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Stories: the Video Game Test


Chatting with other teachers in the Staff Room in-between lessons, a student passed by and asked me "What are we doing in English today?" (although, to be fair, it was more like "What's English today?") I told them "Today is a test", to which they furrowed their brow in suspicious unease... "Don't worry" I said "it's a... Video Game test." To which the student straightened up with a grin, and ran off to inform their friends. I think this little exchange helps highlight how a little change in delivery can help put a fun spin on something run-of-the-mill like a test. However I am fortunate enough to teach at a small school that provides individual iPads for every student, so there was nothing "run-of-the-mill" about my Video Game Test!
Using the Website/App combination "NearPod", I can control the pace of the test (or lesson) from an account on my master iPad. With a simple swipe of my finger (although sometimes it takes a few tries after updating to iOS 7...) every screen in the room updates at my command! But the best part is that students cannot progress further than I allow either. I thought that getting an accurate assessment of their English skill was enough value, but there is also a sort of intrinsic value for students to learn how to interface with technology. Watching them search through the keys for the right letter was a sort of unexpected learning opportunity, and they were thrilled with the novelty of the tech. 
There are so many ways to catalog and record evidence of learning. A multiple choice quiz is just one way. Using this app I was able to have students draw pictures to show their understanding of a sentence or vocabulary. Or adding interactive variety to the questions, and giving them other ways of demonstrating their abilities. Maybe all this can be done with paper as well (and should be!) but there's something satisfying about having all of that info on the cloud, and being able to share it with the school director to let them see the children's progress.
But to confess, there was a somewhat robotic feeling when administering the test. I felt sad at the potential that technology might replace (or relocate) teachers more and more. But because my students are young, I would always have to give animated explanations for each section, and I felt how the human element could never truly be replaced. There's also a certain amount of stop-and-go tech geek stress with attempting this sort of big rig maneuver. Will all the little ones and zero's really link up just like I hope, or will it all come crashing down. Will I be able to give a slick presentation like the late great Steve Jobs, or be left sweating (and never allowed to live it down) like maniacal Bill Gates? All the while being surrounded by elementary students... Luckily, I had NearPod on my side, so everything worked great!

If you have a similar situation, I recommend you give it a go!

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