Beyond Bubble-In: A Case for Blended Learning in the PARCC Classroom

Beyond Bubble-In:  A Case for Blended Learning in the PARCC Classroom

“For each question, fill in only the circle that goes with the answer you choose. Fill in the circle completely and make your mark heavy and dark …”
 

Teachers, do these words sound familiar to you? If you’re anything like me, just hearing them makes you feel a certain something in the pit of your stomach.
 

You may be relieved that the days of teaching kids to “bubble-in” are behind (most of) us. But for the upcoming PARCC assessments, you will need to teach students how to:

  • type quickly for long periods – and not on a cell phone
  • drag and drop items
  • use an equation editor tool
  • navigate using multiple scroll bars on a page
  • highlight and select text
  • use multiple drop down menus to answer a single question
  • make use of digital protractors, rulers, and calculators

 

And the list goes on. Try the PARCC practice assessments now available and experience the new testing format for yourself.
 

At a recent department meeting, the math teachers at my school were tasked with doing just that. As a 26-year-old, relatively tech-savvy member of the Citybridge Foundation 2014 Education Innovation Fellowship, even I had to spend an hour navigating the online tutorial designed to introduce teachers and students to the platform.
 

Part of a resource form PARCC explaining how to use the equation editor tool.  Students as young as 3rd grade will need to navigate this platform.

Part of a resource form PARCC explaining how to use the equation editor tool. Students as young as 3rd grade will need to navigate this platform.


 

Part of a resource form PARCC explaining how to use the equation editor tool. Students as young as 3rd grade will need to navigate this platform.
 

As we explored, you could sense the growing anxiety in the room. “It feels like they’re being tested on their computer skills, not how well they know the content,” one teacher shared.
 

She’s right! Students really will be assessed on both. That makes it our responsibility to provide them with the tech skills they need. Teachers, who want their students to feel comfortable and prepared for the successful come March 2015 testing season, need to commit to infusing tech purposefully into their instruction today.
 

Introducing tech and blended learning into the classroom isn’t just about getting students ready for a test. It is a powerful way to personalize learning – technology can be leveraged as a way to get students working on the skills that are just right for them.
 

As part of my fellowship experience, I’ve piloted a variety of blended learning models in my class, most recently using Khan Academy. I’ve found that students pick up on this stuff and run with it a lot faster than we do, figuring out ways they can use the tools to meet their needs. They’re taking ownership over their learning, and they’re also learning how to express their mathematical thinking digitally in ways that will prep them for PARCC.
 

So what can you do to start infusing PARCC- ready tech skills now, even if you don’t have the flexibility or resources to completely redesign your classroom for blended learning? A few ideas on how to get started:
 

  • Typing: Get students typing responses and reflections regularly. Set goals for how much they will type and time them, as there are time limits on the PARCC assessment
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  • Vocabulary: Students need to develop a language around their devices, including copy, cut, paste, highlight, select, etc. More vocabulary needs will come up as you begin to infuse tech more frequently. This will reduce anxiety come PARCC and make the time that you have with your devices more effective.
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  • Troubleshooting Skills: Students need to be able to fend for themselves when basic problems come up. Teach students to move beyond “My computer’s broken!” to diagnose and hopefully fix the problem themselves.
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  • Use an Online Testing Format: Get students comfortable with the idea that tests can be completed on an online platform before they get to PARCC. A quick and easy way would be to create a quiz or assessment using Google Forms. You can use a mix of questions that will mirror PARCC’s format, including “select all that apply,” multiple choice, and typed paragraph responses. Also, grading is a breeze!

 

Written by Connie Parham

Connie Parham

Connie Parham is an eighth grade Math teacher at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School a 2014 CityBridge-NewSchools Education Innovation Fellow

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