State Contest Director
Integrating Computer Applications into Classroom Instruction
Elements of the Contest
Computer Applications focuses on word processing speed and accuracy, skill in the use of database and spreadsheet applications, and the integration of all of these. Contestants will have the opportunity to produce two printouts and the mandatory tie breaker. Each printout will be assigned a weighted point value, based on difficulty, which will be so indicated on the contest paper.
This is a technology based contest, and the goal is for students to have a thorough, working knowledge of these three applications and be able to complete substantial tasks in all of them and to direct data from one application to another. The difficulty of the elements on tests will increase as we get to higher levels of competition.
Computer Applications Overview Video
UIL Computer Applications Update for 2014
Being a contest based on Microsoft Office, Computer Applications will continue to make incremental changes to keep abreast of the changing technology. Again this year, competitors will be using Office 2007 or Office 2010, and in addition, Office 2013. The format of these versions is fairly consistent.
Since 2012, we have created an Access database with multiple tables annually that we post on the UIL website to be used with a practice exercise (also posted) and subsequently with the Region and State tests. The consensus of using this type of downloaded data has been consistently positive. Using downloaded files has minimized typographical errors on these tests and has been closer to what is common in the business world usage of Microsoft Office. If a student has to enter all the data for a test and makes an error on one or more values, then every field that is calculated based on the fields with the typos are also incorrect, and this complicates grading.
An Access database is posted on the website, and it is entitled 2014 Starter File.accdb. Please download this file and the associated file, 2014 Download Exercise.pdf which has the following elements.
- General Information for the UIL Exercise Using Downloaded Files. This simply gives some background on the exercise.
- UIL Computer Applications Exercise Using Downloaded Files. The exercise imports tables from the downloaded database, adds a table with minimal records, makes calculations using an update query, prints a report, and creates a select query. The exercise then skips to Excel to "read" the results of the select query from the Access database, creates subtotals and creates a chart.
- Clues. Clues are given for various calculations, formulas and created fields, and the design view of the report is shown.
- Printouts. The printout from the Access portion of the exercise is shown for Office 2007 and for Office 2010/2013. One printout is shown from Excel for that portion of the exercise.
After you've tried the sample exercise as a coach, have your students attempt the exercise to give students a truer picture of how people use Microsoft Office, particularly Excel and Access. Perhaps, eventually this will make it clear what the actual function of a database is as opposed to the usage of a spreadsheet. Many students working with a very limited collection of data have little understanding of the value of database applications and feel that everything can be done in a spreadsheet. This is not the case when there are large database tables with multiple relationships. Hopefully, this will also make the grading a bit more straightforward with the elimination of most typos.
Thanks to Computer Applications coaches for all your help in trying to keep this contest moving as technology moves.
Technology keeps changing, and the Computer Applications Contest continues to be pulled forward in the wake. With Microsoft Office 2013 now available, Computer Applications, in the spirit of using the "current or near current version of Microsoft Office," will allow use of either Office 2007, 2010 or 2013 for all contests.
Currently, tests are written in one version of Office, and they are tested in the other two versions. Where the applications are not consistent, instructions are added for clarification. So far, most of the differences between the versions seem again to be in the area of Access report output, and are minimal.
For the official UIL tests for spring 2014, the Constitution clearly specifies the following parameters:
- Each contestant must provide his/her own laptop computer, printer and blank paper.
- Each contestant must have a saving device, as a writable CD, a formatted floppy disk or a flash drive.
- Optionally, a keyboard, keypad and a mouse may be added.
- All coaches are required as graders.
On the subject of grading, the Constitution stipulates the following, "All coaches are required to serve as graders, unless excused by the contest director. The contest director may disqualify contestants if a grader is not provided." If a coach has a significant reason to miss the grading of a test and is excused, he/she should provide a substitute to be available to grade. A substitute does not necessarily have to be familiar with the contest, but it helps. Grading this contest is fairly tedious, and it is important to have all coaches present. Experienced coaches serve as guides for newer coaches. Without experience in the grading room, the lengthy process of grading would be even longer. When all coaches are present during grading, all are familiar with the various aspects of the graded test and can explain any issues to students during verification. This in turn makes verification a more streamlined process, and again, serves the best interests of the contestants.
Our contest is well past its 15-year anniversary as a UIL contest and definitely past its early probationary period. Many of us have been working with this contest, changing and honing it from the early days and bridging the enormous gap that occurred as we redesigned the Keyboarding Contest into the Computer Applications Contest. We've weathered many changes together, and there will be more as technology evolves.
I offer my personal thanks after 15+ years as contest director to the coaches who have been so supportive and who have worked so hard helping their students develop new skills.
Computer Applications Handbook – Be certain that all competitors and coaches read and learn Instructions for Conducting a Contest. This handbook changes somewhat annually. It is posted on the UIL website and accompanies all Computer Applications Study Packets with the prior year's test, and all contest directors should be adhering to the specifications herein.
All Excel functions in MS Office are listed. Students should learn to use them all. Most translate directly to functions in Access, but some have a different name and order of parameters than in Excel, such as IF is IIF, FIND is InStr, etc. All functions in Access should also be learned.
Constitution & Contest Rules – The following changes have been included in the C&CR in recent years: All coaches are expected to serve as graders, and if a coach does not grade or arrange for an alternate grader, his or her student may be disqualified. Networked systems are not allowed. Each contestant must have a laptop or notebook computer plus a printer. No sharing is allowed. Optional mouse, keyboard and keypad units are acceptable.
On most Saturdays while you're grading invitational tests, I'm available in my office (1.800.391.2891) or the phone message will direct you to my cell phone. If you hit a roadblock in your grading and want a mediator, don't hesitate to call. Remember that the point is to have a level playing field, make the tests difficult enough so that the cream rises to the top and the top places are earned, not just decided with a tiebreaker. Our mutual goal is to help the students become very, very competent with this powerful package.
I'm also available during the week at the same number or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are attempting an old test and run into a roadblock, I encourage you to email me with the specific instructions from the test in question that is causing the problem and attach your attempt (either your Access, Excel or Word document or more than one). Please do not just describe your problem and reference a point in a test for me to ferret out the old test and try to read down until I find the place where you're stuck. I can usually answer very quickly, if I have the appropriate information.
This is your contest. We listen to all the input from both the competitors and the coaches. We want to wield this into the best possible contest, and we know there will be some growing pains every time technology creates changes. Let's continue working together to make this a positive experience as we tread through this continuing transition.