The Next Step in Gamifying Learning

Posted by Jess Kuras on Jun 25, 2017 7:30:00 PM

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When most teachers hear about gamifying learning, they think of games that double as a teaching tool or a classroom-made game of trivia to review concepts before a test. However, some schools have taken the concept of gamification to the next level, such as Quest to Learn in New York City. At this school, 100% of learning is posed as a game.

What it Looks Like

The school awards levels instead of grades, everything from "Novice" to "Master." Even the subjects have more descriptive names. For example, science is re-dubbed "The Way Things Work." Learning takes place through quests: a thematic unit where students have to work together to solve a series of challenges.

Some such quests ask students to invent a method of transport that could penetrate the Earth to its core, managing all the layers of the Earth in the process. In another quest, students work at a fictional biotech company, where they must clone dinosaurs and create a stable ecosystem for them. Technology is interwoven into everything they do. Using Storyweavers, a collaborative program, students work together to create stories. To practice math concepts, students might invent and play a new card game or be asked to design a structurally-sound building. In one class, students were asked to pick a real Supreme Court case, have the class argue both sides, while students assigned as judges are tasked with ensuring a fair and balanced decision.

How it Works

Designers of the curriculum have studied how to make engaging games. Challenge is constant and mistakes are only minor setbacks, easily overcome. Immediate feedback and rewards are vital, and learning requires participation and interaction. Technology is often integrated into the curriculum, allowing students to play the role of professionals, using role-playing games, graphics programs, and simulations to explore complex careers and situations.

The school is exceptionally popular, and students enroll through a lottery system. Around 650 students attend, spread out across middle school and high school. The students are still required to take the same standardized tests as other students across the country, but their prep is clearly much different.

Effectiveness of the Program

Student attendance and teacher retention rates are high at Quest to Learn. Clearly, the students seem to enjoy learning and going to school. The students' test scores are fairly average for the area, receiving a solid 5 on GreatSchools. However, perhaps more importantly, the students are above average in problem-solving skills, being able to collaborate and think critically. They also receive much more insight into potential future careers than in a typical curriculum.

However, the system is not easy to implement. Quest to Learn receives hundreds of requests every week from other schools who want to use the curriculum. One Chicago school attempted to integrate the entire curriculum into their existing one, but failed to sufficiently train their staff. Teachers and students were both confused and the implementation was not successful.

Quest to Learn potentially shows the future of learning, where games are not just used in the classroom, but naturally integrated in all aspects.

To learn how the Wowzers K-8 online math program can help make learning fun, contact our team or try a free trial.

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Topics: Technology in the Classroom, Engaging Content, Digital Learning

How Peer Pressure Affects Learning

Posted by Jess Kuras on Jun 18, 2017 7:28:00 PM

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Anyone who has worked with students has likely seen the effects of peer pressure in schools. Whether it's an individual being discouraged to take studying seriously or certain subjects in school being less "cool" to enjoy, peers' opinions hold power. Now, new research shows exactly how much this power really affects students.

Peer Pressure in Action

SAT prep courses are a popular way for today's students to gain an advantage on the SAT. In fact, students report that by taking a prep course, they expect their SAT score to go up by at least 100 points, which is fairly significant and would likely affect their college acceptance rate. To measure the power of peer pressure, the National Bureau of Economic Research offered SAT prep courses at several Los Angeles high schools. In the schools where the sign-ups were described as public, meaning that students' peers could see who signed up, only 53% of students expressed interest in the course. In schools where the sign-ups were described as private, so that no one could see who had signed up, 80% of students wanted to participate.

This research suggests that around one-third of the students who wanted to take an SAT prep course would forgo signing up, just to "save face" among their peers. The results were particularly surprising because the majority of students wanted to take the prep course, but so many of them still hesitated, due to how their classmates would perceive their interest. Furthermore, even students in peer groups who valued education were hesitant to sign up for the prep classes publicly because of the perception that they needed academic assistance. The takeaway from this study is that peer pressure is in full effect in our schools, and can cause students to walk away from opportunities they would normally take.

Preventing Peer Pressure

Understanding how peer pressure affects students is one thing, but how do we respond to it? As the study showed, an overwhelming majority of the students were interested in taking an "uncool" prep class if their classmates didn't know they were doing it. Students value privacy in their educational needs. This is why we at Wowzers allow students to work at their own pace, in different sections of the curriculum, and often in varying grade levels. Students are never informed if they are working at a slower pace or at a lower level than their classmates, and there is no way for others to see where their peers are at in the curriculum. This prevents peer pressure from taking effect, and allows students the privacy they clearly desire.

To learn how the Wowzers K-8 online math program eliminates peer pressure in learning, contact our team or try a free trial.

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Topics: Technology in the Classroom, Digital Learning

Wowzers Now Available for Parents to Purchase

Posted by Jess Kuras on Jun 11, 2017 7:02:00 PM

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For the first time ever, Wowzers is now available for parents to purchase for use at home!

Why Wowzers?

Wowzers Online Math is based on brain-based research and is designed to meet the needs of all learners. Children are able to fill in gaps in their learning or challenge themselves with more difficult concepts. With a varied, adaptive approach that includes lessons, games, quests, and assessments, Wowzers covers every math standard that your child needs to know from Kindergarten through 8th grade.

What's included?

Whether you want to use Wowzers for homeschooling, as a summer program to prevent the summer slide, as intervention for a child who struggles with math, for a gifted and talented child who need a challenge, or as a supplement to an in-school program, a subscription includes a full year of digital content for each grade level. The program is highly flexible and it's possible to move children down a grade if the curriculum is too difficult, or up a grade for more challenging content.

How do children and parents access the content?

Parents create an account, then generate a login for each child they want to access Wowzers. Children automatically begin at the start of the grade level assigned to them and progress naturally through the curriculum, but can choose to skip to other math content within their grade level if desired. We will be rolling out more reporting tools for parents to keep tabs on their child's progress soon!

What is the cost?

Apply today for a 7-day free trial. If you like what you see, we offer two subscription plans:

  • Monthly plan: $14.99/child
  • Yearly plan: $149.99/child (17% savings)

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Topics: Personalized Learning, Digital Learning

Tips on Securing Funding for New Technology

Posted by Jess Kuras on Jun 4, 2017 7:25:00 PM

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There's no shortage of innovative technology solutions that support strategies such as personalized learning and effective teaching strategies, but the cost can quickly become prohibitive. With tightening school budgets and personal spending accounts only going so far, what other funding sources are available for teachers?

Donor Programs

One possibility is to create a project through a donor program, such as DonorsChoose.org. This website allows the public to search for a project that they want to support through donations. Teachers create a page that describes their project, upload pictures, and set a goal. Each submission is vetted by staff to verify that the goal is fair and the project is well-explained. Donations are tax-deductible and because each project receives its own URL, it's easy to share with others through social media or email. Over 75% of teachers reach their goal, and once funded, DonorsChoose.org takes care of ordering and shipping all the materials directly to the school. Before submitting your own project, we recommend browsing through some successful examples to get an idea of what works.

Grants

The other major source of funding for teachers is through grants. Many sites exist that search all currently offered grants for a particular topic or area. For example, grants.gov allows users to search by keyword and includes thousands of available grants. To find education-specific grants, sites such as Grants for Teachers or Get Ed Funding are good options as well. To apply for a grant, simply follow the instructions to create a proposal that describes why your classroom needs the funds and how they would be used. For tips on how to write a successful grant, check out these tips and resources. If you have a particular program you want to implement, their staff may also be willing to help you put together the proposal.

For more info on the Wowzers K-8 online math program, contact our team or try a free trial

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Topics: Blended Learning, Personalized Learning, Technology in the Classroom, Digital Learning

Surge in Innovation with ESSA

Posted by Jess Kuras on May 28, 2017 7:49:00 PM

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One of the main criticisms of the No Child Left Behind Act was that it put too much focus on preparing students to take assessments, limiting schools' ability to innovate and try new ways of teaching content. Teachers stuck with what they knew, fearing the risk of failure and the associated sanctions. However, this outdated act was replaced in 2015 with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which has opened the doors to innovation.

ESSA Changes

ESSA gives much of the power back to the states and school districts. Although students continue to participate standardized testing, each state is now responsible for putting together plans on how to help students succeed, how to evaluate schools, and how to respond to schools that do poorly. As a result, teachers no longer have to fear the federal government stepping in to fire staff and close schools if their students struggle on these assessments.

Increase in Innovation

In the short amount of time that ESSA has been in effect, innovation in education has become a huge part of the conversation in schools. States have begun submitting their education plans, and many of them include a focus on personalized learning. New Jersey, for example, plans to provide professional development related to personalized learning and offer grants to schools that want to provide personalized instruction. Virginia also emphasizes innovation in their plans, as they allow schools to apply for waivers from requirements that would limit their ability to innovate.

Sharing Success Stories

As research continues to emerge about how powerful personalized learning can be for students, ESSA finally allows schools to pursue these new possibilities without as much fear. New Hampshire has asked teachers to document their unique intervention strategies and how they work, recognizing that their teachers are experts in teaching and often have revolutionary ideas on how to make learning more effective. This will allow teachers to pursue new technology and personalized learning solutions, while also sharing their findings with others.

For detailed strategies on how schools can innovate with ESSA and prepare for accountability requirements, we recommend this comprehensive handbook, published by the Center for Digital Education.

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To learn how Wowzers K-8 Online Math program can help schools innovate and make learning math fun, contact our team or try a free trial

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Topics: Personalized Learning, Technology in the Classroom

Is Math Still an Important Skill to Learn?

Posted by Jess Kuras on May 21, 2017 7:20:00 PM

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We've all heard the complaints from students about how they don't believe math will be useful in their lives after school, but what about their parents? How do they value math as a subject worth learning, particularly in relation to other skills?

Survey Results

A recent survey of more than 2500 parents found that over a third of them believe that math is only useful for people going into math-related careers, so the average American doesn't have much need for math. Researchers also noted that the parents tended to value reading skills over math. This creates an issue for teachers who must overcome this mindset from both students and their parents to not only teach math skills, but also teach the value of math in everyday life.

Early Math Skills

While most of the emphasis on early learning has been on reading, researchers have found that early math skills are just as important to long-term success. They believe the reason for this disconnect is two-fold: first, it's much easier for programs to encourage parents to pick up a book to read with their child. Libraries can easily support this message as well. Second, there is a culture of anxiety around math in America. It's much more culturally acceptable for people to claim they're "just not a math person" than admitting that they can't read well. Parents often have bad memories of not understanding math when they were younger, and the way math is taught changes often, with little visibility to parents. For these reasons, math is often left to schools with little support from home, or in early years.

Changing the Perception

As mentioned earlier, math skills are crucial from a young age. One long-term study found that math skills at the beginning of kindergarten were the best predictor of academic skills in eighth grade. In order to encourage parents to start working on math skills with their young children, it's important for those who work with young children—such as kindergarten and preschool teachers—to explain to parents how to talk about math with their children. Activities from estimating the number of fish in a tank at the pet store to looking for patterns in the tiles laid out on the floor can strengthen early math skills. For teachers of older students, reinforcing the importance of math skills such as logical reasoning and critical thinking can help parents understand why math is such a crucial skill for everyone, not just those going into math-related careers.

To learn how Wowzers K-8 Online Math program can make learning engaging and open a math dialogue between students and their parents or teachers, contact our team or try a free trial

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F: 888-502-2106

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Topics: Engaging Content, Offline Learning, Data, Core Curriculum, Scientific-Based Learning

Wowzers is a comprehensive online math program covering all Common Core State Standards for grades K-8. The research-based program adapts to each learner and allows for an individualized path through the curriculum. Content is presented in multiple ways, and appeals to tactile, auditory, and visual learners. Assessments mirror those found on high-stakes achievement tests and provide teachers and administrators with the information that they need to personalize learning for each student.

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