I got an interesting letter from the Minnesota Department of Education last week. Here’s a snippet:
During the next legislative session, representatives from the Minnesota Department of Education will present a plan and cost estimates for improving the technology infrastructure in Minnesota schools. This plan will be based on the requirements for delivering all of Minnesota’s statewide assessments via computer, in an online environment. In order to help estimate the extent of the current hardware conditions, improvements and their potential costs, you are asked to participate in a survey of the computer hardware currently in use in your district.
The survey asks how many computers we’ve got (at or above a Pentium III 700 MHz or G3 333 MHz), how much it would cost for us to install 25-30 new computers, how many days it would take to administer a one-hour test to all students, how many days it would take to administer a two-hour test to all students, how many days for one-hour and two-hour tests for our ELL students, and finally, a number of questions about our network bandwidth.
My school district is relatively tech-rich compared to many other districts I’ve seen. Even so, it would take a pretty big chunk of time to get all of our students through the computer labs to complete the tests. This will be a significant burden for less well-equipped districts. I wonder whether students will be advantaged or disadvantaged in an online testing environment depending on their degree of experience with technology. The kids in our one-to-one computing project would probably love doing the tests on their laptops instead of bubbling in ovals by hand. A lack of keyboarding or mousing experience could be a serious disadvantage for students who attend poorly equipped, economically disadvantaged schools.