iPod as a testing device
I recently helped one of our students design a test for special education students to be delivered using iPods. The idea was inspired by the Louisa Muscatine iPod Project, even though my approach is a little bit different than theirs. Today, I finally had a chance to look at their site, where they had a short video explaining how they created their tests. I have to commend them on this creative use of the iPod in the classroom. As a visually impaired person, I am always looking for ways that this wonderful device can be used as an assistive technology.
I think their approach has two key advantages:
- It is very easy for teachers to create the test items. They can use Keynote or PowerPoint to create slides that are exported as images, and these slides can include other images such as simple graphs or tables. My approach, which uses the notes feature of the iPod, involves a little more work because each individual test item is an individual note on the ipod and these notes are linked through hyperlinks. I fear that as soon as you mention that hyperlinks and HTML are involved (even if it’s only two tags) this may turn off many teachers from wanting to implement this kind of technology. To get around this, you can provide a template for teachers to follow, as I did with the student I worked with.
- It is also very easy for the students to navigate through the questions once they are on the iPod. They just have to click on the back or forward button to navigate, whereas with my approach they must scroll to a link until it changes color to indicate that it is active, then click on the center button to move to the next note. For younger students, this may be too difficult.
For elementary school students, I would say that their approach is ideal. However, for older students I think my approach has some advantages:
- The notes feature has an advantage when it comes to text. You are not limited by what can be displayed on the screen at one time. For questions where students have to read a short passage (FCAT reading review, etc), the notes method would be ideal because you can scroll to see more content. The text is also more legible when you use notes. This is a limitation of the movie size created by Garageband, which will hopefully be addressed in the next release of the program.
- The use of hyperlinks gives you more flexibility in the types of exhibits you can use with the test items. You can easily link to video clips and images in the same test. When you create the test using the podcast track in Garageband, you can only include still images or video, but not both (unless you create the whole thing as a movie in iMovie and then import into Garageband–but now you’re introducing another program into the equation). This is another limitation that will hopefully be addressed in the next version of iLife.
- The use of “museum mode” allows you to lock down the iPod so that students are not distracted by other content on the iPod. They only have access to the content in the notes folder, which would be your test and any instructions. Obviously, you would not have any music or other content on the iPod before administering a test, but the temptation to click on other things (even if it’s just the settings) is too much of a distraction.
For older students I think the use of the notes is fine. They probably already have some experience with the iPod, so learning the navigation is probably not too much of a problem. And as I said before, once you create a test once, you can continue to reuse it as a template. All you have to do is substitute the text for the new items and link to new exhibits.
I can see combining the two approaches as well. That is, I would have the iPod set to notes mode to “lock it down”, then include a menu for each section of the test (using a .linx note) and use a podcast (created with Garageband) for each section. This would work well for a test where you only have text and the items are short.
As they say, there is “more than one way to skin a cat”. The way in which we both developed a successful iPod test demonstrates that there are several ways to get this done, each with advantages and disadvantages. The method you choose will depend on the tech savvy of the teachers and the needs of the audience as well as the requirements of the test.