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The two groups tasked with developing Common Core State Standards assessments are not looking far enough into the future when outlining the technology that schools will need to administer the exams set for release in 2014, professors Cathie Norris and Elliot Soloway write in this blog post. For example, the groups’ guidelines suggest schools use netbooks, which are outdated and no longer in production, they note. The groups also specify that students should turn off Internet access during tests, which can send a mixed message to those who have used the resource to learn. 

While it would be an overstatement to say that the two main groups charged with developing tests implementing the Common Core curriculum are, from a technological perspective, in the Dark Ages, it is not an overstatement to say that, again, from a technological perspective, those two consortia have not entered the Age of Enlightenment, today called the Age of Mobilism.

Recently, The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) released guidelines for what technology schools should have in order to administer the tests that these consortia are developing for release in 2014-2015: (list taken from Nagel[1])

  • Device Types: Desktops, laptops, netbooks, thin clients, tablets
  • Processor: 1 GHz or faster 
  • Minimum RAM: 1 GB
  • Display: 9.5 inches or greater at a resolution of 1,024 x 768 or greater
  • Operating System: Mac OS X 10.7, Windows 7, Linux (Ubuntu 11.10 or Fedora 16), Chrome (no version specified), iOS (no version specified), Android 4.0
  • Connectivity: Wired or wireless, with Internet access

Let’s see: netbooks are no longer in production[2]; and a 9.5 inch screen at least does rule out some older tablets. Older in the sense that 7inch tablets are now all the rage. But the specs do rule out the iPad’s lower-priced cousin, the iPad Mini–even though the iPad-Mini[3] with a 7.9 inch screen still has the necessary resolution: 1,024 x 768. You can see the conspiracy-theorists’ blogs now: Apple behind Common Core tech specs–pushing the more expensive iPad over the iPad mini. We are NOT conspiracy-theorists–but it is curious <smiley face goes here>. And, the Samsung Galaxy Note II with a measly 5.5 inch screen but with a resolution of 1,280 x 800[4] is also not up to snuff according to SBAC and PARCC.

So TODAY, 2012-2013, there are truly mobile devices (10 inch tablets are transportable devices; they are ready-at-hand; but they are not TRULY, ready-to-hand, mobile devices. Let the deluge of e-mail begin!!) that satisfy the consortia’s specs except for physical screen size, but they are being considered inappropriate for Common Core testing that will start in 2014-2015.

But wait, it gets worse: in 2014-2015–only 2 years from now when the testing is to begin in earnest–handheld devices having a Retina-level screen resolution of 2048-by-1536 will be common place at today’s prices or less. But again, those devices are NOT acceptable for Common Core testing.

In 2010, we predicted that each and every child would have a mobile learning device to use, 24/7 for curricular purposes by 2015. In 2010, we recall the body language of folks at conferences that said, in effect: you are nuts. Today? Such a prediction is boring.

So, here we go again: by 2017, 4 years from now, each and every child will have a SUPERphone[5]–effectively infinite computing power supplied by the cloud, Retina-level, high screen resolution, connected to the Internet at 4G/5G speeds–at half of today’s prices. (We CAN see you raising your eyebrows; we can HEAR the guffaws; but our skins are thick; well, not really in Elliot’s case).

And one more minor issue: the two consortia say that it is important to be able to turn off the Internet on the devices during the tests. So, let’s get this straight: we are supposed to teach kids who use Google (and Bing) 24/7, constantly, but test them in a context where they can’t use Google (or Bing) at all. Will the guards at the doors take children’s glasses away, too? Why? Because in 2 years, Google Glasses-style wearable computing devices will be readily available at $200.

Up to now, test makers have been the dog–and education has been the tail. But that is changing. If every child has an Internet-connected, mobile, computing device, 24/7 in their palms, they are no longer the unempowered supplicant. No, no, no. Palmed with their smartphone–their SUPERphone–all children will be empowered in ways we can’t even begin to imagine. And that will happen in less than 5 years!!

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