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Teachers, the Education Technology Industry Needs Your Help

TEACHERS TECHNOLOGY

In March, EdSurge published an article about their experience at the SXSW conference in Texas. Educational technology (edtech) entrepreneurs came from far and wide to discuss the latest in edtech, but if you check the advisory board, only a handful identify themselves as K-12 educators. The SXSW competition for new companies, LAUNCHedu, was geared toward “visionaries” in education. However, to qualify, applicants must have an existing company in the education market. How many teachers do you know have enough time to launch a company?

Now, enter the billions of dollars being pumped into edtech. As the sector continues to swell, we have a growing disconnect in education technology: too many techies, not enough teachers.

Only recently has the high level of sophisticated engineering been applied to the education sector. And engineers—god love them—are a pragmatic bunch. They are working to get from point A to point B as efficiently as possible, and they’re the best at it. However, teaching is a highly emotional undertaking, so while the product that engineers designed may work flawlessly, it may not be the user experience that teachers are looking for. The classroom is not a vacuum.

To compound the situation, teachers aren’t usually the ones doing the large scale buying. They’re not the ones choosing. They’re not the ones making the final call. Recently, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation published a report called Teachers Know Best. Surveying more than 3 thousand teachers, the foundation came to a statistically-backed conclusion that teachers must have a voice in education. Their most notable discovery was that when teachers were given the opportunity to select their digital classroom tools, they reported them as much more effective. When teachers are the ones choosing, they are finding the tools are more effective than the ones they aren’t choosing.

For any undertaking to go well, the key is communication. The Gates Foundation made a good move to make this information available, but it’s just information. Maybe edtech companies can use it to pivot their product, or maybe it will fuel a new feature for an existing tool, but what this report should really be is a wakeup call to the entire industry.

We must incorporate teachers into the development of edtech, and not just as beta testers. Ask them what they need. Find out what functionality works for them. Because what seems ideal on the developer’s end can make no sense on the user end.  And while user experience isn’t a priority unique to education technology, education is unique in that a teacher’s first priority is educating the students in his/her classroom, not ensuring that the next edtech startup is getting it right.

Our solution at Gradeable is to build a team around teachers. That way, we have the voice of classroom warriors at each turn. But that’s still not enough. We are constantly asking for feedback, looking for ways to make a teacher’s job less painful. We’ve still got a long way to go, and we need teachers. Our company was created for the sole reason to better education, and we’re not alone. So teachers, on behalf of everyone in edtech, we need your help.

We are constantly improving our product to suit the needs to teachers. Find out more at www.gradeable.com.

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How Adaptive Learning Can Improve Your Classroom

adaptive learning

What is adaptive learning?

Adaptive learning refers to instruction that is based on a student’s progress. It is educational technology that adjusts the type and difficulty of instructional material to make it specific to a student’s performance level. For example, a reading program may give different tracks for students based on each individual’s lexile level. Students with lower lexiles would get easier text with simpler vocabulary and less complex wording. Students with higher lexile ratings get exposed to more advanced vocabulary and text. The benefit for teachers is that no matter what lexile level, students of the same class are reading the same text.

The concept is based on the fact that most students don’t learn at the same pace. With adaptive technologies, students of the same class can all learn the same content at a level that is appropriate for them. Adaptive learning is a possible remedy for students getting bored or overwhelmed.

How does adaptive learning help our classrooms?

With adaptive educational technology, programs can compile statistics on individual students’ learning styles and progress so teachers can take action. For instance, if a student achieves all his learning goals for the week, the teacher could see in the analysis that the student is due for positive feedback. On the flip side, if another student is struggling with fractions, specifically dividing fractions, then the teacher will know exactly where to intervene with fraction support. What’s more is that a teacher will know this without hovering over a student while she works.

In short, adaptive learning helps because it serves as a teacher’s assistant. Like Gradeable, adaptive learning is technology that assists teachers by compiling statistics of students that can provide a guide of the teacher to take action. For example, let’s say it takes 30 minutes to provide effective feedback for each students. Now even with that conservative time estimate per student, it would take a teacher 30 hours each week to provide the necessary feedback for just 10 students.

What adaptive tools are out there?

Testive

testive logoTestive is an online SAT prep service. Practice questions for each student are generated based on a student’s ability, whether the student has seen the question before, how many times the student has seen the question, how much time a student has, etc. Testive also makes use of metadata on their questions, so when a student answers a question, Testive can derive information on the type of learner that student is. The service also predicts real-time ability of the student and makes recommendations on what he/she should study.

The behavioral science suite takes the human aspect of studying into account to help students stay on tasks. Within the platform, students are encouraged to make commitments, set up a tracking system, and have the option of developing a system for accountability via a coach.

Books that Grow

books that growBooks that Grow is an adaptive reading program that allows students of the same class to read the same text at multiple levels of complexity. Regardless of reading ability, “each student can be challenged wherever they are and not be held back or lost in their class,” said co-founder and head of product, Jason Buhle.
Since students are all reading the same text, the teacher can teach one lesson for a shared, social, learning experience. “Through the experience of social learning, a lot of what [students] learn, they learn from each other and through interactions,” explained Buhle.

iReady

ireadyiReady is an adaptive learning platform for K12 that offers diagnostic, personalized online instruction built around the Common Core. The solution can pinpoint where a student is struggling so intervention can be done on a granular level. For instance, if a student struggles with geometry, iReady helps spot the exact concepts he/she hasn’t grasped, whether it’s algebra, exponents, multiplication, etc.

In addition, iReady gives teachers the ability to act on instantaneous feedback by compiling student progress in one place, making spotting trends and differentiation much more efficient. For students, they are able to see where they stand so they are able to take ownership of their learning. Did we mention iReady is gamified for added student engagement?

In conclusion

Adaptive learning puts vital information in a teacher’s’ hands without most of the tedious number crunching often associated with it. This allows teachers to make necessary interventions—both positive and negative—in a timely fashion. Adaptive learning generally gives students insight on where they stand and how they’re doing with learning objectives. Putting a student in the drivers’ seat of their own learning always ups the engagement factor.

For more adaptive learning platforms, check out EdSurge’s round-up.

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New Feature: Item-by-Item Breakdowns

breakdown

The keyword is breakdown. Let’s breakdown all of the numerical barriers between you and understanding what your student truly needs. Our new, versatile, and extremely powerful data charts breakdown data—from quiz-by-quiz, to student-by-student, to question-by-question. Let’s dive in to how this works and what it all means for you.

Quiz-by-quiz breakdown and at-a-glance analysis

SS1Starting on our Student page, graphs changed to a clearer idea the average score students earned on any Gradeable quizzes. The color coding gives an at-a-glance view of which students need immediate attention.

SS2The new Assessments page show charts that breakdown quiz-by-quiz data. These charts tell you that, for example, students are struggling more with Word Problems 3, than with the Perimeter Quiz.

SS4On each individual quiz, the chart will be further detailed by breakdown how many students in your classes was proficient (green), near proficient (yellow), or needs more attention (red). In addition to individual standards tagging breakdown, you will have the added tool of an overhead and item-by-item view.


Student-by-student and question-by-question data breakdowns for quick, informed re-teaching

Click on the Results page and scroll down — these three charts will be the secret to student achievement. We listened to your requests and we made the data analysis function a lot more robust. Now, you’ll be able to breakdown data by student, by question, and even by short answer!

SS5

These overview charts will give you quick data on which questions or which students need attention. With a quick glance, a row with mostly green signifies a proficient student, while a row with mostly red shows a struggling student. On the other hand, a column with mostly green shows a proficient question, while a column with mostly red shows a struggling question. With data like this, re-teaching the next day or even the next period is simple and easy.

SS6

Toggling between the three chart options brings the Multiple Choice view. This chart shows the frequency students chose different, incorrect or correct answers. In the chart above, question #3’s correct answer is A (grey), but B was a more common incorrect answer. Understanding their misunderstanding guides better teaching!

SS7Toggle between the options again and you’re now on the Short Answers option. After grading your students’ short answers or essay questions, this chart displays full, partial, and zero credit answers. Simply click on the bar and the system will bring up their recorded answers!


Increased user control on uploaded scans

SS3Psst…Secret Power User feature! Our users asked to know how and what scans were being uploaded into our system. We’ve developed the option for users to see how we see each scan that is uploaded. Not sure why one student’s scan isn’t in your grading panel? Check your view all scans!

How to get to View All Scans: Settings —> View All Scans

And of course we’re not done! We make it our responsibility to listen to our teachers’ needs so we can’t wait to hear your feedback on how useful these data charts are in your classroom. How do you use data in the classroom? Sound off in the comments!

Have more questions? Email Kattie to learn more on using data in the classroom!

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Friday Bulletin Board

Valentines-big

Snow days are so pre-internet
A school in New Jersey is working to make virtual school days out of snow days, or days of school canceled due to inclement weather. Thanks to internet connectivity, students can watch videos, participate in discussions, and get assignments all from the comfort of their home. So gone could be the days of sleeping in, making snowmen, and school in June. What do you guys think? Is this the little brother of flipped classrooms and MOOCs? Or are unpredicted days off in winter something that should be left alone?

Six signs that ed-tech is your Valentine 
Are all your undershirts from techie events? Do you only recognize people by their Twitter handle or their blog title? Can you tell the difference between Edudemic, Edutopia, and EdSurge just by the content? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you, dear ed-techie, may be in love with ed-tech. You’re probably cringing at the fact that I didn’t hashtag #edtech. You’re the type that knows blended learning is not a recipe, but a way of life. Well from one ed-tech lover to another, Gradeable wishes you a Happy Valentine’s Day.

No school, there’s ice ice baby
For the second week in a row we have amazing administrators spreading the word about the snow day. Not gonna lie, these educators have some legitimate flow.

Enjoy your weekend, folks!

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Boston Mayor Walsh Visits LearnLaunch and Gradeable

L to R: Mark Racine, Melissa Dodd, Major Marty Walsh, and John Barros

L to R: Mark Racine, Melissa Dodd, Major Marty Walsh, and John Barros

On February 12, Boston Mayor Walsh visited our home co-working space, LearnLaunch, to learn more about us, our edtech neighbors, and to encourage sustainability of technology in this space and city. He was joined by officials from Boston Public Schools including Chief of Staff Melissa Dodd, Chief Information Officer Mark Racine, and new Chief of Economic Development, John Barros.

Mayor Walsh’s visit, in pictures:

The Gradeable team was ready to talk to Mayor Walsh about how we can help impact student learning in Boston Public Schools—and all students everywhere!

Gradeable power dresses

Here we are in our power dresses

While some of us chatted with guests of LearnLaunch while the mayor was in a LearnLaunch presentation…

Parul with McGraw Hill ed-tech representatives

Parul with McGraw Hill ed-tech representatives

Others couldn’t wait to catch a glimpse!

The mayor!

The mayor!

Parul gives Mayor Walsh the “elevator pitch” of Gradeable. The mayor responded saying that the nuns who graded his work in grade school with red pen definitely didn’t have something like Gradeable.

Gradeable founder Parul Singh explains our grading tool to Mayor Walsh

Gradeable founder Parul Singh explains our grading tool to Mayor Walsh

In his address to LearnLaunch, Mayor Walsh urged technology innovators in this very space to sustain their ideas and business in the city of Boston. He stated that the future of Boston’s growth lay within this very room.

The Boston mayor with LearnLaunch founders

The Boston mayor with LearnLaunch founders

Blog Master Bon personally meets Mayor Walsh.

So excited, she just can't hide it

So excited, she just can’t hide it

Our friend and Listen Edition founder Monica Brady-Myerov poses with the Gradeable apples.

Cool shirt, Monica!

Cool shirt, Monica!

Aaand back to work we go.

This is the startup life

This is the startup life

For more on Mayor Walsh’s visit, see EdTech Times.

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ProTip Wednesday: 6 Steps to SBG with Gradeable

standards based learning strategies

Overview:

    1. 6 steps to SBG with Gradeable
    2. Why I SBG-ed
    3. Gradeable vs. Excel
    4. Closer look into Excel Tracker

How to standards-based grade (SBG) with Gradeable

So the Excel-perts say they have a system – and yes, it’s a pretty jazzy system. But for those of us (ie. first year teacher me) who couldn’t trudge around nebulous formulas and cells and sorting, Gradeable helps those that still want to SBG.

1. Sort standards to assess. Choose your grade level and subject. All Common Core standards are pre-loaded and will always be available when creating a new worksheet or quiz.

2. Create quiz and tag. Create your quiz or worksheet and tag each question with the appropriate standard. (Super important!)

3. Hand out to students. Print, copy, and have students complete work.

4. Upload to Gradeable. Take the stack (no, you don’t even need to separate by class period!) and feed it into the scanner. Upload the PDF file and give the system 15 minutes. (You could…organize the library the kids left a mess in or sanitize desks against kid germs – flu season is harsh.)

5. Analyze results and reteach. Behold – mastery breakdown by standard. No double-entering, no Excel-finagling.

What you want to see: Which kid didn’t understand? Which standard are classes not getting? Should I move on tomorrow?

What you do see:

  • Assessment-specific standards breakdown: as a whole, which standards were difficult? Should you re-test?
  • Class-specific standards breakdown: over a period of time, see which standards students are mastering – or not – and know before the chapter test.
  • Frequency tagged: you know they aren’t understanding inequalities so it’s been showing up every day for the past five days – but you see that despite a high frequency tagged, they’re still in the red. Time to buckle down on the reteaching.

6. Enter grades. Entering grades – is easy. Export to a .csv and copy and paste scores into your gradebook.

Standards-based grading helps answer the nightmare-inducing question of: Why didn’t they get it? To teach is to analyze the hard facts, in addition to your gut feeling. Nobody knows your students better than you – so have the facts to back it all up. Approach teaching by putting numbers behind your teaching – all you’ll become is a better, stronger teacher. Gradeable makes it easy by taking care of the analyzing part.

Why I SBG-ed

As a Teach for America Corps Member (TFA CM), we were taught to measure student achievement by mastery. Suddenly, I met my new best friend, The Tracker. The Tracker was an Excel spreadsheet, created by TFA to help CMs measure progress by standards mastery. Once I got over first year teacher jitters, I understood the power of measuring by standards mastery — I knew exactly which learning objectives students didn’t understand and was able to reteach immediately. SBG? I was all on board!

I love color-coded spreadsheets.

But the time – oh, the time. Some of you might relate: I had a school-mandated gradebook that didn’t allow me to do the snazzy stuff Excel allowed me to do (mastery goals, individual class averages, all class averages, etc) so essentially, I was double-entering my grades. Sundays. Nights. Weekends. During Grey’s Anatomy. During PD. (#sorrynotsorry)

In the end, The Tracker gave way to just the gradebook – because you know that’s all you can take after a day of teaching, morning duty, and after school tutoring (and maybe the gym). Would I have killed to have Gradeable in my classroom to give me the insight that I needed? I would’ve given up my prep period for it.

Let’s stack up The Tracker (on Excel) and Gradeable’s SBG features:

Gradeable vs. Excel Tracker

The Tracker

Gradeable

Add specific standards

Color- coded

Tagged Standards Frequency

Average mastery (assessment-specific)

Average mastery, all standards (class-specific)

Total Points (assessment-specific)

Pre-loaded standards

Overall mastery

Numbers

Visual graph

Conclusion: It’s a tight race between an Excel spreadsheet and Gradeable – but Gradeable wins because of time and ease of use. You’re not a data monkey.

A closer look into The Tracker

The beauty of Excel is that through a series of formulas, you can make the data work for you in a very customizable way. The difficulty is that you need to be an Excel-pert to wrangle the formulas if you’re starting from scratch. Let’s breakdown each part of the spreadsheet:

I can set a mastery goal and have an overview of how my classes are doing—as a whole and individually—on their progress towards mastery.

I would type in each standard tested and analyze the breakdown in mastery (80%+ is considered proficient) to dictate next steps.

The Tracker is malleable and easy — in fact, I’ve attached it as a downloadable resource in this post. However, here’s how technology (ie. Gradeable) makes your job easier and faster.

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EdVestors Education Headliners Breakfast

Last Tuesday, Kattie went to an Education Headliners Breakfast hosted by EdVestors, a philanthropic organization which identifies important practices and brands themselves as a catalyst for change. The Edvestors tagline is “Driving Change in Urban schools” and the breakfast they hosted was to discuss the landscape of edtech challenges of true edtech success in the boston community – specific to boston is the high and diverse ELL (English Language Learning) population.

The setting of the breakfast was informal and was for educators who are already experimenting with technology. The meat of the discussion was affirming what most of us know: Technology is here to stay and many are working to make it more efficient, more effective, more useful—something teachers can actually see themselves buying into and using. In addition, the panel identified the complexities of delivering effective instruction as an effect of increasing diversity in the district. Because of the high ELL population, the district isn’t prepared well enough to deliver an instruction to overcome both traditional education obstacles and technology integration.

The Q&A session was when they started speaking our language. Jordan Meranus, CEO of Ellevation memorably said that apps are supplemental.  His key message was that no piece of technology is going to teach your students algebra, but technology can help in other ways. Another takeaway was that to be effective, a whole school system has to buy in. Technology works best when administration supports the teachers and teachers can get students to engage.

Mary Skipper, Network Superintendent of Boston Public Schools, discussed another very important reality: interfacing between new solutions and the current system can be difficult. Not everyone likes change. Situations may arise where technology is chosen and purchased by stakeholders who are NOT the ones using that technology day-to-day.  It’s wildly frustrating for both parties when they don’t see eye-to-eye.

To those people, you have my empathy. I’ve helped install systems before for bosses who didn’t care about the employee experience. Their mentality was “just learn it.” But like I said, technology isn’t going anywhere and Kattie put it well:

Ed tech is not supposed to overturn the system and render teachers and traditional systems useless—there is tons of merit in the traditional system, but there holes that tech can mesh together. Someone described it to me as having cracks in a sidewalk and technology as the gel to puts it back together.

My overall takeaway is that there are gaps in the current structure. From the Gradeable point of view, teachers spend a lot of time grading, analyzing, and reporting that we can help with. The gap is the amount of work that needs grading and the time and energy that teachers have to do it. For those teachers, and others looking to fill gaps in the classrooms, they look to apps. The developers who can work to fulfill teachers’ needs will succeed. No app will succeed without there first being an actual, teacher-voiced need. There are definitely some bumps in the adoption process — especially when technology is implemented hastily or without having the right planning or people at the table — but we’re on the right track!