Don Leu is a colleague, mentor, and friend to the Literacy Beat bloggers, and he has consistently influenced our research since we met him. Don and the New Literacies Research Lab always have something innovative in the pipeline to lead our thinking. In this post, we are very pleased to introduce Don to you. We asked Don to tell us about the ORCA project, Online Research and Comprehension Assessment. ORCA addresses the need for assessments and resources for online inquiry and research in our schools. Read Don’s response to learn more about ORCAs and find the professional development resources that support it, all provided as a public service.
What is Orca?
Central to our students’ success in life will be the ability to conduct inquiry online in order to learn (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD], 2011; Rideout, Foehr, & Roberts, 2010) What does this process look like and how might we determine our students’ ability in this area so we can prepare appropriate instruction? The ORCA Project (http://www.orca.uconn.edu) recently developed eight authentic assessments to measure online inquiry skills in science (human body systems). The assessments are now freely available online. A video describing these assessments is also available (see below).
The assessments appear in two formats: ORCA-Multiple Choice (or ORCA-Closed) and ORCA-Simulation. In each, students conduct online research about an important question in science and responses are largely auto-scored. Both formats have demonstrated acceptably high levels of reliability and validity, though the ORCA-Simulation has demonstrated a 10% higher level of reliability, compared to ORCA-Multiple Choice (See Leu, et al., 2014).
Our research with representative state samples of 1,300 students in Maine and Connecticut shows that, on average, 7th graders only perform successfully on about half of the skills required in online research, suggesting that they are not fully prepared in this area. It also shows students are especially weak in critical evaluation skills and communication skills. (See Leu, et al., 2015)
Leu, D. J., Forzani, E., Rhoads, C., Maykel, C., Kennedy, C., & Timbrell, N. (2015). The new literacies of online research and comprehension: Rethinking the reading achievement gap. Reading Research Quarterly, 50(1). 1-23. Newark, DE: International Literacy Association. doi: 10.1002/rrq.85. Available at: http://www.edweek.org/media/leu%20online%20reading%20study.pdf
Leu, D. J., Kulikowich, J., Sedransk, N., Coiro, J. Forzani, E., Maykel, C., Kennedy, C. (April 4, 2014). The ORCA Project: Designing Technology-based Assessments for Online Research, Comprehension, And Communication, American Educational Research Association. Philadelphia, PA.
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD.](2011). Students on line: reading and using digital information. Paris: OECD. Available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264112995-en
Donald J. Leu is the John and Maria Neag Endowed Chair in Literacy and Technology at the University of Connecticut. He holds a joint appointment in Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Psychology in the Neag School of Education. A graduate of Michigan State, Harvard, and Berkeley, he is an international authority on literacy education, especially the new skills and strategies required to read, write, and learn with Internet technologies and the best instructional practices that prepare students for these new literacies. Don directs the New Literacies Research Lab in the Neag School of Education. He is a member of the Reading Hall of Fame, Past President of the Literacy Research Association, and a former member of the Board of Directors of the International Literacy Association.