Thursday, April 20, 2017

NAPLAN online - where to now?

It is concerning that in 2017 it is still not possible for NAPLAN online to be trialed due to technology issues.  In the IT industry, on line testing has been a normal activity for more than 20 years.  As far as I can recall I sat my first pro-metric on line exam in 1995, it may have been even earlier.

I know Perth schools have been using online testing software for student bench-marking for at least the last 10 years.  I was part of the first trials of on-line WACE exams in 2012 and technology has surely moved significantly since then.

It seems to me the real challenge for NAPLAN online is not the technology but the whole idea.  We are using 21st century tech to replicate 19th century philosophy (everyone sits the same test the same day with exactly the same questions) to solve a 20th century problem (we need to benchmark in a single pass the entire education system from a single student to the nation as a whole).

What we need to do is use the 21st century technology and answer the 21st century questions with a 21st century philosophy.

NAPLAN should indeed be a bench-marking system and it should enable instant feedback to students, teachers, school leadership, parents, and governments.  It should also do that constantly and in ways that are adding value to the education system.  Indeed if NAPLAN was a testing platform able to deliver from a bank of thousands of questions in web based tests on an as needed basis the picture of how our education sector is performing would be far more accurate.  As Facebook, Twitter, and every other Social Media platform knows regular contact builds a far more accurate picture of the user.

Teachers should be able to use a NAPLAN system to quickly benchmark students as often as they please.  They should have to use the platform at least once a term for testing Math and English.

Until that is the case NAPLAN online will continue to be a huge technical challenge.  The need to use the same questions on the same day to the entire cohort on a technology platform which doesn't favour one school over another is in my view an impossible dream.

NAPLAN online risks having further negative implications on the education sector.  Teachers training students for the test instead of using valuable class time to develop skills will remain
the most significant criticism of that system.  The impact will be multiplied as NAPLAN online encourages teachers to teach typing skills to improve performance on the test instead of teaching the curriculum.