A bumper crop of resources to help make the new academic year a success
Amazon Inspire is a free service for searching for, discovering, and distributing digital educational resources which aims to provide educators—regardless of funding or location—a platform to upload and share free digital teaching resources. The company is inviting educators to shape the evolution of this innovative service to best serve teachers as part of Amazon’s support of the U.S. Department of Education’s #GoOpen initiative. “To truly transform learning in our schools and ensure educational equity for all students—regardless of grade level or zip code—it is crucial that we put high-quality, open educational resources at teachers’ fingertips,” said Joseph South, director of the Office of Technology at the U.S. Department of Education. “The leadership of states, districts, and innovative platform providers is critical for setting a vision and creating an open ecosystem where educators and students can access the tools, content, and expertise necessary to thrive in a connected world. Amazon joins educators from around the country in recognizing the power of digital learning to transform the classroom, by creating a personalized, engaging learning environment for all students,” said Rohit Agarwal, general manager of Amazon K–12 Education. The service is in the beta stage but is ready for teachers to use and provide feedback.
• Smart search, which enables teachers to explore resources by grade level, standard; or even district. Educators can filter search results using more than ten criteria;
• Collections where educators can group resources. They can describe the collection; curate the resources in it, recommend an order for going through the resources, and share the collection with other teachers;
• Simple upload—an intuitive upload interface with which educators can drag and drop files they want to share, add basic metadata such as title, description, grade, and subject, and publish the content on the service;
• Reviews—teachers can rate and review resources;
• Built-in accessibility features—for example, educators can navigate using popular screen readers, and users are also able to indicate the accessibility features of resources they upload; Publishers are also contributing digital educational resources to the service, and the U.S. Department of Education is providing resources from College Scorecard, its collection of information for making choices about which college to attend. As the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s life is celebrated, the Folger Shakespeare Library is sharing more than 2,000 teaching resources on the service in time for back-to-school. These resources link directly to classroom instruction about Shakespeare’s plays, including the Folger editions, the favorite Shakespeare text used in Americanclassrooms.
Pearson/Google Virtual Reality Experiences
Pearson is collaborating with Google to bring the next generation of interactive, 360° learning content to students around the world, allowing them to travel to the places they learn about in school, from Mars to the Great Barrier Reef. Available for back-to-school 2016, Google Expeditions are immersive experiences that allow teachers to take their classes on virtual field trips using a smartphone or tablet and a virtual reality viewer. The first Pearson content that will be part of a Google Expedition is a 3D tour of the London Transport Museum from the perspective of Albert Stanley, a British-American businessman who saved the British transportation system in the early 1900s. When students put on Google Cardboard, they will travel to the museum, where they will take an immersive tour—through Stanley’s eyes—learning the history of transportation in Britain, while also viewing old buses, trains, and trams from the museum’s collection of 450,000 artifacts and clicking on voice-activated hot spots in the tour when they want to go deeper or change direction. The technology offers a myriad of opportunities for virtual linguistic and cultural immersion.
itslearning has launched a new personalized learning-management platform. “Our main focus with this new platform is enhancing the user experience,” said Arne Bergby, itslearning CEO. “So we’ve done a great deal of research to understand what our users are really trying to do when they use our platform. And we’ve tested and rebuilt the platform so that educators can more easily carry out their core tasks and get support from a system that is truly intuitive and doesn’t complicate their work but rather puts the focus on student learning outcomes.” Teachers now have a larger itslearning library of teacher-created and third-party resources with which to support and enrich instruction, including a repository of more than 20 million objects and over 5 million open education resources. These have been revamped to make it easier for educators to access them as well as to find and share resources.
SmartFlip Common Core Guide for Grade 2
Simply Novel has released SmartFlip™ Common Core Reference Guide for English Language Arts Grade 2, joining the line of guides for grades 2–12. These handy spiral-bound flip books include the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in their basic form and break down each standard into easily understandable guidelines for CCSS skill mastery. Each SmartFlip features hundreds of specific, rigorous, standard-by standard question stems and prompts designed to enable teachers to easily create lessons and assessments with the question types required. “When we evaluated our own products for Common Core alignment, we found that there were very few resources available that enabled our writers to specifically address the standards and raise the rigor in our literature guides. Since we knew that we were having trouble finding resources to help us create our materials in line with the Common Core, we knew teachers were in the same predicament when trying to design their own lessons and assessments. We decided to create our SmartFlip Common Core Reference Guides for teachers to help fill that need, and so far, the response has been overwhelming. Teachers are thrilled,” said Kristen Bowers, president and owner of Simply Novel.
aimswebPlus Simplifies Student Information
Pearson has launched aimswebPlus to enable educators to assess student progress, analyze data, set goals for individual students, and observe growth trends for an entire district—all in one place. Built on the foundation of a product that first launched in 2000, aimswebPlus draws upon more than 30 years of published research to inform its design. It uses both timed curriculum-based measures and untimed standards-based measures to assess skills and inform instruction.Teachers can monitor the progress of students, determine the effectiveness of instruction, and manage student assessment data—all through one online system—to keep all students on the path to success. The curriculum-based measures focus on the automaticity of foundational skills and provide short, indicative and predictive measures of student success, allowing for ongoing progress monitoring. The new standards-based assessments are designed to more closely reflect a student’s performance on high-stakes tests and give more diagnostic information, such as specific strengths and weaknesses in math and reading skills. These untimed measures are built to reflect the expectations of state standards. New features include:
• Online assessment delivery for grades two and up
• New summary reports and detailed student and class reports that translate easily to daily instructional decisions
• Quick, effective math and reading assessments that provide reports with Lexile reading and Quantile math measures
• Online test administration and instant progress reporting
• Updated norms and new measures
• Compatibility with any curriculum
Pearson TELL Optimized for Android and iPad
Pearson’s Test of English Language Learning (TELL) is now compatible with iPads and Android tablets. Launched last year, TELL leverages automated scoring technologies to assess students’ listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills, providing teachers quick access to the information they need to inform instruction and district leaders the data and reports they need to meet state and federal reporting requirements. Among the new districts that will implement TELL for back-to-school 2016 is the Archdiocese of Washington, which educates more than 27,000 children in Washington, DC, and five counties in Maryland. “With a growing population of English learners representing more than 20 different languages, the Archdiocese of Washington is deeply committed to increasing accessibility for all families in the Washington metropolitan area to the excellent education provided in Catholic schools. Beginning this fall, TELL will be used to identify students who are eligible for Title III services, which will help to ensure that our schools have access to the resources necessary to support the needs of English learners,” said Brian Radziwill, director for government programs and grants. Another district that is using TELL is San Bernardino City Unified School District (SBCUSD), in California, serving more than 50,000 students, 26% of whom are English learners. Most recently, SBCUSD celebrated an 85% graduation rate for the class of 2015 and an 82% rate for their English learner students. Especially noteworthy is the 11% increase for English learners from the previous year. During the 201516 school year, SBCUSD piloted TELL with 1,000 ELLs in grades K–2, and grades 9–10. The team sought feedback from teachers on several items but in particular focused on ease of administration, preparation, implementation, scoring, and data analysis to make connections to the California ELD standards. In 2016–2017, SBCUSD plans to expand its TELL implementation to its 73 school sites. The enhancements to TELL include multiyear progress reports that allow schools to ensure that students are making steady progress from one academic year to the next. TELL also now provides a report for parents, in both English and Spanish, so that they can see how their students are progressing.
Flexcat Adds Features
Classroom audio provider Lightspeed Technologies has introduced three new features to its Flexcat classroom audio system designed for small-group learning, which consists of a wearable microphone for the teacher, a speaker for whole-group instruction, and a set of two-way audio pods that allow teachers to listen and speak to small groups from anywhere in the classroom so they can reinforce, respond to, and challenge students. Lightspeed’s new mobile app turns teachers’ iOS devices into remote controls. This allows them to switch among the twoway audio pods directly from their devices, making the Flexcat a simpler and more seamless tool for gathering critical learning insights. Included with the app is expanded coverage for up to twelve audio pods, creating a powerful tool for large classrooms, small-group instruction, team teaching, and professional development events. Flexcat now also supports whisper coaching, a variation on informative assessment. Through a small earpiece worn by teachers and their mentors, mentors can listen in to ongoing conversations between teachers and student groups. It also allows teachers and mentors to have private conversations between their earpieces for real-time coaching and highlighting teachable moments.
GRADE Goes Online
Pearson’s GRADE (Group Reading Assessment and Diagnostic Evaluation) has been used in classrooms for more than 15 years. GRADE is used to help determine what developmental skills students have mastered and where they need instruction or intervention. Based on scientific research, it provides the components educators need to accurately and efficiently assess student competencies in reading, recognizing that learning to read is not a singular, one-dimensional process. As students learn to read, they progress through a series of benchmarks, each representing different kinds of learning tasks. Each subtest allows educators to assess student progress in achieving these benchmarks and to develop
more effective instruction.
Revision Assistant Helps Improve Student Writing
Turnitin has launched Revision Assistant, a formative writing tool giving students immediate,actionable feedback on all aspects of their writing. Designed for grades 6–12 and developmental writing in higher education, the tool extends teachers’ reach by giving students immediate formative feedback during the writing process. “Writing is the one subject critical to academic and career success yet almost entirely unsupported by existing educational technology. Of the hundreds of reading and math applications to support instruction, very few provide meaningful feedback on writing beyond grammar and spell checking,” said Chris Caren, CEO of Turnitin. “Revision Assistant gives student holistic, specific feedback on their writing in a way that encourages them to revise multiple times.” Revision Assistant’s feedback is multifaceted—as students write, they can request a “signal check,” which provides a student-friendly visualization of how they are performing on writing traits such as focus, use of evidence, or organization. Actionable comments appear in the margins of students’ compositions and are tied to sentences highlighted in the text. This feedback emphasizes areas of strength, as well as suggestions for sentence-level improvements. The combination of positive and constructive comments encourages students to continue revising, and in the process, their writing improves. Students can revise and get feedback as many times as they would like before sharing their work with their teachers.
Feedback Studio Relaunched
Turnitin has also announced a new version of its flagship product with a focus on ease-ofuse, accessibility for students, and new mobile features. Formerly known as Turnitin, the
new version is being renamed Turnitin Feedback Studio and is available to its two million
educators and 30 million students on an opt-in basis. The product has been reimagined from front to back, with an emphasis on providing instructors tools to give relevant feedback that students will understand and learn from while also supporting academic integrity. “Worldwide, instructors rely on Turnitin for preventing plagiarism in student writing. Turnitin Feedback Studio goes a step further in helping students become better writers by giving instructors a single place to quickly provide direct, actionable feedback on all aspects of student work,” said Will Murray, chief product officer at Turnitin.
Ladybird Readers for English Language Learners
Ladybird has launched Ladybird Readers, a new graded reading series, specifically written for children learning English as a foreign or second language. The series combines a
range of traditional tales, popular characters, new fiction, and nonfiction, with the carefully
structured language progression required by young learners. Ladybird Readers is recommended for children aged 5–9 and is divided into four levels, aligned to the Common European Framework. The Cambridge English: Young Learners (YLE) exam requirements
have been used to develop the series, which covers objectives from the Starters, Movers,
and Flyers stages. The 28 readers each have accompanying full-color activity books containing listening activities and songs, as well as reading, writing, speaking, critical thinking,and YLE practice activities. In addition to the Readers and the Activity Books, a range of support materials are available online. The website includes audio to accompany each reader and activity book (available in both British and American English accents), answer keys, resources, and a downloadable user guide. Vocabulary acquisition is key to the series, through subtle repetition to familiarize children with the key words used
in each reader. Ladybird is an internationally famous publisher of children’s books and has
been helping children learn to read for over 100 years. The Ladybird strategy of “education through the enjoyment of storytelling” is implemented throughout this new series.
Essential Spanish Vocabulary Flashcards App
Breaking the Barrier’s Essential Spanish Vocabulary Flashcards, the company’s first
iOS app, has been selected by Apple as a featured app in its store. The app employs
state-of-the-art voice-recognition technology to enable learners to interact with their
devices—even offline—to learn the most useful words in the Spanish language. Audio
by native speakers and entertaining quizzes engage and encourage learners as they
progress from one level to the next. Essential Spanish Vocabulary Flashcards
uses the same vocabulary lists as Breaking the Barrier’s world language series, making
it the perfect companion for the print and digital books. The series helps learners read,
write, and speak the target language fluently while developing a deep understanding and
appreciation of the various cultures and traditions associated with each language. Developed by Groton School teacher and dean of faculty, John Conner the Breaking the Barrier world language series gives learners everywhere access to the same rigorous and effective language-learning experience found in one of America’s top schools.