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University of Connecticut Neag School of Education ORCA

About this ORCA Professional Development Space

The Internet has become increasingly central to our daily lives and has changed the way we access information, interact, and learn. However, teachers need support to learn how to harness the power of the Internet to support literacy and learning. Unfortunately, little has been done in the United States to include any online reading comprehension skills in state reading curricula or state standardized assessments of reading and writing. The Online Reading Comprehension Assessment (ORCA) Project, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, is designed to develop, test, and refine a set of three assessment formats for measuring online reading comprehension. The results will communicate to states important information about the assessment of online reading comprehension and a preliminary version of what this might look like for adolescents. Each ORCA is an authentic, problem-based scenario situated in a digital environment designed to engage middle school students in a series of online disciplinary information requests while capturing performance data about how students use the Internet to locate, critically evaluate, synthesize, and communicate information.

This ORCA Professional Development Space is designed as a digital companion for The ORCA Project. It is organized to give teachers insights about how seventh graders perform when asked to read and conduct research on the Internet. It is also designed to offer instructional resources and discussion spaces in which to reflect on effective teaching practices that promote online reading and inquiry-based learning across the content areas. The five areas of this website (Introduction, Show Me, Let Me Try, In My Class, and Next Steps) offer current research, video segments of skilled and less skilled online readers, reflection prompts, interactive tasks, and teaching ideas to share and adapt with colleagues. A blog has also been set up to help visitors build networks with other educators and administrators seeking to understand how to better prepare students for learning productively in a digital information world.

If you are interested in using the ORCAs with your students, please email us at  Please provide your name, title, school district, state, country, approximate number of students who will be taking the assessment, and your contact information.  We will respond within two weeks with more information about how to register for and access the assessments.  See the section titled Using the ORCAs for more information.