Friday, July 17, 2009

Big Idea #4: A Comprehensive Online Adaptive Test Prep Program

This is part four of a special week-long series called Big Idea Week, ideas that I hope will become realities one day soon.

As with some of the ideas I discussed earlier this week, there are many types of adaptive test prep software in existence. There are also online test prep programs for a wide range of tests. Unfortunately, like those other big ideas, no one has gotten it quite right yet.

Last month I wrote a bit about adaptive test prep software for students preparing for college placement exams. In this case, I'm focusing on preparing students for standardized testing across the board. For the uninitiated, an adaptive test changes based on your answers--it might give you easier or harder questions, or it could offer help to guide you to the right answer. This is the heart of this particular idea.

For the purposes of this big idea, adaptive would mean providing hints, simple explanations, videos, animations, audio cues and interactive tutorials whenever a student is struggling on a particular question or topic. The software would provide simpler questions when needed, to both build student confidence and prepare them for the highest level of questioning they'll face on a standardized test.

As long as this structure is present, the rest of the requirements are pretty straightforward:
  • It must be completely free.
  • Registration and sign up should be easy for schools and students (this is a fatal flaw of so many programs out there right now).
  • Make results and progress available to track online, and comprehensive reports should be simple for teachers and administrators to generate at any time.
  • It should be almost entirely self-guided, intuitive, and most importantly fun!
  • This should be online, Web 2.0 technology. There should be nothing to download, no Java applets--basically, it should be compatible with most computers.
Put all of this together, and you have the killer app of standardized test prep, making the lives of teachers, students and administrators so much easier.

I know some people may leave comments and ask, "What about [insert widely used educational software]?" If you've read this blog for a while, you know I've seen a lot of technology that was marketed as if it was the solution to all our problems. Each one lacked one or more of the features I outlined above, and you just can't leave any of those out and really claim to be solving more problems than you're creating.