Recent Posts

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Tech Tools for Assessment

Assessment isn't what happens after instruction; assessment is instead what guides instruction and moves it forward. Formative assessment, the ongoing "pinging" of student progress, is a key part of instruction and not an afterthought. Wiliam (2013) stated it this way: “It is only through assessment that we can discover whether the instructional activities in which we engaged our students resulted in the intended learning. Assessment really is the bridge between teaching and learning.”

With this in mind, I've created a collection of over 30 free assessment tools which teachers can use at all stages of the learning process. I've annotated these sites and provided introductory videos which will help you to get started immediately.

Why the Emphasis on Assessment?

When my older daughter was five, she purchased a rubber squeaky hammer from the dollar store. For days she walked around the house, asking what needed to be hammered. So I guess she proved Abraham Maslow to be correct when he said, "I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail" (Maslow, 1966, pp. 15-16). I sometimes feel that teachers are like that when it comes to a new technology. We get excited about a single site or application and seek ways to use it immediately and often, regardless of its appropriateness to the task. “While well-designed tools or assessment strategies are a key component to authentic formative assessment, if they are not what teachers consider the right tools for the immediate task at hand, they are frustrating and counterproductive” (Formative assessment that truly informs instruction, 2013, p. 2).

We should strive to work in the opposite way. Let's first consider our instructional objective, which is never "to use a new technology." Let's then ask, "Is there a technology that we can incorporate to somehow facilitate, extend, or improve this lesson?" When it comes to tools for assessment, we are seeking measures that are timely, frequent, authentic, engaging, practical, collaborative, and reflective. That’s a long list, but not every assessment needs to meet every criterion. We as teachers simply need to select judiciously; if a technology doesn't fit the bill, we shouldn't force it.

Technology tools are especially effective in administering formative assessment. Formative assessment can be defined as “a deliberate process used by teachers and students during instruction that provides actionable feedback used to adjust ongoing teaching and learning strategies to improve students’ attainment of curricular learning targets or goals.” Mursky (2015) goes on to describe its attributes, which include clarifying intended learning, eliciting evidence, interpreting evidence, and acting on that evidence. Few teachers, however, were trained in how to elicit evidence of learning in a manner that is authentic, practical, or engaging. Other teachers fail to differentiate between formative and summative assessments; instead, they simply set assessment tasks, not fully realizing “that formative assessments are for learning, not necessarily of it” (Miller, 2015). As a result, these teachers are likely to associate assessments with summative examinations and standardized testing, and to see them as something that happens discretely apart from instruction. It’s even possible, in cases such as the PARCC test, that teachers view assessment as an intrusion on, or distraction from, classroom instruction and learning. “In a context in which assessment is overwhelmingly identified with the competitive evaluation of schools, teachers, and students, it is scarcely surprising that classroom teachers identify assessment as something external to their everyday practice” (Heritage, 2007, p. 14). We need to see assessment as a key factor in learning, and digital tools can play a huge role in this mission.

The purpose of Tech Tools for Assessment is to introduce teachers to digital assessment applications which will motivate and inspire students while yielding practical outcomes for reflection and continued growth. The tools provide measures that are timely, frequent, authentic, engaging, practical, collaborative, and reflective. Whenever possible, teaching applications and exemplars have been included in each site’s description to assist the teacher in understanding each application’s use and to aid the teacher in introducing the applications to students. As teachers, we need to “effectively communicate to our learners both a description of how they will perform an assessment activity as well as a description of how we will judge the quality of their performance” (Vega, 2015). These tools can play a critical role in meeting these objectives.

Continue reading my rationale for these tools, or check out the collection for yourself.

Feel free to share your own favorites in the comments below.



Formative assessment that truly informs instruction. (2013). Retrieved from National Council of Teachers of English website: 

Heritage, M. (2007, October). Formative assessment: What do teachers need to know and do? PHI DELTA KAPPAN, 89(02), 140-145. 

Maslow, A. H. (1966). The psychology of science: A reconnaissance. New York: Harper & Row. 

Miller, A. (2015, February 3). Formative assessment is transformational! Retrieved from 

Mursky, C. (2015, January 30). Formative assessment practices to support student learning. Retrieved from 

Vega, A. (2015, January 27). Blended and online assessment taxonomy design. Retrieved from 

Wiliam, D. (2103, December). Assessment: The bridge between teaching and learning.Voices from the Middle, 21(2), 15-20.