State Contest Director
2013 FILES FOR PRACTICE, REGION & STATE
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 2013
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 only Office 2007 or Office 2010. The format of these two versions is fairly consistent.
In 2012, we created an Access file with multiple tables that we posted on the UIL website. We posted an exercise for practice using such a downloaded file. The State test last year utilized a downloaded file from the UIL website as well. The consensus of using this type of data was positive. This year, both the Region and State test will use the same 2013 Starter Files that we are posting to be used with a practice exercise. This will minimize the typographical errors on these tests and will be closer to what is common in the business world usage of Microsoft Office. When 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. This complicates grading by having graders count a field correct if it matches the key or if, for instance, the field is equal to one field minus another field. When we eliminate typos in the entered data, we eliminate this complication in grading.
An Access database is posted on the website, and it is entitled 2013 Starter File.accdb. Please download this file and the associated file, UIL Practice Test-2013.pdf, with directions for this exercise. This same downloadable database will likely be used for the UIL Region and State contests.
The 2013 Practice Test.pdf file has directions for taking a sample test using the downloaded 2013 Starter File.accdb. Included are the following:
- Test. The test uses the downloaded database to make calculations using an update query and print a report. The test then creates a select query, taking fields from multiple tables and exports the result to an Excel worksheet. Students are instructed to use the Excel data to create a chart, put the chart in a specified area of the worksheet, and print the worksheet, including the chart.
- Score Sheets. Scoring sheets are available for each of the printouts similar to scoring sheets for all Computer Application invitational tests, and a Final Total scoring sheet is included for composite scores.
- Printouts. Both printouts are included after the scoring sheets.
- Additional Data. Since this is an sample exercise, this packet includes a printout of the update query showing formulas and relationships, a printout of the select query showing formulas and relationships, and a printout of the design view of the report.
After you've tried the sample test yourself, have your students attempt the test. I think this will actually 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 files and multiple related tables. 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 2010 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 or 2010 for all contests.
Currently, tests are written in Office 2007, and they are tested in both Office 2007 and 2010. Where the applications are not consistent, instructions are added for clarification. So far, most of the differences between the two versions seem again to be in the area of Access report output, and are minimal.
For the official UIL tests for spring 2011, 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 or keypad may be added, 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 ten-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 twelve 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 accompanies all tests sent out, 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 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: 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. An optional mouse and/or keyboard unit is acceptable.
On most Saturdays while you're grading invitational tests, I'm available in my office (1-800-PAJAMAS, you'll never forget it), 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, and help the students become very, very competent in this powerful package.
I'm also available during the week at the same number or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 again this year. There were actually fewer growing pains than we anticipated last year, and that is thanks to the cooperation from the coaches from all over Texas. Let's continue working together to make this a positive experience as we tread through this continuing transition.