Calculators or Mobile Devices: Which are more secure?

With permission by a CC license from Konstantin Lazorkin

With permission by a CC license from Konstantin Lazorkin

On February 10, TEA issued a Letter Addressed to the Superintendent that stipulated that:

Districts will be required to have a sufficient supply of calculators available so that each student has access to a calculator, not only on the day of testing but also for routine class work. This policy is aligned with and supports the TEKS by ensuring that all students in grade 8 mathematics classes have access to calculators. This new calculator requirement is the same as the STAAR Algebra I calculator requirement.

This has caused a flurry of formal and informal communications regarding this requirement among district administrators and other interested personnel. Districts who already have or are thinking of providing mobile devices for students, are balking at the requirement to purchase a calculator when they already have the same functionality on the devices that their students possess.  TEA is concerned about ensuring that the devices can we secured so that students can’t access the Internet or take photos of the test to share with other students.

These concerns are valid, however, the technology companies have been addressing them, knowing that online testing is quickly becoming the norm. Since most of the states have adopted the Common Core standards and have decided to assess their students online, the technology companies have created a secure testing mode in which students are only able to access applications that are necessary for the test. Most of the Common Core states have joined one of two consortiums for test creation and implementation; PARCC and Smarter Balanced. The Smarter Balanced testing security guidelines are clearly articulated on their website. PARCC guidelines are outlined on page 5 and 6 of this technology readiness pdf. In addition, Google has provided instructions on how to secure Chromebooks at their website.

Interestingly, Kevin Hogan, the Editorial Director for Tech & Learning, suggested that maybe the policy makers who are concerned about the security vulnerability of mobile devices, should Google “TI-84” and “cheat.” If they did, they’d have a lot more to worry about.

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About Jennifer Bergland

Director of Government Relations at the Texas Computer Education Association
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