Technology Can “Place” Students in the Curriculum More Efficiently than Parents and Teachers Can
As a teacher I often used software in the classroom. Much of this software relied on me to determine the appropriate starting place in the curriculum. Every year I’d add my class list and determine which objectives I wanted to address for each student. Often I’d do this in August as part of my preparation for the new school year, which means I hadn’t even met the kids. Plus, we all know about the loss of knowledge retention that occurs over the summer. How was I supposed to know what each student did and didn’t need?
Instead, did I spend the first weeks of school assessing these particular objectives to determine the appropriate starting point for each student? Ideally, yes. But what teacher has of time? Remember, I can spend as much time planning and preparing for my students as I want, but it’s much more difficult to increase the actual instruction time I have with them. Instruction time is a valuable commodity and it’s important to use it wisely. Assessment is an important part of using instruction time wisely, but how much time should I spend assessing supplementary software?
Using Software to Better Gauge Kindergarten through Second Grade Math Curriculums
Although I hate to admit this, I’d usually make my best guess for a starting place. Reflecting back on this, I’d usually include too many objectives which didn’t challenge the students early enough, and resulted in my students not wanting to use the software. Or maybe the software just wasn’t engaging enough.
This prior experience had a dramatic impact on DreamBox Learning K-2 Math. I didn’t want to burden teachers and parents with this same requirement. We (teachers, developers and our wonderful assessment advisor) spent hours developing an assessment model that allows our software to dynamically adjust and provide just the right curriculum for each individual. As a result there are over a million paths through our curriculum. While I can’t tell you exactly how we do this (it’s part of our secret sauce!), I can tell you this is ground-breaking work. We’ve built something I haven’t seen any other product emulate. And to have my name associated with the patent — well, that’s just too cool!