Webinar Date: September 17,2013
Technology can and should play a part in delivering truly individualized instruction. In edWeb.net’s August’s Blended Learning webinar, Julie Evans and Neal Manegold showed us how technology can supplement and reinforce the efforts of increasingly overextended classroom teachers. They explored expectations, discussing what elementary school students and parents can expect in a personalized learning experience. Additionally, they gave opinions on the new technologies that administrators believe have the greatest potential for meeting the personalized learning challenge. Teachers are responding to the call to personalize education in many different ways, and Julie and Neal explain some of the techniques. Many new technologies are improving teaching and learning through personalization and making the transition much simpler.
NM: The title of today’s webinar is the Future of Personalized Learning in Elementary Schools. My name is Neal Manegold. I am the curriculum producer here at DreamBox Learning. Prior to this job I spent over 10 years in elementary classrooms, most of those as an elementary teacher and some of those also as a K–6 Math Coordinator. Our team here at DreamBox Learning is sponsoring today’s webinar. We offer a rigorous and engaging PreK through Grade 5 math program that fully adapts and differentiates for each individual student no matter where they are in their learning. We complement classroom teachers and support school with their blended learning needs. I’ll share a bit more about DreamBox later in the webinar today.
Today’s webinar is intended to share data and thoughts and ideas about continuing evolution of personalized learning and how technology can be used to use individualize that learning to support and reinforce the efforts of increasingly overextended educators. Each year, Project Tomorrow, a national education nonprofit organization, facilitates a national research effort tracking the growing student, educator, and parent interest in digital learning and how our nation’s schools and districts are addressing that interest with innovative ways to use technology in and out of the classroom. The data shared today will be from Project Tomorrow’s most recent Speak Up National Research Project. They include insights into how new technologies and digital content are transforming learning in elementary schools, expectations from students, parents, and teachers. These factors and data are certainly affecting the decisions and plans administrators are making today. Project Tomorrow is one of the nation’s leading education nonprofit organizations.
I am personally excited to introduce our speaker for today’s webinar, Julie Evans. Julie has been CEO of Project Tomorrow since 1999. She developed the Speak Up National Research Project in 2003, and has served as chief researcher on this project. Previously, she enjoyed a 17-year career in national and regional sales and marketing management with UNICES, and two education technology start-ups. She is a graduate of Brown University and serves on the board of directors of Project Tomorrow, the Tech America Foundation Board, and the Tech Sets Advisory Board, and recently completed a term on the ST [?] Board as well. Ms. Evans was named in April of 2008 as one of the top ten most influential people in education technology over the past 10 years by E-school news.
Before we begin, some quick webinar tips; please make sure that you close any other applications you have up especially things like Skype and other messaging software that use bandwidth. Maximize your screen for a larger view; you can use the link in the upper right corner to do that. You will be mailed a continuing ed certificate within 24 hours for attending today. You will also receive info on how to access the recording of the webinar and these slides. And if you are tweeting you can use the hashtag #edwebchat. And with that I’d like to hand over the presentation to Julie Evans.
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JE: Well, thanks so much Neal and I am very excited to have this opportunity we talk with all of you today about personalized learning. You know, personalized learning has been getting a lot of attention nationwide. And I think to some extent it needs a little bit further investigation. We need to think a little bit more about what we actually mean when we talk about personalized learning. So I’m excited to have the opportunity today to share some of the Speak Up data with you.
So there we go, Neal and I. So what we’re going to do is that we’re going to talk about the perspective of personalized learning from the student point of view. How students are already personalizing their learning both in school and out of school. We’ll bring the parents into that conversation. I’ll share some of that parent data with you. And then also take a look at the point of view of teachers and principals and how they are working with some of these new emerging technologies to personalize that learning process for the students.
But I really want to get back to where I started which is what does personalized learning really mean. And I particularly like this quote that we picked up from last year’s Speak Up survey from an elementary teacher in North Carolina. She talks about personalized learning as meaning to really teach much more than just the curriculum but actually teaching the child and putting the focus on the student. So let’s keep that in mind as we go through today’s webinar and some of the presentation data that I’m going to be sharing with you. Let’s make sure that we’re keeping an eye on the student and not just on what we are teaching.
So in case you’re not familiar with the Speak Up National Research Project, I’ll just give you a little bit of a one, two, three on it let’s say. It is an annual national research project where we provide online surveys to schools and districts all across the country. Any school or district that would like to use it use our surveys to be able to poll K–12 students, teachers, parents, and administrators about their thoughts about the use of technology within learning—we started this project in 2003—and we take the national data and share it every year with Congress, the Department of Education, many Governors’ offices, think tanks and research organizations, and of course through wonderful webinars such as this today with EdWeb and our Friends from DreamBox. But we also do something else that’s really unique. We give back to all the participating schools and districts their own locally-collected data with the national data to able to use for benchmarking and for planning purposes. Once again any school or district that would like to participate with us in Speak Up is welcome to do so.
The types of questions that are on the Speak Up survey are what you would imagine. They’re about learning and teaching with technology. We ask different questions of different audiences. We ask teachers about professional development. And we ask parents about Internet safety issues that are of high concern for to them. We ask all the respondents to talk to us about the emerging technologies in the classroom both how they are using them and also how they would like to use those emerging technologies. That really helps us frame that conversation around personalized learning. So the data I’m sharing with you today is actually from last fall. The surveys were open from about the beginning of October to the middle of December. We had about 466,000 online surveys that were submitted nationwide. And you can see the breakdown there from the student surveys, the number of students that participated, the teachers, the parents, and the school and district administrators. We did have participation from all 50 states, about 8,000 schools, 2,400 districts participated with us. And I always like to give a nice shout out to our honor roll of states, those states that had the highest participation.
Now as I mentioned before, we do share the data every year with Congress. And in fact we did two congressional briefings this past spring. One was focused in on the educator and parent data. The other one was exclusively about the student findings. We frame both of the reports around a particular theme. And theme was From Chalkboards to Tablets. We took a look at how far we have come just in the last couple years. But also put a higher focus on exactly what was happening with that digital conversion from the chalkboards to the tablets. And for the student report we took a look at that digital learner. Actually how has that digital learner evolved and emerged over the last couple years.
Now when we take a look at this and look at from digital conversion to really keeping our eye on that digital learner what we see as really a key component of that digital conversation is an emphasis or a focus on personalized learning. The other thing that we talked about in the national reports and I talk about all the time is that this idea of personalized learning is much more than shifting what we’re doing. It’s also about a shift in our attitudes and values and ways that we’re thinking about education, and in particular about how to leverage technology to support education.
So what I’m going to do to for you right now is share with you sort of Speak Up snack. Let’s call it a Speak Up snack, sort of a sampling of some of the data findings that we have from last fall with a particular emphasis on looking at those views of the students, the parents, the teachers, and administrators and how that pertains to personalized learning. So we start off by talking about what the elementary students are doing in terms of using technology and the Internet at home so outside school. So I particularly brought for you today our data from upper elementary students, students in Grades 3, 4, and 5. And so we see no big surprise here: the students are playing a lot of online and video games outside of school. That seems to be very popular with the students, they are also increasingly doing Internet research on things that interest them. I think the more interesting part of this particular set of data is some of the emerging activities that the students are doing. So whether these upper elementary students are sharing photos, maybe that’s on Instagram, updating a personal online profile—they are involved with social networking sites. And then also that creation of video, the idea of students creating content and then sharing content is a trend that we’re paying a lot of attention to. We also are paying a lot of attention to how these students, elementary students, kindergarten through fifth graders, what type of access they have to mobile devices. So every year on the Speak Up survey we ask about students’ access to mobile devices—both the mobile devices that are presented to them or made available to them by their parents, their family, as well as what’s provided by their school. So this particular slide is about the access that these students have—kindergarten through fifth graders—to mobile devices that are not school-provided. So this is personal access to these devices so a couple of things. And again this data is from last fall so a couple of things that you may be surprised at. Look at that number in terms of those upper elementary students: 41 percent of them tell us that they actually have personal access outside of school to a tablet; 40 percent told us that they are carrying a Smartphone.
And the other thing that we have been paying a lot of attention to is this emergence of the digital reader as part of the types of devices that kids have access to. Now one of the other things that we were reported about on our national report this year was that the students actually have multiple devices. They are in many ways multi-mobilists in terms of having access. Once again this data is from last fall. The Speak Up surveys open up this year on October second. And I literally can’t wait to see where these numbers are for this current year.
We also asked students about their use of the Internet when they are at home to help themselves with their homework, to help with their homework or schoolwork. And we see that 71 percent of those upper elementary students tell us that they are at least tapping into the Internet at least once a week to be able to help with their homework, with schoolwork to once again pursue those interests that they have. And look at this number in terms of accessing the Internet through a mobile device, a new emerging trend obviously for students—19 percent of the students said that’s the way they’re getting to the Internet.
Now we asked the students also about how they are using technology at school for learning. Again we see the educational games come up; again we see the Internet research. We also see that elementary students are creating presentations. They are watching online videos. Many are even starting to use an online textbook.
Let’s talk a little bit about the parents. And this was an interesting new set of data that we brought forth in our national report. And this actually compared the point of view of parents and principals about the importance of the use of technology to their child or the student’s future. And I just disaggregated it for this particular webinar today to take a look at elementary schools’ parents and principals, middle schools’ parents and principals, and the same for high schools. I think sometimes people get an impression that the use of technology is only important for high school students or maybe for middle school students and high school students. Well obviously we can see here that 54 percent of parents of elementary students told us that they believed it was “extremely important” to have an effective use of technology in their child’s school, matched up by the 51 percent of those elementary school principals. But as you look across the line there in terms of the “extremely important” statistic or ranking, you see that’s not far off from what middle school parents and high school parents are saying as well.
Now parents of elementary students do have concerns about the use of technology at their child’s school, predominantly it’s about not having enough technology, or the secondary concern they have is that their technology use is too dependent upon individual teachers. So what the students—what the teachers—I’m sorry—what the parents tell us in our focus groups is that their child is in a second grade class and they are using tons of technology. And then when they move up or promoted up to third grade that particular teacher that they are assigned maybe isn’t a big technology user. So they would like to see more consistency in terms of that usage.
Now also in terms of a digital learning and this interest, this general interest that parents have in the use of technology for their students. We see then many ways that is being driven by some access that parents have. Increasingly parents are using mobile devices whether it’s a smartphone or a tablet. They are also using social media whether that’s communicating with other parents or their children with text messages. We know that’s all true, or getting involved with social networking sites or even using Twitter. Starting to see the emergence of Twitter amongst adults as well as you know. Now all of this leads parents to have a much stronger orientation to digital learning.
Now let’s shift over and take a look what administrators are talking about. And I always like to start with this particular slide. This is one of my favorite data points that we collect from administrators. We ask principals this year what wakes you up in the middle of the night as an indicator of what they are concerned about. What’re some of those crisis points or concern areas that they have. And then disaggregated it based on their assignment whether they’re high school principals, middle school principals, and elementary school principals. So we actually see the elementary school principals are a little bit more concerned about the achievement gap, a little bit more concerned about test scores than their peers in middle school and high school. But all three of the groups, all three of the types of principals are increasingly concerned about having adequate technology and using technology effectively to meet the needs of their students.
I love this particular quote from a school principal on New York where he talks about the value of technology and how technology can bring the classroom, bring the real world into the classroom for those students and help learning come alive and real in time. And increasingly what we’re finding is that teachers and also administrators are looking to digital content to be able to help in that process. So we see the elementary school principals are very interested in digital content within instruction to increase student engagement and motivation. But right there we see that they also look at digital content as a way to personalize the learning process. I also think it’s really interesting that they are valuing digital content as a way to improve the quality of the instructional materials and the relevancy of those instructional materials harkening back to the quote that we just looked at from that particular principal.
We also asked on last year’s survey an interesting new type of question. We asked principals to talk to us about intelligent adaptive software. We gave them a definition of intelligent adaptive software, and then asked them about the value proposition. What would make them more interested in using intelligent adaptive software within their classrooms? And this idea of providing just-right instruction and differentiating instruction. And enabling self-directed learning also underscores this idea of personalizing the learning process.
Now we also think it’s very interesting. And we’ve been doing this work for a little while as well is also to take a look at the future. So what are we thinking about in terms of that next generation of teachers? We know that increasingly when we talk to principals in particular about some of the obstacles or barriers they have with implementing more digital content. They often will talk to us about either the reluctance of their teachers or the lack of comfort that their teachers have using digital content. So we spun that around a little bit differently last year and we asked the principals about what types of experiences and skills did they want to see in this next generation of teachers. What types of experiences did they want pre-service teachers to have in their teacher preparatory programs to prepare them to be able to be effective teachers in these new digital classrooms. And so we see here that the elementary principals are placing a high premium on the opportunity for teachers, pre-service teachers, to learn how to differentiate instruction using technology, how to source and use digital content tools, and also a majority of them said they would like to have those pre-service teachers be familiar with intelligent adaptive software and leveraging educational games.
So let’s talk about the teacher point of view here. Every year we ask teachers about the types of digital content that they’re using in their classroom. And this is data obviously from last fall. We also like to take a look at how things are moving or how things are shifting or evolving over time, and so look at this growth here of 69 percent just since 2008 in teachers’ use of games within instruction. This is particularly true amongst elementary teachers as we can see here. But we actually saw that across all of the different assignment levels as well.
We also thought it was significant. And this is the first time it sort of hit a tipping point that was worthy of further evaluation or analysis that five percent of the teachers in our sampling size said that they were already using intelligent adaptive software. Now keep in mind we polled about 56,000 teachers nationwide. So we are starting to get some significant numbers in terms of teachers that are already familiar intelligent adaptive software, are already using games, but are experimenting with some of the more advanced products. Now we thought that it was interesting then to take a look at those particular teachers who are already using intelligent adoptive software and see what their goals were for implementing this type of emerging technology. And so it’s a very interesting mix here. The teachers tell us that they are particularly enamored with the idea of collecting meaningful assessment data. So that they can use that to be able to change the way they are approaching instruction. And also to be able to personalize that learning process for individual student needs. The idea of creating a more learning-centric classroom, the idea of facilitating student collaborations was also that was very interesting to the teachers.
Now I’m going to end up here with my favorite question on the survey. I told you about some of my favorite questions. But this is actually my real favorite. Each year on the Speak Up surveys we ask all the respondents, the students, the teachers, the parents, and the administrators. So if you were in charge and you could design that ultimate school for today’s students what type of digital tools and resources do you think would have the greatest impact on learning. And the reason this is my favorite question and many superintendents tell me it’s their favorite question as well, is it gives you a nice, clear cut snap shot as to whether or not all your stakeholders are on the same page in terms of your vision for using technology within learning. So it really answers the question do we have a shared vision. So what I did is just brought a few of the many things that we poll on in this category. And disaggregated it for elementary school principals, elementary teachers, elementary parents, and then I once again focused in on those upper elementary students. And we see here a couple of interesting trends. We see that for example all four of those groups are very interested in the use of tablets within instruction. They also are interested in using some type of digital content such as e-textbooks or other types of digital content as part of the learning process. And then amongst the adults, the principals, the teachers, and the parents, nice strong statements about their interest in better leveraging some of the emerging tools such as intelligent adaptive software.
So before I turn it back over to Neal I want to make sure that you know that there is a lot more Speak Up data beyond the Speak Up snack that I shared with you today. That’s available on our website and our website is www.tomorrow.org, so please take a look at that. It is our nonprofit mission to make this data available to educators and policy makers to inform your plans and programs, so I hope you’ll take us up on using some of our data, and then of course inviting all of you that are from schools and districts to participate in Speak Up, the surveys open up on October second. You can come and visit us at tomorrow.org and learn a lot more about Speak Up 2013.
And I wanted to end with this particular quote. It’s from a fifth grade boy in Pennsylvania. Last year we asked the students a really interesting question. We asked them, “If they were a teacher, or their teacher in their class, how would they be using technology to engage students in learning?” And so, you can see here from this particular fifth grade boy. He wants to include all of the different technologies that are out there. He wants to be able to have different types of digital content to engage in different types of learning. He says it would be fun and he goes ahead and gives us that big endorsement that the kids in his class would really love learning that way.
So, with that, thank you very much. I’m going to turn it back over to Neal now and of course we have more time for questions at the end of our presentation today, and we’d love to have the opportunity to chat more with you then. So, back to you Neal.
NM: Okay, thank you very much Julie. I had one … here we go. I have one request to make sure the volume I had was correct of if somebody could post if this is either too loud or too soft, I can definitely adjust it before I keep going. Okay. So I’m going to be talking about how DreamBox Learning approaches personalization and for me as an individual and then also in my work here at DreamBox, how I think about learning and how think about learning as a company. So there are two views of personalization, one of which I’m going to go through which is more consumer-focused when you think of Netflix, you think of Amazon. When you think of personalized, not learning but personalized shopping, you think of these companies as a way to use algorithms to present, if you buy this, you might also buy that. I have two small kids, so my Amazon homepage is full of things like, if you bought this, you might want this toy or this board book, or this as well. And it’s actually quite effective because of all the shoppers that have come previous and all the data they’ve generated. It’s important to note that this is an inclusive model. So this is saying, you like this ball of items, here is the larger one that you can look at and here’s an even larger one trying to get you to purchase more, or Netflix to watch more movies.
There’s another view of personalization and this is an academic view. For anyone that’s taking kind of adaptive high stakes testing, this is a good example of that. I did on the GMAT for example. This view of assessment is not inclusive, it’s actually exclusive. The goal of this view of personalization is I want to get out of the too-hard and too-easy content so that what’s left for you is the just-right work. Now, as someone that’s taken one of these tests, the downside for anyone that’s going through it, is that every question that you get is either too hard or too easy for you as you make your way through the test. So it was kind of an interesting experience that the better I was probably actually doing when I was taking the test, the harder the test felt. The more frustrated I felt, the more anxiety I felt during the exam and if I felt like that as an adult, I can only imagine as a child going through this experience that each time you get an answer correct, the test to you feels more and more difficult. So you don’t feel successful or the reverse. You see the problems getting easier and you know in the back of your head that’s because you’re not doing well.
Here’s another view of personalized learning and this view of personalized learning is one that many of us went through in the classroom. And so, this view of personalized learning is I print out a whole bunch of math packets, digital or paper, it doesn’t really matter. I give those packets numbers. Let’s say I have one through eight, and I distribute those math packets around in my class, and that’s fine for the students that are doing 8, or 7, or 4 to start with because it hits them where they’re at the point of instruction. But it’s still a real linear experience for those kids. So everyone that’s doing 3, they know when they’re done with that. They know 4 is coming, then they know 5 is coming, then they know 6 is coming. That’s not necessarily personalization, that’s just pacing.
Here’s another view of personalize learning. This is actually my favorite out of the entire presentation today. Let’s think about how we have kids learn, and so, one idea of learning is we take a whole bunch of skills that are loosely related towards a goal. Let’s that goal in this case is learning to drive stick, learning to drive manual transmission. So on Monday, I put a student in a car with me, and they learn how to use the stick-shift. They don’t learn anything else, just stick shift all day. The next day they go and they learn how to use the clutch and the brake but they’re not using the stick shift that day because we don’t want them to get distracted, let’s be really focused about the work we’re doing. Let’s say the day after they learn a little bit more about the clutch and the day after they do the steering wheel, this is the end result for that student. No adult, no drivers training instructor, no person of any kind wants to be in the road with a bunch of students learning to drive who have learned all of the skills independent from each other and then are just expected to put them together. But for whatever reason, that’s how we approach math instructions in many an environment. That’s not personalizing the learning for that child. That’s simply saying I have skills A through B, A through C, A through D and then magically, the student supposed to put them all together.
The way that DreamBox approaches our work is quite different. We think about what the future of personalized learning is going to be. We approach assessment in the moment. There was a question earlier about the definition of what we think of when we think of intelligent adaptive learning. And for me, an important part of that is that it’s in the moment. Someone actually mentioned it in the chat earlier. When a student is doing work and they are having an incorrect answer or a correct answer, they are doing some steps in a problem. DreamBox responds to that student as they do the work. We don’t say afterwards, congratulations, you got 54 percent. That’s not helpful to a child. What’s helpful to a child is saying, it looks like you took too many moves to do this problem. Can you do it in fewer moves? It looks like you need to use the hint button. It looks like you started over. Whenever we can, DreamBox content responds to the student as they do the work. That’s really for me what the intelligence is. That’s the formative assessment that we want. It’s completely embedded in everything we do. We track, we analyze, and we respond to everything. This is similar to Netflix and Amazon in any of those types of organizations. But what we’re looking for is not necessarily you bought diapers are you’re going to buy some other toy. We’re looking at students in this group use these strategies, give these types of answers. They start over. They answer quickly. They answer slowly and we use all of that information to respond to that individual student.
Our lessons are completely built to be adaptive. One thing I also point out at this juncture is the way that we build our content. DreamBox builds content in a cross functional team. We have developers, artists, UX designers, and teachers—I’m on that team—who build our content in-house. All of our content is custom-built for DreamBox. We don’t simply pull it from some other vendor and throw it up and call it digital. We actually build it from scratch. When we are doing a long division lesson, we think about what the context should be for long division. We think about the types of mistakes students might make and all of that is custom-built so that students get the richest experience possible.
We respond similar to how a professional educator would respond one-on-one situation. I always talk to people now being at DreamBox how it is a luxury world. We get to do a lesson that is already just right for that student. So our adaptive engine put students in the right spot in the curriculum, so when we plan a lesson, I already know it’s not too hard or too easy for that student. I know it’s just right for them. And so, for students in that right instructional moment, how will I respond to them. So that might a be a first grader whose accelerated into fourth grade math. That might be an eighth grader who is an intervention student who’s also working in fourth grade math. To us, it doesn’t matter. Both those students have the same rich experience.
A little bit more of how we plan and how we think about learning. Our academic team is strongly affiliated with Understanding by Design and Schooling by Design. If anyone has familiarity with that, the idea of backwards planning is incredibly important to what we do. Additionally, I want to point out this bottom quote that no matter what we do, if it’s blended learning, flipped classroom, whatever comes out now, whatever comes out next year, the destination, the important piece is always the same which is the improved learning. I like to tell folks that if you’re considering blended learning for your school and your biggest concern is how students are going to get to in from a computer lab quickly enough so that your schedule works, you really should take a step back and think about how am I going to use blended learning as a way to improve learning for my students. Not the logistics at first, not the solutions at first. It’s very easy to go down that road, but really make sure it’s fitting in with your goals for your kids going through those schools and through those districts.
So, if the goal is improved learning, and I’m going to skip over this slide because I’ll do a little bit later is the way that we personalize the work you’ll see embedded in the content that we do. So this is a slide of Angry Birds. A lot of people have seen this. I have seen it far too often. Learning is not linear. Angry Birds is a lot of fun when you keep playing level 1 eventually you get three stars on it if you want to, if you don’t, and get one star, it’s great, get lesson two. However, the piece of this for education that fails our students is if I’m struggling on lesson number 2, it does me no good to spend more time on lesson number 2. Most products will leave you at lesson number 2 and let you struggle there until you prove you’re successful. If I’m a teacher, it’s important for me to note that I have student A that got it right the first time and student B took 15 times to get it correct. That’s important. But what’s even more important for me as an educator is to know that student B isn’t spending 15 times trying to get it correct. Student B is given another just-right lesson for them after 2 or 3 tries. It does a student no good to sit there and feel frustrated and that’s not what technology should be used for.
This is another view of linear. This is the same idea. We don’t have a stair-step approach. The way that DreamBox approaches are content is much more about students constructing their own ideas, developing their own cognitive maps, and really about instructional and developmental pathways. We think about addition and subtraction as a pathway all the way down to kindergarten, all the way up to Grade 3, Grade 4. I wouldn’t say that it ends with the standard algorithm, but if you use those as an example, you could say that comparisons work all the way down in kindergarten will eventually lead students down that path to being able to add and subtract. Those to us are all-important steps along that trajectory.
Personalization in our mind should not be linear, it should not be stair-step approach. Here is a better map of the way that we think of personalizing instruction. This is, for someone who had asked earlier, this is our intelligent adaptive learning engine. It is hundreds of lessons across our curriculum, across grade levels and the way that those lessons are connected are as simple as follows. I have a bunch of content that I know is a prerequisite to open that lesson, and I have a bunch of lessons that will open up when you’re successful on it. And if you struggle, I put you sideways. I put you back. I put you somewhere else where you are going to be the most successful. I do that because I don’t want students to feel anxious or nervous or feel like they’re struggling while they’re making their way through the content. We want students to feel successful and we want them to especially feel successful for our students that are having a difficult time in math. If I’m a fifth grader and I’m working on second grade content, the last thing I want to do is struggle on fifth grade content for an extended period of time. I want to be bumped back to second grade and feel like I’m successful and I’m making forward progress not failing backwards repeatedly.
Personalization requires us to differentiate our practice. So these are different quotes from Tomlinson and Bosworth: “Teachers have a responsibility that all students’ master content … specific and continually involving plans are necessary.” I’ll pause for a moment. I always, when I go through this slide, I always recognize that for a teacher, I used to have 32 students in my classroom. When I read a quote like specifically and continually evolving plans to connect each learner with key content, I think about how late I’ll have to stay up at night to make specific plans for all 32 children. That for me is where DreamBox can come in and help, because we have the luxury of spending so much time on our content that you don’t need to worry as much about this and about, okay, I have 32 kids and this kid over here is at first grade level, and this kid over here is at sixth grade level. How on earth am I going to teach 32 math lessons each day. You’re not. No one is. It’s physically impossible and that’s where DreamBox can provide support for those students specially the ones that are outside the norm.
The next piece, this is my favorite piece in the entire webinar. If there’s something I would have people focus on, it’s exactly this piece right here. So, I’m going to pause for a moment and say that this question is one that we ask our teachers when we interview for open spots at DreamBox. So for people that want to come work with us, this is very similar if not exact a question that we ask. We ask them, “What incorrect answers would you expect to see on this problem?” And here are some examples and these are real examples that we use in our product. Student adds the digits together. Students believe it’s subtraction and students believe it’s subtraction. It’s important to note that what DreamBox does that no one else does is we penalize that student far less than a student who has a wild out of the way answer that’s clear that they have no ability to solve this problem successfully. If I have a student in my classroom that takes 29 plus 62 and they’re going so fast. They think it’s subtraction and they answer 33, that to me does not tell that that student doesn’t understand subtraction or addition. That just tells me a student needs to pause and take a look if that’s a plus sign and not a minus sign. Every educator would do this. They would see 33 and they would pause right there. They wouldn’t say that that’s just as much of an issue as not understanding regrouping. They would simply say, let’s try that one again and that’s how we approach our instruction.
This last one I think is awesome. Students combines the digits: 2,962 and this is the quote I’d like to pause for for a minute. Every teacher in every classroom would never see two students’ papers. Student A, over here, answers 81 and student B, answers 2,962. No teacher would ever say both of you, I’m going to respond the same because both of you are in the same spot and I would argue that software shouldn’t do that either. And that’s not how DreamBox works. What DreamBox does is takes all of these errors, all of these mistakes specifically and we not only penalize them and score these students differently, but we also try to respond to these students in a specific fashion. The student does not regroup to the tens place. We focus with them on regrouping. The arithmetic error, we focus on that specifically. The student that believes this is subtraction, we find ways to look for those answers and respond to them with, “Hey this is a plus symbol. This is not a minus symbol,” not “You are having trouble with addition or subtraction,” but “Why don’t you take a moment and look at this again?”
The learning principals that we use every day at DreamBox is the bottom quote right here that the only way to generate understanding, the only way to generate learning is that students have to see the work for themselves. They have to engineer. I love that the word engineer is here because it’s such an important career track right now for kids and we talk about STEM and general for me, it’s all about the engineering. I work with engineers everyday. Students are needing to build their own work. It does a student no good for me to stand in front of them and say, “When you’re multiplying fractions, just multiply across the top, multiply across the bottom and you’re good, right? Now you know how to multiply fractions.” What I’ve done to those students is responded to them in a way that robs them with any idea to construct knowledge on their own. I’ve simply taken that away from them and given them steps, not to solve a problem but just steps to actually get the correct answer which we could argue one way or the other is that learning or not. But I would always argue that if you don’t understand where the algorithm comes from, you’re not going to be able to apply that down the road.
DreamBox is built so that students have the ability to construct and explore. This is a fun lesson. It is on division. It is a lead-up to our long division lessons and the theme you can see here is that big old gumball machine. And the way that we have students do this work, is 808 divided by 12, we could step in right off the bat and say, here’s how you solve this problem. Here’s how you do partial quotients or long division or one of the other strategies. But what we instead to do is we have students hit the pack button and that’s all they do. They hit the pack button and they come up with their own helper equations to try and figure out this answer. Does this take time? Yes. Is it necessary? I would say it’s absolutely necessary for students to build and engineer their own ideas as they learn about division with larger numbers.
As you can see as we make their way through, they have some powers of ten right here. They have 10, 20, and 30. They’ve figured out the remainder left over, over here is 4 and then they’re able to understand—you’ll note that it’s not a quotient question up here, it’s a contextual question, it’s an application. And if you look at Common Core, and you look at the requirements that Common Core has in their definition of rigor, they require application and to me this is a perfect application question. It is not simply 67 remainder 4. It is how many full bags of gumballs did you pack? We have other versions of this lesson that is not all full gumballs, it’s how many total gumballs. And the student needs to reason that It’s going to be 68 and not 67.
Curriculum and pedagogy are important and they’re important in every day in what we do. When we think about the difference between a prescribed program, a prescribed program to us is linear. It is when you are done with lesson 712, you’re going to get lesson 713. It may take you a half hour. It may take you two hours. It may take you five minutes, but everyone does the same work. They just to do it at a different speed.
What are students doing in DreamBox? Are they acquiring knowledge? Are they watching and listening? Are they practicing? Or, are they making meaning. They’re testing their ideas. I’m going to pause here for a moment. I read a really nice quote the other day. It was not about math, it was about literacy but any teacher, you could apply this to any subject. I have small children and the quote was basically that every time a child speaks, every time a child says anything that has any sound, whatsoever, they’re actually hypothesizing their way through learning how to speak, and they’re learning literacy in that way. Every time my son tries to say the word please and it comes out at peas, it’s him testing out the idea of, is that word correct, so he watches from my response. He mimics his older sister and tries to figure things out. I find that interesting just because it’s important for us to do that with kids in math. Let kids play with numbers. It’s not important in the early, early years for us to step in and say yes, and the algorithm works like so. And I know you’re a kindergartener but here’s how you carry. What’s important is for students to see groups, put those groups together, understand that you can add and subtract them. And then, when they’re able to do that, they can apply that. I find the idea of everything a student does as a hypothesis is incredibly interesting for both literacy, for math, for science, for every subject.
The idea of transfer is incredibly important to us as well. Can students take a strategy and transfer it. We oftentimes involve multiple manipulatives for the same topic, whether it’s, lets says it’s multiplication. We have anywhere from five to ten different manipulatives students work with. Sure they can multiply on an array, but can they also multiply in kind of more symbolic approach as well.
Our reports are all built on the way that we can give data back to the educators, to the parents, to the learning guardians for that student in a way that helps them partner with us as that student makes their way through the curriculum. This is my favorite report. This is called a proficiency grouping report. What this says, is a concept like this multiplication double and half. We want to know which students are done already on the left and how long ago they were done. We can also tell you which students are making their way through this content and how far long they are and which students haven’t yet gotten there. And so, teachers use this a lot. I’m teaching adding fractions. I pull up this report from DreamBox on adding fractions and know where my kids are at before I start the lesson that I’m doing in the regular classroom.
DreamBox adapts continuously. This is a graphic that shows a student’s pathway through a lesson. We are constantly responding each time they click, each time they type, each time they start over, each time they get it right and wrong, how long it takes. We respond to those specifically because for us, the most important piece of feedback we can provide is right at the point of instruction and it’s in real time to that individual student.
I wanted to make sure I provided ample time for Q&A. So thank you very much and I have some questions that I have written down during the chat so far. So I’m going to invite my co-presenter here to come back on so that we can go through a few of these questions.
Alright, so the first question I have is that the students right now in kindergarten and first grade, they’re going to be graduating in 2030 and with the pace of technology advancing, what have you seen in both from the parents and the teachers, what are the aspirations that we hope those kids are going to achieve as they go through their own academic experience? What have you seen so far in the data that you’ve collected?
JE: Well, you know, it’s a really interesting question. We actually did a similar type thing. We took a look at ten years ago when the students that were in third grade in 2003, they just graduated this past year from high school and so we took a look—a retrospective look—in our last report looking at what their aspirations were in 2003 and what their aspirations now are in 2013. So going ahead the other direction it’s a big jump. I think we probably all would agree that we’re not quite sure where that technology is going to be. You know, where is it going? What’s going to be the next great thing, you know, we were—we’ve been polling for example on social media since 2003. But in 2003 we were talking about MySpace. You know it’s a funny type conversation. I think one of things that’s particular—I think it’s particularly interesting—is that we are seeing the elementary students are far out pacing their older peers in terms of not only their comfort with using technology but their aspirations for using these digital tools and resources. And in many cases those parents of elementary students are closer to digital native status than maybe some of the parents of middle school students or high school students who might be little bit older. And so they have very high expectations for the use of technology within their child’s learning lives.
So I don’t think I can be a magic ball reader here and see where we’re going to be in 2030. But I can tell you that the aspirations are increasing all the time. And in many ways, listening to the students, particularly the elementary students, is sometimes a very good predictor in terms of how that technology is going to impact learning. That was a hard question Neal. Do you have an easier one?
NM: I do what I can. The next question that we have is where the data comes from kind of how is the data distributed, both regionally and demographics. If you could speak to what goes into the survey.
JE: Certainly, so make Speak Up available to any K–12 school or district that would like to use our online surveys. We take the responsibility for creating those surveys and facilitating the process for schools and districts to participate. And that includes private schools, public schools, private schools, magnet schools, virtual schools, all kinds of schools. So we do some pretty extraordinary outreach to get that nice representative sampling. So as I said we did have participation from all 50 states. I couldn’t tell you that there was one region that was heavy—more heavy in participation than others. It’s got evenly flowed out. We do have that honor role of states. And I saw a couple of people were patting themselves on the back for being in those honor role states. In terms of the other disaggregation that we do, we always look to see are we too skewed to rural or to urban or to suburban. The back end of our database is the NCES database so we can do that. So you may have noticed on the slide about 30 percent of the schools this past year were urban schools. About 40 percent were rural schools and then the balance was suburban schools. We also look to make sure that we are including high poverty schools or underserved schools in that conversation. About 41 percent of our schools last year were Title I eligible schools and a little bit less than that I think it was about 37 percent were majority, minority school. So we also disaggregate all of that data and look to see if there are differences, look to see if there are similarities, and look to see what we can learn from that sort of an analysis.
NM: Okay, great. Thank you. The next question I had was on kind of the difference between some districts going with purchasing large scale, desktops, laptops, tablets, hardware, things like that. and other districts have kind of gone away towards this bring-your-own-device idea where they’re relying a lot on families to bring the hardware. Have you seen kind of a shift between those two things or have you seen those both develop equally? What kind of information were you able to glean off of that?
JE: You know that’s a—that’s an absolutely fascinating conversation that we’ve been watching for awhile. In many cases what we’re hearing from the administrators is that they are particularly interested in putting some type of computing device in the hands of every child, which I think really underscores this idea of personal access to the technology, personal access to the tools. For many districts that is a financially difficult proposition to reconcile. How do we do that? You know some schools have tried with putting laptop carts together and moving them around during the day or tablet carts and moving those around during the day. But that doesn’t get us to that personalized access, particularly the 24/7 access. And let’s keep in mind that for today’s students they tell us that learning is a 24/7 enterprise. That during the school day piece is one piece of that enterprise but they are learning all the time outside of school. Not only in a formal learning environments but on their own.
So the shift that were seeing and I think it’s still I like to tell people it’s still jell-o out there, it isn’t firmed up yet, is a mix. We are seeing in some cases districts are adopting a BYOD approach on either a limited basis or doing some piloting with that. At the same time they are trying to figure out how they can be the purchaser or the provider of some types of devices to put in the hands of the students. We did see a large shift in our fall of 2012 data and administrators’ interest in BYOD. So in 2011, about 52 percent of administrators told us that they were not doing any BYOD, not interested in BYOD, it wasn’t on their radar. In 2012 that number had fallen to about 37 percent. So we’re definitely seeing that sort of shift. I think that where we’re going end up with this is probably going to be a mix, different approaches to it as many of us know BYOD has some fabulous benefits in terms of the personal relationship that the students have with the devices. But it also opens up a can of worms if you have a class of 30 students that all have different devices, with different levels of features and functionality. So as I said before that the phrase I’m using right now is it’s not jell-o yet. Come back, Keep watching and we’re going to keep studying it. We’re asking new questions about BYOD and one-to-one this year on the survey.
NM: Okay. Great. Thank you very much. And then one last question that I think came through earlier was have you seen any issues with districts that are struggling, and we’ve heard now again from the DreamBox side that one of the real issues tends to be bandwidth. Have you seen any of that kind of that—it’s not necessarily the hardware, that’s the issue, it’s, we have all these pieces of software, we’d love to use X, Y, and Z, but we simply don’t have the web speed right now to get kids on to all those pieces.
JE: Yeah that’s a—that is a critical situation that we’re seeing. And it’s, to some extent, it’s a happy problem because a couple of years ago we didn’t have that problem because folks weren’t using the digital content. They weren’t trying to use all the devices. So we’ve gotten to that point, oops—oh, there —I’m I still there? Yeah, I’m still there. We’ve gotten to the point where it’s become a real problem. We actually do poll on that on our technology leader survey last year. We asked technology leaders CIOs, CTOs about their comfort with their current bandwidth. Approximately 70 percent told us that they were not comfortable with their current bandwidth. Only 15 percent said that they felt they had all the bandwidth they needed. So I hear kind of the down river part of that as well where teachers feel that they are either been instructed to restrain from using some digital content or that they are nervous about the fact that their bandwidth isn’t where it needs to be. So as you know with new initiatives coming out of the federal government in terms of Connect-Ed and some of the new initiatives in terms of what the FCC is talking about. There’s a lot of conversation in D.C. and in some state governors’ offices about changing this bandwidth situation. And we definitely are hearing from administrators that if they had more bandwidth they would do more things that personalize the learning process for the students.
NM: Yeah. Okay. Great. Thank you. I’m just going to take a minute or two now to speak real quick about DreamBox before we hop off. The first thing I wanted to mention is, one of my favorite pieces of news to talk about, is that we are actively developing DreamBox for iPad. It’s coming this fall. Fall of 2013 and if you go to this site, to Dreambox.com/iPad, you can sign up there for updates as we make our way through the development process. We are completely re-architecting the product to take full advantage of the iPad experience. I personally work on this every day and it is a load of fun to see the progress that we made so far and we are excited to bring it to all of you.
And for more information on DreamBox, you can visit our website. It’s www.dreambox.com. And for those people that weren’t in right at the beginning, I gave kind of just a few sentences of general of what DreamBox does. We’re a web-based adaptive, intelligent adaptive math program for PreK through Grade 5. We’re also used with some middle schools as well for intervention. DreamBox believes that the quality of our math product is just as important as the quality of classroom learning and we really do think of it as a partnership with the classroom experience. All of the content is written by our in-house nationally board-certified teachers. We have a team of five of us and that’s what we do all day. We write custom content for DreamBox and we build it within the adaptive learning engine. We believe that kids need to think critically about their math and they do not need to just practice but they need to understand the concepts and developmental pathways in order to make forward progress. And we always say anyone that tells kids to just invert and multiply with fraction and division, that’s not what we are about. Like I said earlier, anything like that where I give a student the steps to solve a problem but I don’t actually involve them in the conceptual development ahead of time, is just robbing them of that opportunity to learn.
I’d also focus on DreamBox thinks it’s important to develop academic vocabulary so you’ll see both audio and text in our product. We use terms like the symbol for “not equal” early on with kids, what a negative number is. We use these terms in text, we use them in audio, it’s required by Common Core. We use terms like numerator and denominator instead of top and bottom ’cause we think it’s important for the kids to understand as early as possible that these are not some kind of foreign language term. They need to be able to use them fluently as they make the way through math. As I said earlier, we differentiate for every student. There are literally millions of ways to make your way through DreamBox’s curriculum and that the responses we give to the kids are in real time.
It’s also a motivating environment for kids. It is more than just skills and more than just games. There is hard math, rigorous math, conceptual understanding, and pushing students to really apply their math skills in new situations then transfer those between different ideas. It’s all built within an engaging context. We have a primary engagement that is geared more towards K–2 students, K–3 students, and we have an intermediate engagement that is more geared towards the upper elementary kids.
And with that, you can join us for our next webinar. Our next webinar is Thursday, September 17th. It’s at 3 p.m. Eastern, noon Pacific, and the title of that webinar is “K–12 Personalized Learning and the Power of Adaptive Instruction,” and the speaker on that webinar is Tom Vander Ark, who serves as CEO of Getting Smart and he is a partner in Learning Capital as well. And if you’d like to join our blended learning community, for an invitation, please go to www.edweb.net/blendedlearning.