It’s Just A Game?

We all know kids love video games but how effective are they? A study of 88 second graders that were divided into 3 groups to determine the effectiveness of on line games. One group was to play a game for a 3 week period, while another group had to solve similar math exercises on paper, and the last group had no assignment. The students were given an electronic test before and after the test period. The results showed  the students that played the games had a 6% increase in scores, the students that did the paper exercises had a 4% increase in scores, and the group that had no assignment had a 2% increase. In addition, the group that played the games as well as the group that did the paper exercises solved the test 30% faster than the first time, while the group with no assignment was only 10% faster. A parent survey showed that students that played the interactive game described the activity as “fun, exciting, and fantastic” 80% more often than the paper exercise and 60% of them wanted to play more.

This study supports the importance and effectiveness of our own Summer Math Challenge and other resources that are provided on the Quantile.com website. If we can find interactive games that “hook” students we can improve math skills and maybe change the way some students view math. Visit our page http://quantiles.com/ to view the free resources we have available for all students.

The Importance of Math Facts in a Digital World

With the wide availability of calculators on phones, mobile devices, computers, and many other electronic devices, some may wonder if it’s still essential for students to commit math facts to memory.  In a world replete with digital assistance is the memorization of math facts still necessary?

Researchers Daniel Ansari and Gavin Price of the Numerical Cognition Laboratory at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada, and Michèle M. M. Mazzocco, the director of the Math Skills Development Project at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, analyzed the links between students’ math achievement and the way their brains processed the most basic problems. Their study was published this month in the Journal of Neuroscience. Interestingly, the study shows that the process in which students compute single-digit math problems may be indicative of how well they perform on college-readiness exams.   Students that scored higher appeared to recall answers from memory while the students that were lower performing used an area of the brain associated with processing, indicating they were working through the problem.   As Ansari comments, “Perhaps the building of those networks early in development go on to facilitate high-level learning, which in turn allows you to free up working memory”.

This study appears to support the idea that fluency with basic math facts is, in fact, an important skill.  There are multiple ways to support the codification of basic math fluency: asking your child to recite basic math facts while riding in the car, while waiting for meals at restaurants, while waiting at the doctor’s office.  Siblings can even quiz each other – serving to not only practice math skills, but to signal the importance of academic achievement.  All of these passive settings provide clear opportunities to reinforce and codify basic math fluency.

New Lexile.com Enhancements Now Available!

Access More, Easier and Faster: Enjoy the New Lexile.com Enhancements Today!

We are constantly developing new ways for our users to utilize the Lexile® Framework for Reading through our website and its’ free resources.  Keeping all of our audience in mind — educators, parents and students — the following features were developed in efforts to enhance your user experience.

  • Buy a book from Amazon with a simple click of the mouse. In partnership with Amazon, we now provide a quick link for you to purchase a desired book from their store. This is in addition to already existing links that allow you to buy a book from Barnes & Noble, or locate a book in the nearest library via WorldCat technology.
  • Save your searches! Have an account? Never redo the same “Find a Book” search again. Registered users can save any of their searches to be revisited in the future.
  • Password protection feature now available to ensure security within your account. Are you a teacher with personalized reading lists for your students? Add privacy for each reader by setting up a password for your students to view their individual reading list.
  • Review your usage history of the Lexile Analyzer® when you are logged into your account. Never remeasure a text again! Simply visit your ‘Usage History’ on the Lexile Analyzer webpage to view your previously analyzed texts (listed by the date they were measured).
  • Better results faster!
    • Search relevancy optimization enables you to enjoy accurately filtered book results. Type a title into the ‘Quick Book Search’ function, and it will appear top of the list!
    • Experience quicker website navigation with engineered improvement to our website powered by Django compressor.

These recently added features are the first wave of many great additions to come in 2013. Educators and parents, we urge you to use Lexile.com and all of its’ free tools to help your reader(s) grow! Be sure to check out the wealth of resources made available to you at www.Lexile.com as the school year progresses, and especially during the summer months.

Smaller World: Technology and Today’s Learner

People claim the world is getting smaller. What they really mean is that their ability to communicate is getting larger. By the time you finish reading this post it’s likely that you will have also received at least one comment on your Facebook page, an email, an IM, a tweet, and possibly even joined a Google hangout or a Skype call. Communication tools have become available in every flavor of the rainbow.

Beyond the most obvious advances in direct communication technology, we also have new possibilities for indirect information sharing and presence awareness, keeping us in contact with the people, happenings, and ideas which most interest us. Our new found ability to obtain the exact information we need, at precisely the moment we need it, has had a profound impact on our productivity both at work and at play. In a predominantly knowledge-worker based society, readily available on-demand access to information has transformed our expectations of the essential ingredients of success. It has shaken up our long established traditions of formal education and reassigned value from process based learning to self-guided alternatives. Learners have been empowered to expand their horizons and find answers for themselves like never before.

For decades, educators have struggled to harness technology in the classroom. To their credit, they recognized its potential impact on learners, but there was no blueprint for fitting it into the pedagogical temple of our 20th century education system.  But that’s changing.  Much of our learning has now become self-directed, and learning now takes place anywhere and at any time of our choosing. The classroom is merely one possibility. In fact, self-directed learners may not need the classroom at all. Technology both empowers and accelerates this change, influencing how, when, and what we learn while equipping a new generation with both the tools and expectations to become successful as life-long self-guided learners.

While the rapid expansion of information available on the Internet isn’t a recent phenomenon, cloud based computing applications are multiplying the value of information in people’s daily lives by making information useful in amazing new ways, from just about anywhere. As personal technology in the form of netbooks and hand held communication devices grows increasingly sophisticated and open, the ability of Information Technology departments to tackle the requests of end users is completely side-stepped.   Learning Management Systems are not immune from advances in technology.  Any sacred mystery that once graced these bloated enterprise-centric systems has already been shamed by the proliferation of Sharepoint, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Dropbox, TeamViewer, and any number of similar web-connected resources, largely free to use, ridiculously easy to acquire, and miraculously powerful as tools to communicate, to share, to teach, and to learn. Open web based software has already arrived. Most industries have already begun to embrace it. The response from the LMS community has been to tack on interfaces to things like Twitter and Facebook but to completely ignore the fact that practically all of the learning is happening outside of the LMS. What the LMS vendors have failed to recognize is that it isn’t just technology that has evolved. People have evolved in their use of technology, in their acceptance of personal responsibility and empowerment as learners, and in their expectations of the learning process. It’s time for us to set aside our old notions of what constitutes learning.

The Year of Big Data

The Economist recently published a thought-provoking article on the rapidly increasing accumulation of data.  In “Welcome to the yotta world, Ludwig Siegele, explores the role Big Data will play in our future.  With the amount of digital data growing exponentially (or rather exaponentially), new vocabulary will become a part of our everyday lexicon. Kilo, mega, giga and tera are quantities of the past. When it comes to Big Data, we will have to speak in terms of peta, exa, zetta and even yotta.

Where is this flood of data coming from? Social media and smart phones are the most obvious produces and contribute to the growing abundance of data. Facebook, Twitter and smart phone applications produce an incredible amount of “data exhaust” that collects in a “data warehouse.”  Furthermore as the price for storing data decreases—in 8 years Forrester, a market-research firm, estimates it will only cost $4 to store a petabyte of data—there will be a deluge of Big Data.

A lot of excitement centers around this digital data explosion. Such an immense, and continuously growing, database offers great significance to analyzers, who can extract value from this wealth of digital data. McKinsey Global Institute found that “analyzing health care data could yield $300 billion-worth of savings in America.” However, this excitement surrounding Big Data faces some problems. Siegele notes there are issues concerning talent and privacy. The talent it takes to analyze data is scarce, and predicted to become even more scarce. Perhaps the biggest issue regards privacy. When our every move is digitized and stored in a database, it is likely to stir concern among even those not overly concerned with privacy.  Still, the wealth of knowledge we may soon be able to access about language and culture is immense and may soon be within our grasp.

Text Complexity Takes Hold

Given the Common Core’s emphasis on text complexity, an increasing number of educators are paying more attention to the complexity of the texts they assign.  Here at MetaMetrics, our focus has always been on understanding the relationship between the reader and the text and utilizing a common metric (Lexile) to characterize that relationship.  That’s why we’re so excited to make two related announcements: first, over 100,000 users have registered to use our free, publicly available Lexile Analyzer tool.  This tool allows users to analyze the complexity of small bits of texts to obtain a Lexile measure.  We’re thrilled to see that so many educators are focused on the complexity various pieces of text and are utilizing this wonderful tool.  If you have not yet tried this tool, click here to register and start using.

On a related note, we’re also happy to announce that 50 new publishers adopted the Lexile measure in 2011.  With the recent shift from proficiency to college and career readiness, school districts around the country are focusing on what it means to be college and career ready, specifically what it means to graduate prepared to read college level text.  With all the recent emphasis on college and career readiness, it is vital that students be introduced to increasingly sophisticated levels of complex texts.  Which is why it’s refreshing to see so many new publishers begin to recognize the significance of text complexity.  These new publishers add to a growing roster of hundreds of publishers that now routinely measure their books using Lexile measures.  Some of these new publishers include American Girl, Black Rabbit Books, Medallion Press, Nomad Press, and many, many more.  To all of our new publisher partners, welcome aboard.

Helping More Readers Read More

We’re always excited about anything that gets students reading more.  That’s why we were so pleased to see this recent write-up, in Publishers Weekly, reporting that Capstone Digital now has over 700,000 students reading through myOn.  MyOn provides students with access to thousands of digital titles targeted to their own individual reading level (based on their Lexile measure) and interest.  Best of all, because myOn has embedded an assessment into the reading experience, students are continually provided new titles as their reading level grows.  And because myOn is available online, students are assured always-on access; meaning they are not limited to reading only while on campus.  And interest continues to grow:

Since its launch, myOn has helped increase the circulation of digital titles. In communities like Charleston, S.C., which has adopted the platform, the library circulation for digital books was more than 30 times that for print books. Said Brekhus, “Making the books accessible anytime, anywhere allowed children to read more books digitally than they had access to in print.”

Congratulations to Capstone on achieving so much in such a short period of time.  We’re proud to partner with an organization so dedicated to getting more students reading everywhere.

Digital Learning Day

An important requirement of the Common Core State Standards is that students are able to ‘utilize technology and digital media strategically’.  So kudos to the Alliance for Excellent Education for sponsoring Digital Learning Day:

… a year-long campaign to celebrate bold, creative innovative teachers in classrooms across this nation. These front-line innovators are already embedding digital learning into new instructional practices to ensure that every student leaves the classroom ready for college, career and life success.  We ask you to join with us, as with them, as we launch an unprecedented, collaborative effort to expand innovation into every city, town, school and classroom in America!

 The first national Digital Learning Day is Wednesday, February 1, 2012.  Please join the Alliance and our more than 20 nationally recognized core education partners as we work together to rally support and action to enable digital learning everywhere.

Some classrooms are already focusing their efforts on integrating digital media and technology into instructional practice.  This school in Kentucky, for example, has found a way to ensure that their educators are keeping up with the latest trends in technology and are able to utilize digital resources in their classroom:

What is the purpose of giving each teacher a laptop? As is the case for many other jobs, employees need to be able to work anywhere, including from home. The teachers at Eminence need to be given the opportunity to create awesome lessons using the best technology. In order for them to prepare students to utilize technology, they must become proficient with it first. The ultimate goal is to equip each student with 21st Century skills and to prepare them for their future, be that college or the workforce. It takes a village (a school district) to raise a child, and the Eminence administration gave each teacher another tool to assist in that process.

We applaud the Alliance for drawing attention to the importance of 21st century skills and finding a way to stress the importance of helping educators introduce digital skills into the classroom.

There’s an App for That

Tip of the hat to Scholastic’s Math Hub for pointing to Common Sense Media’s helpful reviews of hundreds of educational apps.  As Math Hub reveals, over 52% of U.S. children have access to a mobile device of some sort (iPads, video iPods, or smartphones) and 29% of parents have reported downloading apps specifically for their children.  Given the size of the market, the availability of educational apps has, predictably, ballooned in size; and there are now literally thousands of apps from which to choose.  The abundance of educational apps is a positive step, but with so much choice parents are bound to be hopelessly confused by such a wide array of possibilities.

Thankfully, Common Sense Media offers detailed reviews for many of the available apps.  The reviews are quite candid and parents will find that Common Sense Media was frank in their assessment of what each app offers – and what they lack.  The reviews not only offer a written description, but also offer the appropriate age range and then rate the games on: educational value, ease of use, violence, sex, language, consumerism, drinking/smoking/drugs, and privacy/safety.  We applaud Common Sense Media for offering an easy way for parents to wade through a vast catalog of choices. 

It’s critical that student instruction extend beyond the school day.  We’ve documented the effects of shortened school days and summer slide across the socio-economic spectrum.  If students are to experience a lesser degree of learning loss, than it is imperative that parents keep students engaged in instructional activities as often as possible.  Educational apps are one way of doing that.  While many may be of questionable educational value, many others offer quality digital instruction in a fun, familiar setting.  Plus, by providing on-demand, easy access, app developers allow students access through the devices that students prefer.  Ultimately, that’s a good thing – anything that reinforces and supplements basic skills is bound to help foster a love of learning.

Digital Promise: Math for Every Student

Tip of the hat to Scholastic’s Math Hub for posting this piece on the state of technology in math education.  Though many math educators report still relying on a basal textbook, many more are employing a variety of digital resources to help reach struggling math students:

On average, math teachers reported spending more than one full class period per week using digital tools or content, and many spent significantly more time utilizing technology. Specifically, among teachers who report using digital content or tools during more then 26% of class time (high digital use), the highest percentages are remedial math teachers and grades 6-8 math teachers. The most commonly used digital tool is interactive whiteboards. Teachers considered interactive whiteboards to be the most important supplemental material in addition to textbooks. This demand for whiteboards is a change from 2008 when interactive whiteboards were not even part of the survey. Math teachers and educators value the “faster reporting” and “detailed student/class information” generated by computer-based programs, features that traditional textbooks and workbooks cannot provide.

What many math educators have discovered is that moving from whole-class instruction to differentiating for struggling students requires going beyond the textbook to solutions that harness technology to adapt and respond to a student’s learning trajectory.  Technology of that sort can take multiple forms, but some important features include the ability to individualize for a student’s needs, provide supplemental resources, and multiple explanations for math skills and concepts.  As many educators now understand, one size does not fit all when it comes to math instruction; and ensuring that students graduate ready for the mathematical demands of the post-secondary world entails matching student math ability to the level of the lesson. 

At MetaMetrics, we’ve attempted to harness technology to supplement and strengthen student math ability through Math at Home.  Math at Home serves as a portal for matching students to targeted math resources across a variety of mediums.  Because each student has a different preferred learning modality, Math at Home offers online resources, video tutorials, skill practice sites, literature guides, games, and hand’s-on activities – a wide variety of resources to keep students engaged in math activity.  But Math at Home is more than a mere portal.  There are plenty of activity portals widely available.  What distinguishes Math at Home from other student portals is the Quantile Framework.  Math at Home uses the student’s Quantile measure to establish the student’s math level.  The list of available resources differs for each student and is based on their Quantile measure, or math level.  Additionally, Math at Home utilizes a large database of textbooks to match students with resources of their choice based on their current textbook lesson, but at their own math level.  If you haven’t already tried it, be sure to take a look.

MetaMetrics is an educational measurement organization. Our renowned psychometric team develops scientific measures of student achievement that link assessment with targeted instruction to improve learning.