EdTech provider aims to help students and educators with transition to Common Core
To help students and teachers make the transition to Common Core State Standards, Learning Upgrade is offering 100,000 complimentary student licenses to schools nationwide. Administrators and teachers can enroll each licensed student into any of Learning Upgrade’s Common Core aligned courses.
The new courses for grades K-8 were designed and created after the standards were released, ensuring each benchmark is addressed appropriately. Through engaging songs, video, and games, the interactive lessons help struggling students catch up on previous year standards, master current grade level standards, and perform well on the new computer-based year-end tests.
“Going back to school can be a stressful time for students, teachers and even parents. When you add transitioning to the Common Core into the mix, it’s downright overwhelming,” said Vinod Lobo, the founder of Learning Upgrade. “We want to make sure every student in America is equipped for success, and we feel that offering complimentary access to our full curriculum is a step in the right direction.”
Learning Upgrade’s new courses are designed with the Common Core State Standards in mind. Each grade-specific course features 60 interactive lessons, covering every standard for that grade. Teachers can quickly integrate the lessons into their classes using a simple one-page alignment, and can track every student’s progress on every standard with a graphical student monitor.
Educators from U.S. schools with at least 300 students who would like to take advantage of this offer should visit www.learningupgrade.com. Select “Start Free Trial,” then sign up for the school free trial. Qualifying schools will receive a 20-student license for the 2014-15 school year at no cost.
Source: EdTech Times
Edtech Times had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Terry Thoren, CEO and co-founder of WonderGroveLearn, a company that develops instructional animations for children in Pre-K – 2.
Company at Glance:
Terry Thoren, CEO of WonderGrove Learn.
Founders: Terry Thoren, CEO; Rudy Verbeeck, President
Founded: February 2013
Category: Instructional Animations for Education
Product stage: Market
Company Twitter: @WonderGroveKids
Founder Twitter: @TerryThoren
ETT: How would you define the market segment your company is in? Who are your core customers?
TT: Our mission at WonderGrove Learn is to help children in Pre-K through 2nd grade achieve their full potential through instructional animations. So I would say our core audience consists of educators who teach students in these grades, as well as parents of children ages 4-8.
That said, we have seen a diverse group of educators buying and using WonderGrove, not just primary classroom teachers. Everyone, from guidance counselors and speech therapists to principals and superintendents, have found a way to make these videos work for them, and we love to see that!
ETT: How did you identify the problem you’re addressing? What was your process in identifying it?
TT: We started noticing more and more studies out there showing how kids today have shorter attention spans and fewer social skills, so we knew there was a need for a product like this. Together with a team of educators, we began doing our own research on the many ways in which social skills, classroom management skills and functional life skills are taught in elementary schools.
One of the most compelling studies showed that teachers are much more successful in helping students develop social skills when they infuse their curriculum with situation-specific lessons that target key behaviors (Gresham, 1998; Sugai & Lewis, in the Educational Resources Information Center). We also found that today’s children spend about 50 hours a week watching TV or using a mobile device for some form of entertainment outside of the classroom. We wanted to bring those two ideas together, and that was the driving force behind our initial phases of product development.
All of the research we implemented is available on the WonderGroveLearn website: www.wondergrovelearn.com/research/
ETT: And what was the process of arriving at the solution to this particular problem?
TT: We worked with educators to create storylines for each lesson. We produced instructional animations to bring the stories to life with age appropriate characters. Then we tested the animations in classrooms and made alterations and edits until we achieved our desired results.
ETT: What makes your solution different from the competitors’ – what it is that you’re doing differently than your competitors?
TT: Of course, there are other companies in the education field focused on classroom behavior management, but we are unique because we are using instructional animations to model positive behavior in simulated real-life situations. Other companies tend to focus on correcting negative behavior or creating lessons for a teacher to review with the class. However, those methods don’t connect very well with the students who really need to hear the message. By using age-appropriate animated characters, we make each social skill relatable to the students, and we give teachers an easy way to address inappropriate behavior without embarrassing or singling out a particular student.
ETT: Please tell more about your product stage and what we should expect to see from your company in the next 12 months – i.e. describe your potential next milestones.
TT: We are currently working with education-based organizations, charities and government programs, such as Head Start. We will have some big partnerships to report in the next 12 months. In addition to our WonderGrove educational content, we will also be rolling out more of the Institute for Habits of Mind 16 Instructional Animations. These videos are married to extension lessons that teach children critical thinking skills that will set them up for success in school and life, such as managing impulsivity, thinking flexibly and being persistent. We developed these instructional animations through our partnership with the Institute for Habits of Mind. We are excited to have teachers start to implement them in their classroom as students go back to school.
ETT: Are you a disruptor, and why so? Do you believe you will remain as a disruptor in near foreseeable future or become a more mature company? Why is that so?
TT: I’ll take it one step further – we are a disruptor to disruptors! By that, I mean that our animations are designed to intervene when a student is being disruptive to his or her class. Because children are so accustomed to watching cartoons and modeling the behavior they see on TV, our animations are able to command the attention of every student in the classroom while modeling important lessons about appropriate behavior. So I would say that being a “disruptor” is a large part of our mission at WonderGrove, and I’m sure it will remain that way for a long time to come.
ETT: Could you tell us about other startups or product builds that you have been a part of and what your role was?
TT: I have essentially been involved with startups throughout my entire career. Before launching WonderGrove, I was the CEO and co-founder of TeachTown, Inc. We produced software, games and animation for children with autism and related special needs. I used my production experience to develop all the production protocols.
During my tenure with TeachTown, I was also one of the owners of Big Bad Tomato, a full service interactive development company, specializing in the development of mixed media multi-platform user experiences for the entertainment, education and consumer product industries.
Before transitioning into the education market, I was the CEO of Klasky Csupo, Inc., the first animation studio to produce the TV series “The Simpsons,” and home of “Rugrats.” I oversaw the production of a slate of top-rated series for Nickelodeon, including “Rugrats,” “The Wild Thornberrys,” “Rocket Power” and the Emmy- nominated “As Told By Ginger.” I also launched the movie division for our company and oversaw the development and production of four successful animated features: “The Rugrats Movie,” “Rugrats in Paris,” “The Wild Thornberrys Movie,” and “Rugrats Go Wild.”
In 1985 (now we’re really back going back in time!), I created and launched Animation Magazine. After 29 years of publishing success, today Animation Magazine is still the animation industry’s leading international trade publication and the only magazine of its kind in the world.
ETT: Did you or do you currently have a mentor who is/has been helping you through the startup stages of the company? Who is that mentor?
TT: I owe much of my success to a large group of mentors who have guided me throughout my career. Currently my mentors in education are Art Costa and Bena Kallick, the founders of the Institute for Habits of Mind. Former superintendents Mort Sherman and Greg Firn have provided a steady compass to guide me through the many minefields one encounters in education. They have also introduced me to powerful educators whose input has been invaluable to the efficacy of the WonderGrove solutions.
During my tenure with TeachTown, Dr. Chris Whalen was both inspirational and motivational for both her brilliance in providing solutions for children with autism and for her genius in creating cutting-edge applications to affect change. When I worked in the entertainment industry, I had an entirely different group of mentors – Bill Pence, founder of the Telluride Film Festival; Steve Gilula, president of Fox Search Light Pictures; Gary Meyer, founder of the Landmark Theater Corporation; and Arlene Klasky and Gabor Csupo, the creators of “Rugrats.”
ETT: Where do you see the education technology market going in the next few years?
TT: School districts will need to increase their Internet bandwidth and related systems to effectively deliver technology to classrooms. With the advent of smart boards, tablets, and other electronic devices that command a majority of children’s attention, education will need to adjust its delivery systems. Education content will need to be as engaging and exciting inside the classroom as it is outside of the classroom.
I also believe the ed tech market will see a surge in digital technology as a means of teaching. Even our early education students will be bringing tablets to school rather than notebooks. They will be connecting with their teachers and turning in assignments via online networks and mobile applications. Classrooms will be supplementing traditional teaching with the latest electronic learning methods, thus making sure students have the most well-rounded, balanced and comprehensive education available.
ETT: What advice, if any, do you have for someone thinking about launching a company in the education technology market?
TT: My best advice for anyone trying to launch a company in this market is to think about how you can make your customers’ lives easier. Today’s teachers are experiencing initiative fatigue and information overload. They are facing new Common Core Standards, implementing new technology every semester and are under pressure to find the perfect apps and tablets for their classroom – all while dealing with shrinking budgets and crowded classrooms. A teacher today is forced to cram 120 hours of work into a 60-hour workweek. It’s so important for ed tech companies to keep this in mind as they design and market their products.
EdTech Times thanks Mr. Thoren for sitting down with us and we recommend you check out WonderGroveLearn at:
Source: EdTech Digest
An innovative way to advance, streamline and facilitate talent management in the K-12 education field comes from TeacherMatch. At the core of the software is a research-based hiring assessment tool called TeacherMatch Educators Professional Inventory (EPI). Their research partners and team of highly skilled psychometricians created TeacherMatch EPI based on decades of education research and data studies from a diverse group of schools throughout the country. It’s designed to predict the impact candidates will have on student achievement by evaluating a candidate’s teaching skills, qualifications, cognitive ability and attitudinal factors. It covers everything from recruitment and interviewing through on-boarding and professional development support for new teachers — before their first day of class. Featuring a sophisticated, highly analytical framework supported by some of the latest advancements in software technology, it is designed to be the most efficient, easy-to-use, and effective way to manage and track all phases of talent management. Stay tracking at https://www.teachermatch.org
Source: District Administration
District Administration recently featured EdTech products that encourage creativity and learning through science, and our friends at Wildlife Acoustics made the list! Read what they had to say about the Echo Meter Touch below, and don’t forget to check out the full story.
Following the BYOD and 1-to-1 trend, many of these products come with mobile apps so students can take their inquiries outside the classroom and analyze data instantly in the field.
Used for homework or field trips, the new Echo Meter Touch from Wildlife Acoustics echolocates and identifies bat species in real time. The key-fob sized device captures the ultrasonic waves and records them through an iOS mobile app.
The Echo Meter Touch plugs into any Apple mobile device. Teachers and students also have access to a bat biology curriculum with in-class activities, field work and at-home projects. www.wildlifeacoustics.com
Source: K-12 TechDecisions
The first online degree programs launched in the early 90’s. Since then, online education has only continued to grow in popularity. Although traditionally considered more of an option for higher education, it’s becoming increasingly common in K-12. There are now entirely online institutions, like Florida Virtual School, popping up around the country. Teachers are also adding more digital tools to their classrooms creating blended or hybrid learning environments that are changing they way we think about education.
Kaye Shelton, an online learning consultant and professor of Educational Leadership, has made a career for herself in higher education, but she’s seen an uptick in requests for her expertise by K-12 districts reacting to the growing trend of parents choosing alternative methods of education, including home schooling, or sending their children to charter or virtual schools, which may rely more heavily on digital learning modules.
“A lot of parents are finding they would rather their children go there than participate in a regular school,” says Shelton. “I see more and more people choosing that option.”
What makes these uniquely modeled schools so attractive is the flexibility of an online format and the opportunities it provides for more personalized learning.
“The content is right there. They can repeat it over and over,” says Shelton. “You can build in immediate feedback.”
If a student is struggling with a particular concept, they can repeat the learning module multiple times, allowing the content to sink in. As for feedback, online platforms allow for educators to build in quizzes that, once submitted, are immediately scored. Students know right away whether or not they have grasped the material.
Online education also offers a variety of formats through which content is delivered. Lessons can contain text, video, audio or an interactive quiz. The variety in method helps to reach students of all learning styles, thus delivering education in a way that is personalized according to how a student learns best.
The flexibility of online learning is another attractive feature. Students do not have to go to school at a designated time and switch classes on cue if they take an online class. If a student is not a morning person, no problem. They can sleep in and begin working at 11 a.m. If they’re a night owl, they can feel free to pull an all-nighter. Because there is no set schedule, students choose what subject to work on and when to work on it. There is a greater level of freedom, but also a higher level of responsibility. The student needs to hold himself accountable for completing work on time.
Blended or Hybrid Classrooms
Even more popular than completely online courses are blended or hybrid learning environments. These are classrooms in which there is both a face-to-face component and an online component. For example, students might have online videos or quizzes to help them with their studies, but the actual learning of the concepts takes place in the traditional classroom. Or, a teacher may use an online game or learning module to teach or reinforce particular concepts. The introduction of online tools and blended learning environments is changing the K-12 classroom and the traditional structure of education.
“The classrooms I see where they are powerfully using technology, the entire environment looks different,” says Keith Krueger, CEO of Consortium for School Networking (CoSN). “It much more shifts the role of the teacher to be the facilitator, not necessarily to be the expert on everything.”
The teacher’s job is then to help steer students onto the right path and to guide their learning through exploration. As a result, the physical layout of a blended classroom often looks different than you might imagine. Desks are not likely to be in rows, but in groups or perhaps even a circle where students can easily work together. The teacher isn’t found at the head of the room, but wandering among the desks, listening to the students as they collaborate and stopping to answer questions, review concepts and offer help as needed.
“The opportunities [for blended learning] are enormous, especially for much more self-directed learning or allowing students to move at their own pace through the content,” says Krueger.
With blended learning, many parents fear their child’s teacher will be less involved in the classroom. They wonder how the teacher fits in once technology is introduced. Conversely, teachers may think they don’t have to do as much work if they incorporate online learning tools.
“That’s a big misconception,” says Shelton. “There’s content prep whether you’re using canned curriculum or your own and that takes time and effort just like it would in a real classroom.”
Teachers can’t just go on autopilot when using an online learning module. They need to keep students interested and engaged.
“You’re engaging them. You’re retesting. You’re clarifying. You’re making sure they are all participating and you’re trying to pull them out and get them to lead a conversation,” explains Shelton. “You’re working very hard to really build a positive learning environment.”
The biggest draw of online tools is their ability to personalize education. Students working with a particular math program, for example, are able to review concepts and practice with a level of on-on-one interaction a teacher could not possibly provide to every student. Different students struggle with different concepts so an online math program could help students practice whatever concept it is they need help with.
Julie Garcia is a middle school math teacher in the California-based Poway Unified School District. Last year she used a math program called Learning Upgrade with her eighth grade Algebra Readiness class. Learning Upgrade is designed like a game, where there are 60 levels. Students must earn at least a 75 percent on the quiz at the end of every level to move to the next one. At the completion of each level, a student is awarded a gold, silver or bronze medal.
Garcia had the students use the math program from October to May and compared their MAPS (Measure of Academic Progress) state benchmark test results with those from last year’s students who did not use the program. Garcia’s students from the previous year were of similar ability to the students she had this year thus it was reasonable to expect that they might make similar gains. However, Garcia found the students who used the math program had greater gains.
“In MAPS, expected growth is only four points a year. Optimal growth would be seven or more points,” says Garcia. “I had 63 percent and 68 percent make at least expected growth this year and I had over half make optimal growth. Some made a 17 point growth so they exceeded those seven points by quite a bit.”
For the classes that did not use the math program the previous year, only 50 percent of students made expected growth and 39 percent made optimal growth. Garcia credits Learning Upgrade and the blended environment with keeping the students engaged. They were excited to practice math because it was fun. More practice equals better results.
“Look at the video games that they play on their own. They get to a level and they’re excited,” says Garcia. “That’s the power in blended learning.
Teachers who want to begin to begin to incorporate more digital tools in their classrooms can small steps towards online or blended learning. They can record videos or put class presentations online for on-demand viewing. They can also search for supplementary tools such as games, video clips, outside digital texts or websites that reinforce a concept learned in class. Even these small steps can help teachers harness the power of technology to re-engage students and augment their learning.
Source: Community College Review
Community college presents different challenges and experiences than most four year universities, Todd believes. “Community Colleges aren’t as glamorous and flamboyant as the bigger campuses, which seem to be more interested in their architectural coherence and student social experience. Community colleges focus on the one thing that new students need; that is, the learning experience.”
If you’re getting ready to prep for your first semester, you’re in luck, because we’ve assembled four crucial tips to get you started.
1. Set Your Goals and Have a Vision
The first step to success in community college is having a clear idea of what success means to you. What are your goals in your first semester, and over your time at community college? What is your vision for how community college will help you achieve your career ambitions? Planning this out will help you set expectations and go into the semester with the right attitude.
Todd Rhoad of Blitz Team Consulting has mapped out a 5 step process on how to set your goals.
1. “Make a list of the things you like to do. What activities bring you joy and happiness? Is it working with others, teaching, learning, leading, helping others, autonomy and independence, financial gain, prestige, recognition?
2. Make a list of the things you are good at. Most likely, many of these things are in the first list, but, just in case, write down the things you were really good at in high school. In high school, I was the quarterback of the football team. I liked working in teams and leading the effort. Over the years, I’ve spent time in many roles that utilize this desire (i.e. project management, leading my own company).
3. Write down a list of things you expect to get from the community college experience. Do you want to earn a degree, earn credits to transfer, build a professional network, evaluate job possibilities? You need to understand why you are going to community college if you expect to get anything out of it.
4. Define your boundaries. Write down any potential challenge you may have in successfully completing your list in #3. Do you have sufficient funding? Will you have a job at the same time? What other responsibilities will you have?
5. Define solutions to your challenges. What can help you overcome your barriers to achieving your goals defined in #3.”
Midway through your semester, re-visit these goals and check your progress. Think about the new goals you have, and how you can accomplish them. If you continue the process of mapping out goals and updating them as your life changes, you set yourself on the course to success.
Parents can help too. Seek their advice in terms of goals and vision for community college. Alexandra Rice, Communications Manager at Nerd Scholar, believes parents should take an active role in support. “Even if parents don’t have all the answers, the simple act of asking will help their daughter/son to feel supported, in turn easing any anxiety they may have.
2. Meet with Academic Advisers and Professors
As your first semester approaches, be sure to take advantage of all opportunities to forge new connections. Some students make the mistake of not seeking guidance from academic advisers. They can work with you to make sure your course load is not too heavy and ensure the classes you are taking count towards your degree.
Advisors can help with tutoring, counseling, testing, and more. “They can serve as great mentors to share tips on how to be successful and can be great champions throughout a student’s college journey at the community college and beyond,” says Alexandra.
Meeting with professors shows initiative and demonstrates a commitment and a desire that most instructors do take into account. Todd Rhoad of Blitz Team Consulting has this personal insight to share about his time as a freshman: “Faculty and administration play an integral role in making the student familiar with the academic processes and in the development of their learning style…. Most big university professors have office hours and are unreachable outside of those hours. Community colleges don’t work that way.”
“After I got out of the Air Force, I utilized the GI Bill, but unfortunately it was only $9600 that was paid out $400 per month until it was gone. Colleges want their money up front. I didn’t get any money when I was discharged so I was literally broke. I didn’t want to lean on my family either. I had to do it alone, but I didn’t know how. One day I walked into a community college and talked with a young lady about scholarships. She told me about a couple of things I should apply for. I took the applications home and began to work on them.”
“A few days later I get a message that I needed to see her. When I walked into her office, she called an older gentleman into the office. He introduced himself and told me that he was prior military. He handed me a piece of paper and explained that he understood my situation, which prompted him to do some research to identify numerous government programs that could help me fund my efforts. He had taken time to identify the programs and had jotted down actions I needed to complete to take advantage of these programs. I had never met him and yet he had spent his time helping me. You don’t find this in big universities.”
3. Set a Smart, Active, and Balanced Schedule
College is one of the first real challenges students face when it comes to balancing a schedule. Your schedule better be sharp, because classes are likely tougher than you’ve ever faced before. Dr. Robert R. Neuman, PhD and Author of a “A College Dean’s 12 Secrets for Success”, says students have to study significantly more on their own initiative, outside of class. “College is very different from high school. Not the same-old stuff. Courses and teachers will be much more demanding…For each three-credit course, students should study 4-6 hours per week.” Dr. Neuman recommends creating a weekly schedule that outlines activities like class time, study time, job, family responsibilities, and personal time (make time for this too, you don’t want to burn yourself out!).
Dr. Neuman believes students at community college may face unique struggles that four-year college students do not. For example, they are more likely to have to balance class commute, off-campus life/disconnect from study, and family obligations at home.
It also may be more difficult for students to find new friends and build a support group. Savvy students should get involved with extracurricular activities to help build these friendships. One of the most important things a student can do to survive their first semester of college is to find fellow students to form friendships with. Susan Johnson, Vice President of Curriculum Development at Odysseyware, encourages this to incoming freshman students. “To cultivate a sense of belonging…children should participate in community activities sponsored by the college, such as intramurals or volunteer work.”
Search out clubs and groups on campus and see where you can get plugged in. Meet other students and find instructors and leaders who may be able to become mentors in the weeks, months, and even years to come. Alexandra Rice of Nerd Scholar believes this is one of the best steps a student can take in their first semester. “Campus life is probably the biggest difference between community colleges and non-community colleges/universities. At community college, living in dorms isn’t generally an option and many students choose to live at home to save money, therefore missing out on meeting students that way. But community college students can find opportunities to interact with their peers by joining clubs, taking on-campus jobs, and attending campus events–all fun ways to meet people outside of the classroom.”
4. Know the Particulars at Your Campus
At the end of the day, the devil is in the details. Take the opportunity to become a master freshman when it comes to your campus: classroom/building locations, credit requirements, financial aid, special learning opportunities, and everything else in between.
Susan Johnson of Odysseyware urges students to “research and take advantage of any online or blended learning opportunities that many community colleges now offer.” She believes that colleges recognize the educational and convenience values of these options, and are putting a greater priority on them.
Dr. Marilyn Fore, Senior Vice President of Horry Georgetown Technical College in South Carolina, believes new students should try to learn their campus inside and out. “Become familiar with the campus facilities for parking, student support services, classroom location, and food outlets. Become acquainted with specific student support services such as career resource center, advising, testing centers, libraries, and coaching centers.
Finally, it’s important for students to pay attention to the fine print when it comes to credits. “Students should check, and then double-check, the credit transfer policies at their intended four-year destination,” Alexandra Rice of Nerd Scholar says. “Ensure that courses taken at community college will transfer and be applied as desired (and not as random elective classes). This can stave off future headaches and financial strain by making sure everything transfers properly.”
There are plenty of resources to help you get ready for your community college journey. Nerd Scholar publishes weekly Expert Advice articles with tips on college life and beyond; from financial advice to studying abroad to landing a dream job. Dr. Robert Neuman’s book Are You Really Ready for College? can help you build a realistic view of college, and what it takes to succeed, with 12 essential and practical strategies. To get acclimated to the types of course material you’ll face on college, try Odysseyware, which features a rigorous and engaging online courses. BT Consulting is a strong resource for building out crucial self-branding skills, and learning lessons that will help in future college and career settings. Lastly, remember that your community college may have resources. Schools like Horry Georgetown Technical College offer strong orientation and advising programs, as well as alternative forms of financial support for tuition and fees.
With these resources and four simple tips in hand, you can be well on your way to a more successful and less stressful first few semesters at college. Remember that everyone’s journey is different and that there will be highs and lows every semester. The important thing is to keep your goals on mind and to keep at it. Enjoy the good times and persevere during the bad times.
As Dr. Robert Neuman calls it, college is like playing in the “BIG GAME.” “Students have never been in one like it…I compare an excellent student with an excellent athlete. The athlete has to get in good shape, practice a lot, learn more moves on the court, learn new game strategies, and set higher goals. Similarly the student has to study a lot, develop various study skills, adopt good life habits, and set higher and higher goals.”
Source: Language Magazine
Three PR with Panache! clients were recently featured in Language Magazine in a story about the latest edtech products for language educators. Read what they had to say about Odysseyware, Learning Upgrade, and myON below, and then check out the full selection of products here!
Last month’s International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference was the biggest yet, with nearly 20,000 people converging on Atlanta to learn about the latest trends and developments in educational technology.
“From the playgrounds, where attendees engaged in hands-on activities and explored interactive technologies, to our three stellar keynotes, ISTE 2014 was buzzing with high energy and enthusiasm,” said Brian Lewis, ISTE CEO. “Coming together as a community dedicated to empowering connected learners in a connected world, we broke all kinds of records, from conference registration numbers to international participation to an astonishing 496,000 Tweets to our hashtag.”
Among the many new offerings were the following:
Odysseyware launched its largest combination of new courses and learning resources ever, including:
• Common Core — A full math and ELA Common Core curriculum for high school and middle school students, designed from the ground up to not only cover the Common Core essential and supporting standards but also to align with and support the Common Core pedagogy.
• Career and Technical Education — Six new high school CTE courses provide students with opportunities to prepare for post-graduation career success. Two new middle school career-exploration courses introduce younger students to nine popular career fields. With this addition, Odysseyware now offers 62 CTE courses.
• Twenty Interactive Virtual Labs — Designed to give students an authentic laboratory experience, virtual labs help students complete classic lab experiments in an exciting new way.
• High School Test Prep — Test prep courses that prepare students for the ACT, GED, HiSET, and TASC (Test Assessing Secondary Completion) by providing prescribed pathways to graduation or college readiness — including embedded assessment and multiple practice tests that are representative of the formats used in the various tests.
• Blended Learning Video Library — More than 250 engaging new direct-Instruction videos provide step-by-step guidance to help each student learn at his or her own pace and address diverse learning styles.
Learning Upgrade announced that it is offering every school in the nation 20 free online licenses of its Common-Core-aligned lessons that help struggling students in grades K–8 succeed in reading and math using music, videos, and online gaming.
The company’s CEO, Vinod Lobo, claims that after just one year of using its courseware, average scores on California’s state test rose from 853 to 905 at Perry Elementary School in San Diego.
myON has expanded its personalized digital literacy platform to include tools that support close reading. The myON platform now includes more than 7,000 digital books with embedded assessments, and features capabilities such as highlighting and note-taking as well.
Source: THE Journal
To kick off the new school year, WonderGrove Learn is offering free access to its Back-to-School instructional animations until Sept. 12. The 12 animations address critical challenges that educators face with their students during the first few weeks of a new school year.
Each animation models appropriate behavior for students in pre-K through second grade, including listening in class, using polite words and raising your hand. All animations include printable extension lessons that align with the Common Core State Standards.
The back-to-school lessons are currently available for free to any interested educator on WonderGrove Learn’s website. After Sept. 12, the lessons will return to their full subscription price of $98 a year, which includes access to all 150 of WonderGrove Learn’s instructional videos.
Source: Smartblog on Education
Personalized learning is the latest buzzword in the field of education technology. At the recent ISTE conference, it was clear that with the rapid amount of technology adoption in the past three years, the ability for companies to impact student learning in new and innovative ways is growing exponentially as technology truly becomes a ubiquitous partner in the educational process.
For those of us who work in this dynamic space, it’s clear that we are working with a new paradigm altogether. This generation of digital natives responds less favorably to the old drill and kill, one-size-tries-to-fit-all approach to learning, while gravitating toward the personalization that technology fosters.
Focusing on the gains in literacy underpins the entire educational spectrum — and using personalization can truly help every student become a proficient reader. Not only does technology facilitate personalization for each student, it allows educators to play an active role in individualizing instruction for their students, regardless of their unique abilities or learning styles.
Statistics show that 66% of students who are not reading on grade level by the end of the third grade end up either in prison or find themselves unprepared and unable to support themselves and their families. We can and should offer all of our children better opportunities for their futures. The ability to read proficiently is a critical element of a students’ overall academic — and lifelong — success. It is imperative we ensure each student has the opportunity to learn to read, so they can transition to that all-important next stage of reading to learn. When we personalize the literacy experience for an individual student — and from an early age — by matching their specific interests and lexile reading level to a set of ‘just right’ books, we engage and encourage them to read, building their confidence as learners in the process.
When we speak about personalizing literacy, we focus on transforming how students can access books. We feel strongly that they should have unlimited, anytime access to a complete library of books that meet their needs and interests. Student should grow their reading skills with optional scaffolds and a recommended set of “just right” books, and students should be able to track their reading growth. This helps students take ownership over their learning and is in itself extremely reinforcing.
To emphasize the impact that personalizing students’ reading experiences can have on their literacy rates, I’ve asked a few leading educators to share their professional insights. Below they share their visions for their own schools and districts, and how they are truly changing the way their students are reading and learning.
Kenya Jackson, director and principal
Personalized kiteracy is the ability to access a wide range of text for a specific purpose, mainly to benefit one’s own knowledge, enjoyment or usefulness. At View Park Preparatory Accelerated Charter Middle School, we gather student data such as reading surveys, test scores and student work samples to help us determine what students prefer to read, what they can read and how we can support them with texts that are difficult. In doing so, we implement differentiated literacy options. For example, students use a variety of online reading programs; in addition, they close read fiction and non-fiction text in their core classes. Also, all students engage in Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R) for 30 minutes per day before the lunch period begins. For D.E.A.R., students are allowed to select a novel or magazine of their choice. By empowering all students with choice and by supporting and challenging their understanding of different texts, we are fostering a love of reading and learning.
Peter Watts, director of blended learning
This generation of 21st century learners thrives on personalization. They love to personalize their entertainment, whether it be an iTunes playlist or recommendations of what movies to put in their queue on Netflix based on their viewing habits. It is no surprise to me that this generation must also have a personalized education. One size fits all doesn’t fit today’s’ learners and they must be challenged at their own pace, on their own personalized instructional level if we are going to see true engagement in the classroom. At ICEF Public Schools, we recognize the need for personalization, and we have taken the challenge head on. Our classroom structure and instructional pedagogy of learning is all based on personalization. In our reading and English classes, our model is based on the rotations of blended learning we call “concentric circles” of instruction. Within this rotational model we have trained our staff on elements of the “Daily 5” and students are encouraged and helped with identifying and reading “good fit books” based on their own Lexile reading levels. So, yes, it means that no matter what, “data” still drives instruction. This allows students to be challenged with text that is just right for them. It’s as if our students in collaboration with our teachers are being helped to identify their own “personalized playlist” of reading.
Todd Tyner, principal
Through the SRA reading kit in the late 1970’s, I learned to implement skills that saw me through college, such as author’s intent, synonyms/antonyms, comprehension, etc., despite having spent significant time reading titles that didn’t interest me, simply in the name of completing a program. In order to teach the wonders of reading, students must be given choices.
Personalized kiteracy is a game changer. Internet access has expanded, maximizing childrens’ interest. This spring we introduced a digital literacy program to students and parents at a Family Literacy Night. As the adults discussed topics like common core, college and career readiness and others, not one student paid attention. They had their own fascination as they read about the subjects they desired. In terms of actual interest in reading, today’s students are miles ahead of where we were, and choice is the key to their buy-in.
The outcome has been one of the most exciting things I have seen in my 16 years in education. Kids are sharing titles in the hallways. They are excited to read from home, in the car and at school; not concerned about how far along they are in a program. That is what reading is about!
The ability to personalize a student’s reading environment is the differentiator when it comes to engaging students in their learning, enabling them to be accountable for their education and celebrating successes. By leveraging technology, teachers can meet the needs of all their students in new, unprecedented ways. To continue to inspire our teachers, who in turn encourage and inspire their students, we must continue to further explore the opportunities that technology and the new tools that it makes possible present to us. Our collective goal must be a national community of readers and lifelong learners.
Todd Brekhus is the president of Capstone Digital, parent company of myON. He was named EdTech Digest’s 2013 Visionary of the Year and one of Lamplighter Awards’ 2014 Visionaries of the Year. Before joining Capstone, Todd held a variety of executive positions. Todd spent eight years in education as a teacher, department chair and technology director. He currently serves on the board of the Educational Division of The Software Information Industry Association.
Kenya Jackson is a director and principal as well as a member of two Principal Leadership Cohorts — School Leaders Network and Teach For America Leadership Cohort. She has worked in an urban charter and public schools in New York City and Los Angeles for 14 years.
Peter Watts is the director of blended learning for ICEF Public Schools, a blended learning consultant for various charter management organizations and Partners for Developing Futures Fellow in Los Angeles, Calif..
Todd Tyner is the principal of Mound School, a science and global citizenship magnet school in Ventura, Calif.
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