The Technology Hurdles of SBAC Testing in the Classroom

Even giant leaps forward in technology, education and other fields comes with some setbacks or deficiencies. Often they can be worked out over time. The SBAC or Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) is one nifty example. This test gives students who are exposed to it a leg up on the question stems which are aligned with their grade level. It’s available for students in grades 3-8, and high school for the core subjects. Questioning stems refers to the way the questions might be worded and the kinds of questions that would be presented. Even the advance exposure of the SBAC brings some glitches. Clearing the hurdles is possible, but they do exist. Here are a few:

On Screen Reading

There’s a certain amount of eye strain involved in reading content on screen. Called Computer Vision Syndrome, the American Optometric Association suggests that 70% of Americans suffer from this malady. The problem presents itself as stress on the eyes. For children it may include a negative impact on their normal vision and development. The brain is said to not respond the same way to characters on the computer that they do characters on paper. Pixels and points on the screen all converge to make the images, but there is not always the fluidity people expect. There are all kinds of recommendations for writers and others who are on the computer a lot. The idea is to give the eye muscles a break. Looking away periodically is one of them. Wearing computer eyeglasses is another. For testing, students are conditioned to stay on task for the duration, so they may need retraining in order to even grasp the idea of taking short seconds long eye breaks. In addition, not all students who are prepared to take the SBAC test can go out and get an eye exam and glasses for onscreen reading.

The same difficult dynamic applies to those who take the SBAC test, as it is an online test. Students used to paper test may be some of the most difficult ones of all to struggle with taking a test where they have to constantly look at the screen.

Pause Feature

Students taking the test can put their computer on pause for up to twenty minutes. If they return and resume the test in 20 minutes or under they can return to the same section when they are done with their break. They can even go back and work on (modify, change, review) answers in that same section. If the student keeps the test on pause for longer than 20 minutes, they may not be able to do any further work on the page they were working on before the pause.

Taking Audio and Video Notes

If students are not used to taking notes from audio and video, this test may present them with some frustrations. Without the value of prior experience at note-taking from audio and video, students will often have problems keeping up with the speed of delivery of audio and video content. Students may also struggle with organizing the notes as they watch or listen to content if this balancing act is not familiar to them. The best solution for them is pre-test experience with shorthand note-taking, note-taking technology or experience organizing notes efficiently through a program like Cornell Notes (from AVID). When it comes to note-taking in general, practice makes perfect. It is more so true with taking video and audio notes.