect quiz the first time, but give it time and don't give up because a little time put in creates great dividends in student success.”


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