Monday, October 30, 2017

How do I measure my effectiveness?

This is a topic that weighs on me constantly. I'm working hard, I'm always busy but am I effective in my job? What does effectiveness look like and sound like for me? Too often I'm simply looking at how many things I'm getting crossed off of my to do list. Although that relieves some stress and makes me feel productive it does not bring me the joy of feeling like what I have done has made a difference in the life of someone else.

Ultimately I what to have an impact on improved student academic achievement and agency over their learning. Because I don't have direct contact with students, I must help teachers improve their instructional models.

From a practical standpoint I measure this by the feedback I get from teachers. In my conversations with them when planning or reviewing data, they are able to tell me the benefits (or lack of) what they are seeing as they implement strategies I'm coaching them on. I either leave a meeting feeling positive and upbeat that teachers are seeing increases in student achievement and agency or I leave deflated and pondering new solutions. Although this is not hard evidence of effectiveness, it is a dipstick and helps me to improve and iterate.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Dreambox & Prodigy Math: Digging into the Power of Differentiation

couros quoteBrandi Snead, Negley Elementary first grade teacher, has been using Dreambox and Prodigy Math with her students for about a month. Today, she kicked it up a notch. After learning how she could assign specific concepts aligned to her current math unit, she created an assignment in Prodigy Math for next week. She then started thinking about the needs of specific students in her class and realized, based on the data she had already accumulated, that not all of her students actually needed practice on the standards she assigned; two students had already demonstrated mastery of those concepts. She then created a separate assignment for those students that would extend their learning at the next conceptual level.

Brandi is discovering how to leverage technology in a blended learning model to efficiently differentiate learning for individual student needs. It is now possible for a teacher to deliver varying content concurrently to all students while efficiently gathering and disaggregating achievement data in real-time. This data in turn can help teachers make informed decisions to accelerate or remediate learning on a daily basis.

Prodigy Math is free and motivational, but Brandi’s primary digital math tool is  DreamBox. Over the past several weeks, students have been enjoying engaging activities in Dreambox during math stations. Dreambox is an adaptive program that automatically adjusts the content in response to how students engage with the program . Each student learns math along a learning path specific to their needs.

Although Dreambox will deliver the content students’ need at the level they need it, teachers can also assign lessons to target concepts aligned to the district curriculum timeline.


Brandi assigned two lessons for next week that engage students in math concepts covered in the current unit. She will be able to review data at the end of each day to determine who has mastered these concepts and who may need more concrete experiences that include use of manipulatives and teacher directed instruction. We also explored the long-term assignment functions in Dreambox that can be used for RTI progress monitoring.

There’s no quick fixes; tech is just a part of the equation.

I have seen online programs come and go. Each has it’s promises and statistics about effectiveness and student achievement. Technology is not a panacea for education challenges nor will it replace excellent teaching. We can’t plug kids into a program and think we can keep doing what we’ve always done while the technology works it’s magic. In the blended learning model we use technology to do what it does well; provide students access to engaging content while gathering, and organizing data in a way that allows great teachers to quickly respond to individual student needs.

As Brandi becomes more familiar with the differentiation features of both of these programs, she will be able to use them and the data she receives daily to further increase the customization of instruction. She is not only excited to share what she learned today with her blended learning partner, Christy Thomason, but also the entire first grade team. We are confident that the blended model along with the power of adaptive software and talented teachers will help our students excel in their understanding and enjoyment of math!

More Information
Visualizing Blended Learning: An Infographic
What is Adaptive Learning?
What Blended Learning Is – And Isn’t


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Developing Student Agency with Dreambox: My Weekly Data

I was speaking with several 1st grade blended learning cohort teachers this week and the topic turned to how students can track their progress in Dreambox. Dreambox has  online motivation tools and ways for students to check their progress. These include checkmarks when they complete a lesson, tokens, Adventure Friends that they can earn and achievement certificates once they master a standard. We were wanting something physical students could use to document progress and possibly incorporate goal setting and weekly reflection. I felt I needed to dig into the Dreambox experience as a student to  brainstorm ideas. After enrolling my dog Angus into Wendi Cruce’s first grade class, I  completed an entire lesson set in the “Pet Friends” area. Below is one idea of how teachers can incorporate tracking, goal setting and reflection into a weekly station.

data sheetMy Data– This is a fully editable Google doc that will allow students to document the number of tokens earned, the number of lessons completed along with a reflection question and a goal for next week. One way to use this could be to have reflection station each Friday. Some teachers have decided to turn off access to My House and Arcade during most of the week. You could give access to the Arcade on Friday during a reflection station. On Monday, students can glue a data sheet into their math journal. They can use their data sheet throughout the week to draw a circle in the tracking box each time they earn a token or put a check mark when they complete a lesson. In the Friday reflection station, students count how many tokens they’ve recorded then check their  menu bar confirm their accuracy. They will then record the number of tokens earned for the week in the total column. Next, students count

ss11the number of checkmarks representing lessons completed, check their accuracy under their avatar and record on their sheet. Finally, students will record something they felt they did well this week in math as well as something they want to improve for next week.

Adventure Friends– Another tracking tool you might choose to give students is the  Adventure Friends Checklist. As students progress, they may collect Adventure Friends. These are stored in “My House” and students can look to see which Adventure Friends they have collected by clicking on the bookshelf and record on their checklist in their math journal.  After recording their


data and writing their reflection, students may spend tokens to play games in the arcade. By only allowing access to the Arcade on Friday and weekends, it becomes a reward for their achievements without taking away from the math your want them engaged in during the week. While students work in the reflection station, you can meet with individuals or do small group reteaching.

Building Independence- Students will need to be explicitly taught the expectations for this station. I recommend that the first couple of times, you fill out the data tracking together to make sure they can be successful with this as an independent station. By setting expectations  for lesson completion each week, tracking progress, reflecting on work completed and setting goals for the next week, you are helping students develop agency by taking ownership and responsibility in their own learning.

Disclaimer– This is one idea developed in my head on a Sunday afternoon. You work in the trenches with your students and may have insights that will improve upon this with real kiddos! Please take this as just an idea and remix it or develop your own. Please feel free to add comments and your own ideas below!