My STEM Units

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Digital Learning Day, Everyday

Imagine this scenario: a young boy is turning 16 and wants to get his driver's license.  He enrolls in a course that promises to make him a 21st century driver.  His course begins with a lecture and a textbook.  The book is pretty with full-color pictures of road signs.  His instructor is adept at technology and she puts the textbook under the document camera, to be projected onto the interactive whiteboard.  The teacher allows the boy to move cars on a map on the interactive whiteboard.  She even has manipulatives (toy cars) for him to drive on a rug with roads and intersections.  When he has passed his paper exams, she takes him outside to the real car.  She gets into the driver's seat and he in the passenger seat.  As they drive, she tells him, "good drivers always signal before a turn" and "on the day of the test, don't forget to start braking 30 yards in advance".  The next day is the test.  He walks into the Motor Vehicle Department with his pencil.  He is ready.  

Or, is he?  Is he likely to pass a driving test in a real motor vehicle?  Probably not.  Yet, that is exactly what will happen to thousands of students.  The test is next year.  Ok, technically, there is a test every year, but next year, the test goes digital.  Yes, many classrooms have document cameras and projectors.  That's technology.  That counts, right?  Or, the district had money and purchased interactive whiteboards.  I'm sure that the teacher is wonderful at using technology.  However, the digital test will require that our students use the technology.  Digital testing requires digital learning.  

Watch this video from ISTE 2014 about the digital test:

Whiteriver Unified School District is taking a unique approach to preparing students for the PARCC assessment.  To give purpose and direction to the introduction of mobile technology, STEM units and Project-Based Learning are now driving training and instruction so that students are PARCC ready.  Students will engage with the technology every day in their STEM units.


The activities selected in the STEM units have been created to replicate the released sample PARCC questions.  The sample questions have been released so that teachers and curriculum developers and curriculum mappers will look at them.  They are to help guide a teacher in how to shift their verbiage, writing prompts, or classroom assessments.  They are not meant to be hidden; a surprise.  So, let's explore some of them together.

"To get a true understanding of the range of rigor, item types and functionalities, users should try test items in more than just one grade, as each grade level does not have all item types. "

First, go to .  Click the For Educators tab at the top.


You will see helpful links on the left side, like Model Content Frameworks.  We'll discuss that on another blog post.  For now, look at New! Try out sample test questions:

  Click on Try the Sample Test Items

Click the Sample Items Tab

Select your grade level on the left

As you work your way through the test, list some of the testing vocabulary that you see.  For instance, the phrases "best supports that answer" and "the best evidence to Part A" come up frequently.  As a teacher or parent, you can begin to use that verbiage in your everyday interactions with the students.  In the writing portions, the phrase "cite your source" comes up often.  You can adopt that phrase as your own, by saying it (or writing it) for journal entries and formal writing prompts. 

February 5th is Digital Learning Day.  Hopefully, our students experience digital learning everyday.  Afterall, digital testing requires digital learning.

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