Cool Tool | English Central

CREDIT English CentralFor English language learners in the classroom, there’s a new interactive edtech tool that allows self-study and one-on-one tutoring anytime, anywhere. EnglishCentral GoLive! is one of the first English language learning platforms that fully integrates interactive video learning with one-on-one online tutoring for English as a Second Language (ESL) students. The tool combines the web’s best English videos, proprietary IntelliSpeech℠ speech assessment technology, an adaptive vocabulary learning system and live tutors giving students a complete and interactive platform for practicing English conversation online. Learners can schedule a lesson on any one of EnglishCentral’s 10,000 videos lessons, or 50 online courses, including those from dozens of English language learning publishers such as Cambridge University Press. What’s unique about it is that, now with the integration of live tutoring, ELL students have the ability to practice speaking English with experts from their mobile devices as well as on the web – to accelerate conversational English in an interactive and fun way. In an analysis of over 50,000 learners in Japan, students make progress two times faster when they’re able to practice from their mobile devices. This tool is affordable and customizable and has been adopted in over 400 universities worldwide. They’ve also partnered with the world’s largest private and online English language schools. See how it works here.

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Big Fun in Education

A successful edtech company’s CEO accounts for efficient learning and proper tools.

INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero

CREDIT Glynn Willett MobyMaxNow one of the fastest growing curriculum systems in the U.S., MobyMax has over 1,000 new teachers registering each day. What exactly does it do? “It finds and fixes missing skills in math, math fact fluency, language/grammar, vocabulary, reading, and writing,” says Glynn Willett (pictured), co-founder of the innovative learning ecosystem. From one of the most advanced systems for teaching vocabulary to their writing module that automates the grading process, last year, students using the platform for 40 hours averaged more than a 1.4 grade level increase in math and language arts. “You can see the difference we are making for

I believe that tablets and personalized learning will change everything, regardless of a country’s current education difficulties. No country will want to be left behind when students can learn twice as fast.

students and teachers by reading our daily stream of ‘Rave Reviews’. These thank you notes that we get each day make it easy to forget my earlier career in accounting and taxes,” says Glynn, who earned his B.A. in accounting at the University of Maine and was once named Maine’s Entrepreneur of the Year after changing the professional tax preparation industry by creating affordable, user-friendly tax software (later selling the company). Here, Glynn talks about big fun for education, what makes for the most efficient way to learn in his experience, and what continued expansion will allow him to do for education. 

What does the name “MobyMax” mean?

Glynn: We wanted a name that said “huge” and “fun,” which is where “Moby” came from. We added “Max” to emphasize our goal of creating a comprehensive K-8 curriculum and e-learning platform.

What exactly is it?

Glynn: It’s a comprehensive K-8 curriculum and education system that brings the power of personalized learning to all students. To ensure that all students have access to high-quality curriculum and learning tools, the curriculum is free.

What does it do?

Glynn: It teaches curriculum so effectively that students learn twice as fast, whether they are learning new material or catching up to grade level. For example our find-and-fix Math placement tests and lessons show students increasing more than one and a half grade levels with just 40 hours of work. With Vocabulary, students only practice words they don’t know and then practice with a spaced-interval-training strategy that enables students to retain what they’ve learned over time. In Science and Social Studies, students not only gain knowledge at twice the speed they would using paper textbooks, but more importantly, improve their cognitive skills, as well.

What are the benefits of using this curriculum?

Glynn: Students learn twice as fast. Students retain what they learn over longer periods of time. And students enjoy learning more. Teachers benefit by being able to adapt and differentiate curriculum based on the individual needs of every student.

What sets this apart from similar products?

Glynn: No other curriculum can double the speed at which kids learn, is free, and covers all subjects. Just as importantly, it integrates a comprehensive K-8 curriculum and a full suite of teacher tools into a single platform, which makes it so valuable to teachers. The ability to see a student’s complete picture gives teachers a huge advantage. Many products focus on a single subject or feature. By offering a complete, integrated solution it gives teachers and students all of the tools they need to learn twice as fast. 

Where did it originate? When was it developed?

Glynn: Originally, our team created an OER publishing platform for teachers as well as an online tutoring platform. After building out those platforms, we learned we could create highly effective curriculum at fraction of the price that larger publishers charged. We launched it five years ago with that goal, and have been working to achieve it ever since.

Who is it particularly tailored for?

Glynn: Our personalized learning is for all students. It’s for all teachers, too! All students should have the opportunity to learn twice as fast, whether they are getting to grade level or reaching far beyond. All teachers need to find and fix gaps in their student’s knowledge, regardless of what level the student is at. It’s such a valuable tool because every teacher can use it to help every student

However, not all schools have the technology infrastructure to switch to personalized learning yet so some teachers depend on us as an essential supplemental tool. A school’s special ed department usually has the classroom technology and enthusiastically adopts our system.

What sort of formative experiences in your own education helped to inform your approach to creating this?

Glynn: If you eliminate boredom in schools, you get the lovely outcome of students learning twice as fast. My personal goal is to eliminate the boredom and wasted time I experienced in the “lockstep” classroom of my generation.

What are your thoughts on education in general these days? What is your take on technology in education?

Glynn: Every country has a different approach to education and each is experiencing different problems. Finland’s rise and fall within a single generation is fascinating. It also doesn’t have to be the norm. I believe that tablets and personalized learning will change everything, regardless of a country’s current education difficulties. No country will want to be left behind when students can learn twice as fast.

How do your offerings address some of your concerns about education? What is your vision for the future of your company?

Glynn: Math NAEP scores dropped for the first time since the tests began but it’s encouraging to see the rapid adoption of our solution and know that it can radically improve student learning.

With our rapid growth, we envision this being in every classroom in the U.S. While this is great achieving this company goal, I see that we can create a more profound change in education.

With the millions of students using it every day now and our ability to create curriculum quickly and cost effectively, we will soon be able to compare the effectiveness of different teaching strategies and methods. For example, imagine laying to rest the “religious wars” over which is the best way to teach multiplication?

I think this new type of education research will profoundly change the arguments over Common Core standards and other hot-button issues in education.

I think this new type of education research will profoundly change the arguments over Common Core standards and other hot-button issues in education.

With so many different learning styles in the classroom, how do gamification, rewards and an interactive curriculum level the playing field for all students?

Glynn: I think it’s important to point out that while gamification is engaging for students, it’s not the most efficient way to learn. We’ve found that rewards, recognition, interesting and adaptive curriculum, and rapid 2X student progress work for all students.

You recently launched Cognitive Skills Science. Why is science an important subject to understand at a young age? 

Glynn: Most kids are absolutely fascinated by how the world works, whether they consider it “science” or not. Understanding basic science helps students succeed in every other subject area, including language and visual arts. Learning to think critically and creatively with cognitive skill manipulatives gives kids the foundation they need to master all of their subjects.

Anything else you care to add or emphasize?

Glynn: Your questions have been great. I want to reiterate that all teachers can immediately help all their students with our solution. It takes less than five minutes to sign up and there’s no cost for the basic curriculum. Whether you want to help your students catch up to grade level or exceed it, MobyMax can help!

Victor Rivero is the Editor in Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to:

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Spark in Your Data

Efficient, holistic, and actionable analytics for the entire school community. 

GUEST COLUMN | by Michael Williamson

CREDIT Longleaf SolutionsIn America’s K-12 school districts, extremely valuable student performance data is spread out among many different systems and platforms. It’s tedious, expensive and virtually impossible to make data-driven informed decisions about students without a lot of manual work. Educators spend all their time gathering this disparate student data and run out of time to deeply analyze the data to gain the wisdom needed to take action with each student to meet their unique needs.

When we discuss how to build K-12 data management systems to solve this problem, it is imperative we provide educators with the best tools so they can maximize their time connecting individually with each student. Educators should have the ability to review all-important information quickly and easily, and allocate the best resources and tools to build a personalized plan to maximize the student’s individual performance. When it comes to

Edtech companies have a responsibility to develop efficient products with actionable data for the entire school community.

having a secure, comprehensive data management platform, the below factors are crucial. This is my “can’t live without it” list for the very best data and analytics tools:

All Data In One Place

The first step in using data to make decisions is to have the most comprehensive collection of data in one integrated location. Data is typically collected among dozens of different products that measure student proficiencies across a host of different domains. Seamlessly integrating this data into one single location provides educators with a one-stop-shop for all student performance data. 

Going beyond student data to operational data, using data holistically is important. For example, at a district level: having the ability to connect data points across student achievement, teacher effectiveness and financial investments — provides powerful opportunities to make the very best decisions for students. 

The User Experience

The number one request that we have heard from teachers over the past ten years is that using data needs to be easy-to-use and must fit within the flow of a teacher’s busy workday. Clunky software won’t make the cut. I’m also a firm believer that the products should be beautiful. Why not? We have the luxury of technology progress that enables us to go beyond user-friendly and to request beautiful, clean design.

We’ve also learned that different users have different needs around using data in schools. One size fits all user experiences don’t work well. We spent weeks in an elementary school as we were designing our data analytics tools, BaselineEdge, studying how elementary teachers organized their data points. What began as notecards and pushpins ended up as a


__ All in one place. Having the ability to connect data points across student achievement, teacher effectiveness and financial investments — provides powerful opportunities to make the very best decisions for students. 

__ User experience. The number one request that we have heard from teachers over the past ten years is that using data needs to be easy-to-use and must fit within the flow of a teacher’s busy workday.

__ Actionable data. The advances in the past ten years of collecting and warehousing data has been incredible, but it’s important now to organize that data and make the data actionable.

Source: Michael Williamson

secure digital data wall with student photos matching faces to the data point. Another example: the data experience that we offer in secondary schools through our products was designed by high school teachers and meets their specific and unique needs.

Lastly, the user experience of the data should reach all stakeholders. Classroom teachers, specialists, school instructional teams, and administrators are all obvious stakeholders. What about parents and the students themselves? The entire school community needs to be included in the dialogue of student progress. For example, our Skedula and Pupilpath portals integrate one-on-one student-to-teacher and teacher-to-parent communication. Being able to give users a platform to communicate real-time data elevates communication and moves data way beyond quantitative.

Putting the “Spark” in Your Data: Connecting to Personalized Action

Using data with no action taken is like having a conversation with no spark: flat. The advances in the past ten years of collecting and warehousing data has been incredible, but it’s important now to organize that data and make the data actionable. A system that merely stores “old” data isn’t going to help the teacher or the child. The product needs to provide real-time data and allow the teacher to use the data in an actionable, clear, and easy way.

Ideally, data systems need to connect “action” to the data. Going beyond reports and dashboards, data should allow a user to easily and quickly take action for each individual student. Based on the data you are reviewing, what are you going to do for the student who needs help? To find the answer, you need a seamless way to take all of this important data and prescribe a personalized success plan.

K-12 data analytics companies must realize that in 2015 and into 2016, this isn’t an “either-or” situation for which features educators choose in their software. Educators need all of these factors to effectively personalize learning. Edtech companies have a responsibility to develop efficient products with actionable data for the entire school community. These are exciting times to be part of the rapid changes that are happening in the market and we are grateful to have the opportunity to make a positive impact for teachers and students.

Michael Williamson is the founder and CEO of Longleaf Solutions, a company focused on K-12 data and performance management solutions. In August of 2015, Longleaf merged with CaseNEX, LLC, bringing together two leaders in the edtech field, along with DataCation and Baseline Edge Products. Combined, the products are used in over 5,000 schools representing over 1.7 million students. 

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A Simple Mission

Perspective from edtech company expanding from Silicon Valley to Research Triangle.

GUEST COLUMN | by Jennifer Gu

CREDIT IXL LearningWhen we founded our company in 1998, we had a simple mission: to solve real-world problems in education with the best technology possible. Today, we are doing just that, having built one of the industry’s most popular and most immersive online learning experiences. Recently, we’ve taken a big step forward by opening our first office on the East Coast, in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Our products, which today include offerings in Math and English Language Arts (Science and Social Studies just launched on November 15), deliver an immersive learning experience that sparks curiosity and builds confidence. With over 5,000 skills, we’ve created what we believe is the most comprehensive educational technology product available, with engaging content covering preschool to precalculus, grammar to geometry. This content, carefully crafted by

We are looking for experienced engineers and curriculum designers who share our passion for helping schools teach and students learn.

teams of Ph.D.s, teachers, and technologists, helps students master rigorous material through our adaptive technology and strategically mapped progressions that build fluency.

A Workable Approach

This approach works. Today, one in 10 students in the U.S. uses our products and more than 20 billion questions have been asked and answered around the world on our platform. This also means that we’ve grown rapidly since we started. Our headquarters in Silicon Valley holds more than 200 employees – from content creators to sales and engineering staff and everything in between. Now, it’s time to expand.

While we’ve achieved much over the last 17 years, there’s still much for us to do. Gaining a foothold in Raleigh-Durham is an important part of that. With thousands of teachers and schools and hundreds of thousands of students on the East Coast using our technology, it’s important that we have sales, marketing, and customer support on the ground to help serve them better.

A Shared Passion

Additionally, Raleigh’s position in the Research Triangle gives us access to world-class talent. We feel strongly that this new office location will help us recruit the high-quality team members we need to effectively expand and solidify our East Coast presence. Our new office is already 20-strong in the areas of sales, curriculum development, and customer support, and we are actively hiring more. We are looking for experienced engineers and curriculum designers who share our passion for helping schools teach and students learn.

But more than expanding our operations, we are continuing to expand our content and add new product features to enhance the learning experience we provide for teachers and students. Recently, we added English Language Arts content for grades 11 and 12 to our platform. Soon, we’ll be upgrading our mobile apps, and revamping our analytics and reports in order to help teachers better track how their students are performing and identify areas for improvement. And, we’re introducing entirely new subjects—science and social studies—later this year.

We hope this has given you a taste of what we are all about—we’re thrilled about our new office and the opportunities we now have to better support your teaching, whether you’re based on the East Coast or elsewhere around the country. We invite you to visit us and try us out for free, or to share your feedback with us.

Jennifer Gu is Executive Vice President of IXL Learning. Jennifer joined IXL from Oracle, where she was a senior development manager. At IXL, she oversees day-to-day operations and has been instrumental in developing the company’s products and formulating its sales and marketing strategies. She has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of California, Berkeley, a master’s in computer science from Stanford, and a joint MBA from UC Berkeley and Columbia.

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Getting Around in Galileo’s World

OU launches mobile app, simplifies library, landmark and exhibit navigation.

GUEST COLUMN | by Matthew Cook

CREDIT OU Galileo ExhibitThe University of Oklahoma (OU) is home to the largest research library in the state of Oklahoma, the OU Libraries system. Renowned for its rich portfolio of historical books and special history of science collections, the OU Libraries has been recognized as one of the most beautiful, historic campus libraries in the country.

With 17,000 linear feet of manuscripts and archives, more than one million photographs and a million plus maps, as well as the unique Peggy V. Helmerich Collaborative Learning Center, the OU Libraries is a popular destination for students, faculty and visitors. In fact, the library system has an average of 3,300 visitors – student and non-students alike – per day, which translates to over one million visits a year. While the incredible resources the libraries possess are a powerful draw for visitors, its sheer scope and size can be quite intimidating and complicated to navigate, especially for first-time users.

Navigating Simplified

Seeing the confusion that some of our visitors were experiencing upon entering this rather complex environment, we wanted to find a way to simplify it, to help our visitors more easily get around our seven-floor, 400,000 square feet of facilities and more quickly locate the resources they need. We thought that a good approach would be to use the technology that is in virtually all of our visitors’ pockets – their smartphones – to unite our vast digital and physical services, combine the online and offline library experience, and guide users between resources.

We selected Aruba Networks’ Beacons to aid navigation within Bizzell Library and a handful of other landmark locations and selected Aruba’s Meridian App Platform to develop our content-rich, interactive OU NavApp mobile app, which is free and available for Android and Apple devices.

With NavApp, visitors can use their mobile devices to find their way through the OU Libraries and to other Norman Campus landmarks, such as the National Weather Center, the Fred Jones Museum and the Sam Noble Natural History Museum.

The new app provides a map for every publicly accessible area in Bizzell Library. It features a “blue dot” that indicate a user’s current location and provides turn-by-turn directions to the research materials of interest, as well as to gallery exhibits and necessities such as restrooms, elevators and exits. Because NavApp is organized by type of user – student, faculty or visitor – users can quickly find the information and resources that are most relevant to them.

NavApp has been a valuable addition to our safety and security processes as well. The accessibility features that are built into the Meridian Mobile App platform allows us to provide users with disabilities the easiest route to their points of interest using elevators. In addition, we have added watermarks to the floors on our maps to show visitors where they should go to be in the safest location when storms hit.

Enhanced Experience

In addition to aiding with navigation, NavApp also provides location-based educational content to enrich the visitor’s library experience. For example, we are currently housing an exhibit called “Galileo’s World”. Our Bizzell Library was chosen to host this exhibit in part because we have a complete and rare set of first edition Galileo publications from 16th century Italy, some of which contain Galileo’s own handwriting in the margins. With NavApp, visitors to Galileo’s World can access detailed information about different aspects of the exhibit, enriching their understanding of the topic at hand. When passing by an exhibit concerning “Galileo and China”, for example, users will be given notifications that link to high resolution scans of rare manuscripts that they can then examine in detail on their mobile devices.

The feedback we have received on NavApp since its launch has been overwhelmingly positive, and app uptake is tracking steadily as our marketing campaign gears up to expose more users (and user groups) to this innovative tool. In the future, we envision deploying it across the entire campus, so users can travel between and within any building on campus, but for now, we are focusing on getting the app into people’s hands, so they can more easily navigate to and engage with our diverse campus resources.

Matthew Cook is an Emerging Technologies Librarian at the University of Oklahoma. Contact him through this page. Also out more of Matt’s great work on this page.

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