For teachers who are ready to rethink assessments, many easy, free or inexpensive cross-platform creation tools are available, the two edtech specialists say.
“Obviously the goal of assessment is to measure student mastery,” says Herren, a K-5 technology teacher in the Waukee Community School District in Iowa. “Some students measure high, and other students don’t measure up.
“While that seems pretty cut and dry, there’s a trend that students who measure high always measure high, and those who don’t measure high tend to … fall into that self-fulfilling prophecy of failing,” she says. “What I really love about the creative process is everyone is really able to demonstrate their learning.”
A creative addition to testing
Brooks and Herren acknowledge testing serves a purpose.
“I’m not saying testing is wrong,” says Brooks, an instructional technology specialist with the Cherokee County School District in Georgia. “I just think assessment needs to be done in a lot of different styles.”
Creative assessment is a powerful supplement to testing, Herren says.
“We’re always going to have quizzes and tests and those assessments that help us gauge where our students are,” she says. “But when we think of our assessments as something outside the traditional test or quiz, the feedback that they get tends to be very empowering.”
What’s that look like in practice? The teacher poses a question, tells students what the standards are and asks them to demonstrate their knowledge through a creative project.
“It could be through a video, through a presentation, through using PicCollage or Book Creator,” Herren says. “Let it be individual or in a group. There are just so many skills that students are able to practice in just the creation of showing their knowledge in that way.
“But it’s also the process: There’s just so much that goes into the problem-solving of what happens along the way when you’re trying to build something and maybe things don’t go your way,” she says.
“When you're having them create something, they're not just regurgitating that,” Brooks says. “They're really thinking about the information and how to lay it out in a way that makes sense.”
Brooks and Herren also believe educators are increasingly recognizing technology as a tool for creativity, not just research. Teachers are seeing the benefits, they say.
“Their classrooms are coming alive,” Brooks says. “There's a buzz, and the kids are excited to be there.”
Creative assessments address ISTE Standards
Not only that, project-based learning and design thinking are the foundation of many of the ISTE Standards for Students. Take the Empowered Learner standard. Indicator 1.c. says, "Students use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways."
The Innovative Designer standard expects students to "use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions.
That excitement for learning and the skills acquired through creation can ripple through students’ lives.
Brooks says fear — whether of technology or of just too many options — makes some teachers hesitant to embrace creative assessment. Her advice?
“Try one thing and learn with your kids,” the Microsoft Innovative Educator says. “Any teacher who just tries is going to be a superstar.”
Here are seven of their favorite creative technology tools:
Adobe Spark — An integrated suite of web and mobile storytelling applications with three separate apps: Spark Page, Spark Post and Spark Video. Spark for Education offers free tools for creating reports, posters, presentations and more.
Apple Clips — A free mobile video editing app that lets users capture video, grab an existing video clip or photo, and easily add animated captions and titles.