The KS3 ICT tests mentioned by GD above were sound in theory but the actual implementation was flawed in many areas. The software was sent out without proper testing and lots of schools had problems installing and running it. We were one of the lucky ones who ran the sofware without problems but found that a lot of time was spent teaching the staff and students how to use it which took up valuable teaching time. Our students are bright and picked it up quickly but even then it used up 1 or 2 lessons.
Ofqual need to set a standard that all exam boards should follow to allow schools to install and run examination programs that work on all operating systems from Win 2000 to the current version. They should also be realistic about what should be available during the exam such as internet access or spell checking facilities to allow for those schools that have very little in the way of IT support or have outsourced their IT Support. Guidance should also cover the procedures to follow in the event of equipment failure during an exam. The KS3 ICT Test was good at this in part but was useless if the fault was a hard drive failure. The current example of Ofqual and exam boards not setting a global standard and providing the means to carry out an exam process is the Controlled Assessments, just look at the posts on edugeek to see how many different ways that IT support have had to try and interpret the requirements and the man\woman hours used to provide a bespoke solution.
I think the future should be a locked account which has only access to an exam board web site to which the student logs into to carry out the exam. This should provide the security required as there will be no paper copies, the exam board has the results as soon as the exam is completed which in turn means fewer exam papers getting lost in the post etc etc etc.
As for computer suites being unsuitable due to layouts I would suugest fitting Anti glare\privacy screens to monitors during the exam season.
The major issue currently (as AQA are pushing for on-screen tests in some GCSE and A Levels and have marketed all subject leaders, SLT and Exams Officers on the mailing lists just before half term on it) is the JCQ requirements for the tests. How many of us have a minimum of 1 meter clear space between each and every screen in our IT rooms? I bet the bulk of us don't, the requirements are fairly impossible to meet in most peoples setups I suspect, without the making of a large number of custom exam screens to make each PC area into a cubical like you get in driving test centres etc....
Wot he said. Students should be learning stuff in school, not constantly being graded on stuff that they haven't had a chance to learn yet.
Originally Posted by SteveBentley
And we get back to the question of "Does the pig get any heavier if you constantly weigh it?"
If you feed it enough scraps it will ;)
Originally Posted by GrumbleDook
Having watched three children go through the GCSE and A Level process - I really think they need to do something. My children are used to working in a different way, essay-wise than the way you work if you hand-write an essay. Wheras, when writing by hand, you have to get it all in the right order pretty much on the first go, when you write on a computer, you can just put down the information and then go back and get it into some sensible order. This is how they do it on an every day basis which makes exams quite stressful and none of them believe that they do as well as they would if they could do it the way they have all the way through school, on a computer.
It is the editing facility that is missing - it isnt that they can't write a coherent essay, just that they do not do it that way and therefore are not practised at doing so.
There must be an answer - slates or something similar?
Given how unreliable their sites are for general use, is it sensible to trust exam boards to invest in the infrastructure to ensure they've sufficent capacity and load-balancing to handle the exam season? Bearing in mind it'd be every written exam for that board.
Originally Posted by alan-d
@GD: Depends if we're measuring at a quantum scale or not ;)
The new JCQ instructions for conducting examinations state 'Centres are allowed to provide a word processor to a candidate where it is their normal way of
working, unless an awarding body’s specification says otherwise.'
ie any pupil may use a word processor if it is their 'normal way of working'. This change has come in this year.
I don't see why they couldn't invest in improving the infrasrtucture, they would reap most of the cost back by not having to produce paper copies and by cutting down on manual marking. At the moment they expect us to overcome the same difficulties without any additional income or resources.
Originally Posted by pete
Part of the problem with controlled assessment is not just the technical "how do we lock down machines?" but also the management of the rooms, the sharing of resources (which some exams need) the staff used for invigilation, any requirement for ongoing technical support ...
And the list of barriers is extensive even if you school has decided to go down this route ...
Not enough computers
Departments not willing to share access to computer suites
Lack of invigilators
Poor internet connections
Inconsistent requirements between exams (never mind the difference between exam boards, the same board might have different requirements for different exams!)
None of these are insurmountable ... but they do take some thought, some planning and a fair bit communication.
No exam board has a guide about how to manage this within a school yet. What a surprise.
Your telling me about that, to say I raised this last year before all this kicked off for us I said it will be a pain to deal with if we don't have it as a full college plan, and lots of discussion and info now IE this time last year, I was told oh we only have 1 subject affected, I said that won't be right and short of going through everyones silibuses myself I was told no its very much just one subject. How I wish I recorded that meeting on tape as we are up to abotu 200 user accounts for controlled assessment and everything wants more and strange needs even changing by the lesson! We can no longer get enough IT rooms free as everyone has left it to the last minute, subjects that said they don't want IT and will do it by hand have now gone oh but we have some students that are slow at writing can you find me 30hrs time in an IT room over the next 3 weeks etc... its a nightmare. So much so I've thrown these issues at our Timetabler and we are going to have a college policy on it that if you want IT to do your CA next year you need to submit your silibus that says you MUST use a computer to the SLT in advance of summer and show where it says its compulsory, all those where its compulsory will get planned into the timetable and rooming, those who its optional for will have to wait in the queue until the main school timetable is done, confirmed and cast in stone, IF they can be fitted in then fine however we won't be having this en-mass mess around next year its just silly.
Originally Posted by GrumbleDook
They will also need to provide me with the exact details of the CA requirements in advance to help me plan and support them, these are needed before summer to allow me to setup and test them all over this summer so we can be ready for September, this includes things like Internet Access, Shared Areas, Pooled Resource Banks, file access, email access, printing access etc.... as this has changed from lessons to lesson in some subjects resulting in the pre-planned CA accounts not being suitable any longer as someone has decided that they can have Internet after being told a week before that they couldn't etc.... All I can say is thank the lord for Smoothwall and its infinite flexibility!
The additional problem to the controlled assessments is that pupils who "usual way of working is to use a wordprocessor" may still do so.
John, this will override any syllabus which does not say that it must be done on a computer. Any parent requesting a computer for their child for exams would have to be given one as we (the Exams officers) now dont have any means to say "no". A further complication is that extra time also applies to controlled assessments which means that if the whole class is doing a 30 hour project spread accross their lessons over some months, a few students may actually have 37.5 hours to do this same project. How does the teacher administer/ monitor / invigilate the further 7.5 hours and what do they do with the rest of the class during this time?
This first year has been a lot of work. It will be interesting to see what results are gained after the marking!
That's interesting, have you got a source for that as I've not come across that, admittedly I am not an exams officer but I would be interested in seeing it and then I can take it to my Exams Officer so she is aware of this potential issue as if we get a demanding parent that knows that we cannot say no you cannot wordproces your exams we could have an absolute disaster on our hands which we need to ensure we are ready for if it happened.
Originally Posted by GNewnham
Extra time has also been a big issue for us as staff haven't got time to supervise the students under the same conditions for those extra 7+ hours which is the common time, and how are you catching up when little johnny has missed 3 lessons due to illness etc....
It really needs a lot more thinking than what is being done by most people I think.
It appears in the JCQ document "Instructions for Conducting examinations 2011" on page 18 where it says (highlighted in yellow as it is a change for this year)
Centres are allowed to provide a word processor to a candidate where it is their normal way of working, unless an awarding body’s specification says otherwise.
Previously the writing speed of a pupil had to be assessed and determined whether they would be able to work faster on a word processor. Access arrangements had to be submitted for each case in advance of th exam cycle and cover sheets added for each exam quoting the access info. Now all of that has fallen away and all answers to exams may be submitted either written or produced on a word processor and printed.
We have already had our first parent asking for their child to use a computer instead of writing. I think this is the tip of the iceberg.
It is going to cause so many problems - how will we be able to manage hundreds of wordprocessor users at the same time? We have already gone the thin client route and have a room configured with about 18 machines. However, the problem of what would happen in the event of a power failure (which is not really a problem with a laptop with a battery) is still one which remains unsolved.
Would be good to hear of any other solutions that other schools have implemented.