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Dear Otto: How do I grade technology in my school?

Posted by on January 28, 2014

tech questions

Dear Otto is an occasional column where I answer questions I get from readers about teaching tech. If you have a question, please complete the form below and I’ll answer it here. For your privacy, I use only first names.

Here’s a great question I got from Barbara, a principal at a local school:

Dear Otto,
May I ask your thoughts on giving grades in Computer Class? I can’t find research on this topic.


There isn’t a lot of research on the topic of grading tech classes. Anecdotally, it seems to be all over the board–whether teachers grade or not, and if they do–how. The short answer to this question is: It depends upon your expectations of the tech class. If it’s fully integrated into the classroom, treated more as a tool than a ‘special’ class (some call them ‘exploratories’, akin to PE, Spanish, music), then you probably want to hold it rigorously to the grading scale used in the classroom. The projects created will be evidence of learning, more like summative (or formative) assessments of academic work than tech skills.

If it’s treated as a ‘special’ class, with its own scope and sequence, curriculum, you probably want to grade it as those are graded, following school guidelines.

Having said that, I like a grading scale unique to technology, that fits its overarching presence in so many parts of student academic lives. Assessment criteria I use include:

  • Does student remember skills from prior lessons as they complete current lessons?
  • Does student show evidence of learning by using tech class knowledge in classroom or home?
  • Does student participate in class discussions?
  • Does student complete daily goals (a project, visit a website, watch a tutorial, etc.)?
  • Does student save to their digital portfolio?
  • Does student try to solve tech problems themselves before asking for teacher help?
  • Does student use core classroom knowledge (i.e., writing conventions) in tech projects?
  • Does student work well in groups?
  • Does student use the internet safely?
  • Does student [whichever Common Core Standard is being pursued by the use of technology. It may be ‘able to identify shapes’ in first grade or ‘able to use technology to add audio’ in fourth grade]?
  • Does student display creativity and critical thinking in the achievement of goals?
  • Has student improved keyboarding skills?
  • Anecdotal observation of student learning (this is subjective and enables me to grade students based on effort)
  • Grades on tests, quizzes, projects

This can be summarized into four areas:

  • transfer of knowledge from tech class to the rest of student life
  • effort in using technology
  • quizzes/tests taken in tech class
  • anecdotal observation of student in class–solving problems, completing work, helping others, etc.

I hope this helps. Tech is like no other class taught in school in that it touches so many areas. The challenge is for grading to reflect that.

Readers: What did I miss? What do you include I didn’t mention?

More articles on assessment:

Dear Otto: Any Ideas for Tech Ed Benchmark Assessments?

Dear Otto: How do I assess a project like Movie Maker?

12 Tips on Handling Hard-to-teach Classes

5 Strategies to Assess Student Knowledge

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. She is webmaster for six blogs, CSG Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, a columnist for, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.

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2 Responses to Dear Otto: How do I grade technology in my school?

  1. Gwen

    performance assessment….project based learning

  2. Jacqui

    You’re right–assess the granular information.

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