The testing season is literally right around the corner and a slight sense of panic has begun to set in. There is so much I want to cover in what seems to be such a short period of time. Are my students really prepared?
The average 21st-century student (provided they have access to technology) comes to us with a basic understanding of what it means to create a personal online account. They have gained experience with usernames, passwords and goal-oriented/reward, programs thanks to their interaction with a wide range of applications, gaming systems and social media, many of which are designed with the typical student in mind. However, developing technology skills are a far cry from child’s play when it comes to our Port of Entry students.
These students’ lack of basic technological “know how” can lead to low scores on tests utilized to measure academic growth. In this era of high-stakes standardized (computer-based) testing, students require support that extends beyond technology class. Port of Entry students (POEs/newcomers) may be exposed gradually to digital assessments like the PARCC and STAR, to name a few, but this will not be the case when it comes to the WIDA: ACCESS for English Language Learners (ELLs), a secured language proficiency assessment used to monitor students’ progress in acquiring academic English.
As students and teachers familiarize themselves with the new digital version (ACCESS 2.0), it is important to consider that the time taken to effectively prepare students for this online experience will play a crucial role in their overall performance. Students should be prepared both academically and psychologically.
Although many of our English Language Learners have little to no experience with technology, we must find clever ways to seamlessly weave these skills into daily instruction. Even with limited resources, you can create a learning center to model and reinforce technology skills on a regular basis. Facilitating the practice of technology skills in this fashion can be extremely beneficial. Students can begin to develop risk-taking behaviors in a safe, nurturing environment. This may help POEs overcome some of the inhibitions many experience upon arrival. An increase in self-confidence resulting from improved technology skills can also have a positive effect on a student’s overall linguistic performance.
The WIDA website (www.wida.us) offers videos students can watch to learn what to expect during the assessment. (Please note that access to these clips is limited to those who have a WIDA account.) They are easily accessible through the following secure portal: clipshttp://assets.drcedirect.com/States/WIDA/Tutorials/Student/201510-html5/201510-html5.html.
Exposure is a game changer
Here are some key skills students may benefit from practicing:
- Familiarizing themselves with basic parts and functions of a computer, mouse, keyboard, laptop;
- Keyboarding – capitalizing using shift, using two hands to type;
- Logging in using a personal account;
- Speaking into headphones/microphone, listening skills, speaking skills, record and stop/play/resume, voice volume monitoring, headphone volume adjusting;
- Playing an audio/video, pause, resume;
- Learning to click, drag, cut, paste, highlight, track print, use a magnifier, line guide;
- Saving/opening files;
- Generating feedback, identifying answer section;
- Collaborating with peers on digital projects;
- Engaging in digital citizenship practices.
Psychological skill training can occur throughout the learning process in order to enhance overall student performance. It is important for students to develop self- awareness and identify their emotions. The anxiety that some English Language Learners experience can come from feelings of apprehension, self-doubt and frustration. Providing opportunities to learn and troubleshoot without pressure may assist students in reducing test-taking anxiety. As they begin to display a new level of technological independence, they will begin to feel confident in their abilities. ELLs may also start to develop the endurance necessary to complete the multiple sections (reading, writing, listening and speaking) in the ACCESS test. In the long run, developing a sense of confidence and competence in students may ultimately have the biggest impact on student growth outcomes.