Standardized testing was just around the corner, and my students were starting to worry.
Beyond the usual nerves all students get when it’s time for a test, my students were even more anxious because all state-mandated testing had to be done on their school-provided devices on a secure server they had only used once or twice before. Not only were the questions going to be new and unknown, but so was the platform. How on earth would they tackle this challenge?
Fortunately, I had recently been a virtual part of Microsoft’s “Hack the Classroom” digital live streaming event. My fellow MIE Experts had come up with so many amazing ways to both use new edtech tools and reuse old ones in the classroom that I had to share some of them with my students. My students loved learning these tips and tricks, and I encouraged them to look for other ways they could improve how they use their devices and Microsoft tools. They felt even smarter when they discovered something on their own and shared it with the class!
That’s when we knew what we had to do: Hack the Test!
We logged into the practice test website provided by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. But instead of looking at only the questions, we decided to search for shortcuts and tricks that would help us master the platform. Students felt that if they were comfortable with the software, they could spend their valuable time focusing on the questions.
So my students clicked (and right-clicked) on virtually everything on every page. They started sharing their discoveries with each other: “Did you know you can highlight?” “Look! There is a way to spell-check your essay!” “What do you mean I can make the screen bigger?”
My students not only had fun finding ways to “hack” the test, they couldn’t wait to share them with their classmates! Then, at the next recess, they were talking to their friends in other classrooms about how to adjust the volume, how to actually cross off multiple choice answers to eliminate them, and how to use the thing that looks like a calculator but isn’t.
From the smiles on their faces, it was clear they were thrilled to “hack the test” and discover its secrets. Anything that gets students talking to each other and learning from each other, especially about an upcoming test, is good for everybody: schools, teachers, parents and especially students!
More importantly, my students were now confident about how to maneuver through the tools that were available to them. They would be able to focus on answering the questions rather than asking (and fretting) about how to answer the questions.
Anything that makes students feel both smart and confident before a big test is a class Hack-t!
Tammy Brecht Dunbar, M.Ed., STEM, is a popular presenter and trainer both in person and online who presented ISTE 2016 with renowned educator & choose2matter founder Angela Maiers. Dunbar is a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, Master Trainer & Certified Educator; a Common Sense Media Digital Citizenship Certified Educator; an NCCE Professional Learning Specialist; a TEACH.org Ambassador and an MUSD Teacher of the Year. She presented at the 2015 Microsoft Global E2 Conference and earned two global awards for project excellence. She is the 2016 California Woman of the Year, Assembly District 12. Follow her on Twitter: @TammyDunbar
Sign up for the next Hack the Classroom livestream, happening September 24, 2016 from 8:00a.m. to 10:00a.m. PST, at aka.ms/hacktheclassroom.
To view last year’s top Class Hacks, visit the Microsoft Educator Community. To enter this year’s Class Hack’s contest, visit http://aka.ms/classhacks. The winning entries will be broadcast live on the September 24 Hack the Classroom event.