Building Curricula for Makerspaces

What’s the difference between makerspaces and other trends in education and technology? Well, in fact makerspaces don’t just represent one trend but rather all of them. That’s because these hybrid computer labs/art studios/machine shops can encompass any educational device or technology a maker might want to put into them. The sky’s the limit, and more schools and libraries are beginning to take notice and incorporate makerspaces into innovative curricula.

Makerspace

What happens in makerspaces?

Makerspaces are places where learners can make things. Students are encouraged to:

  • create
  • experiment
  • tinker
  • collaborate

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10 Benefits of Gap Analysis

The educational market is in flux. States are pushing back from both Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and assessments linked to the CCSS. States and publishers are waiting to see:

  • Will funding be directed to charter schools?puzzle-silo-small
  • How many more states will drop out of the CCSS?
  • Will states want summative, formative, or competency-based tests?
  • How will products align to changing state standards?
  • What products should states, districts, and publishers develop to meet current market needs?

Many states are moving to create their own standards. How will these new standards affect the educational market? What steps must states and publishers take?

All the uncertainty in the market calls for gap analyses. A gap analysis identifies how current products are aligned to new standards, which standards still correlate, and what’s missing—gaps where new standards are not well covered.gap-analysis-circle

Publishers need to ensure that their products and assessments readily address the changing needs of states and districts.

States and districts need to know how their new standards align to older standards. Since most states adopted CCSS, new standards usually are analyzed and compared to CCSS.

What actions are taken during a gap analysis? Continue reading

4 Keys to Developing Spanish Assessments

world-languages

World Languages & Education #1 … an ongoing series

As we discussed in recent posts, the assessment market is in flux. But this is nothing new. The passage of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2002 disrupted the market, and for some companies this turned out to be a boon, as spending on state-level assessments nearly tripled in the next 6 years. As you can see from this graph, state-level assessment spending has decreased since 2008, while classroom assessment spending has continued to grow.

Assessment-Spending-Graph

Source: based on Simba data reported by Education Week.

Just as the change in 2002 represented an opportunity for many companies, the shifts we see now may also have a silver lining. And for one area in particular, Spanish assessments, there may be continued growth, especially in the classroom market. Why? Regardless of other shifts that may occur, students with Spanish as the first language comprise by far the largest population among English Language Learners (ELL) in the United States, at 71%, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

Not surprisingly, many states have programs to improve instruction for ELL and other multilingual students. See, for example, the New York State Education Department’s Blueprint for English Language Learner Success.

Is there room for improvement? In 2015, 38.8 million students in the United States who spoke a foreign language at home were fully proficient in English, up from 12.9 million in 1980. This huge improvement accompanied an overall increase in the Hispanic population. However, in 2015, 40% of the ELL population was considered to have Limited English Proficiency (LEP). These students need and deserve our attention.

What Is the Best Way to Help ELL Students?

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5 Keys to Digital Literacy

Recently, we premiered our digital lesson on the Boston Massacre at the ISTE and ILA conferences. The lesson was a big hit. It inspired many discussions with technology coordinators and educators on what makes a lesson good for digital literacy. The table below summarizes what we learned, and the video that follows gives concrete examples of how the 5 keys to digital literacy are executed in the Boston Massacre lesson.

5 Keys to Digital Literacy
key-flipped-small 1 Make sure the lesson has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
key-flipped-small 2 Each interactive should build on the previous one so that students gain practice and automaticity in skills and strategies.
key-flipped-small 3 Processes for working through a digital lesson need to be consistent.
key-flipped-small 4 Cross-curricular activities encourage students to employ skills and strategies from other disciplines in new ways.
key-flipped-small 5 Make sure students are using data, analyzing it, and using 21st-century skills.



Are We There Yet?

Yes!

According to a Pew Research Center study, How Teachers Are Using Technology at Home and in Their Classrooms, 92 percent of teachers say the Internet has a major impact on their teaching, and 75 percent say that digital tools have added demands to their lesson planning. More than ever, it is important to choose the right lessons.

Digital lessons offer teachers positive ways to manage their classroom instruction. Using online lessons, students can work independently at their own pace, freeing teachers to work with small groups. Digital lessons that incorporate the 5 keys can build many 21st-century skills, including digital literacy.

We see an urgent need for publishers to execute lessons like the Boston Massacre on a large scale. Students need fresh, inspiring interactives they can immediately connect with, but there also needs to be a balance in which consistency and familiarity reduces the learning curve. The best recipe we have found is up-front planning, where instructional designers collaborate with the editorial and digital solutions teams. The result is something every publisher needs: efficient development of a menu of interactive options that can be executed where they best match the content needs of the curriculum.

Victory’s Vendor and Partnership Processes

In our recent blog post, Instructional Design 101, we provided an overview of several popular instructional design models. One of these, the original ADDIE model, was a linear approach with some iterative features. It evolved to be more cyclical, and spawned many other models. In similar fashion, our linear workflows at Victory have evolved to keep up with rapid changes in our industry.

Watch this video for a quick look at Victory’s vendor and partnership processes. Many projects do not require a partnership process; we originally used it to develop digital products, but it has many benefits for complex print products as well.

The video also references backward design, which we first blogged about in Talking to the Test: The Learning Continuum. In backward design, the initial development focuses on assessments because they determine what evidence we will accept as proof of mastery of the associated learning objectives. Again, not every project warrants a backward-design approach. It makes the most sense for subjects with open-ended user experiences that are hard to assess and hard to teach. We have found that if most of the assessment is traditional, then a traditional development process generally will also be sufficient.

metacog Building Its Deep Learning Analytics Platform with Databricks

Victory’s spinoff metacog was just featured in a blog post by Databricks, a company founded by the team that created Apache Spark, a powerful open-source data processing engine. See the Databricks blog post below.

metacog has been hard at work releasing new capabilities of its learning analytics platform, while at the same time enhancing existing capabilities. If you offer subscription-based products, you know that your customers expect continuous improvement. With metacog, we partner with you to deliver new capabilities in deep learning analytics that you can easily integrate into your products to generate new data-driven business models and revenue streams.

Why data analytics for adaptive and competency-based learning is so challenging

You may have seen many companies offering data analytics applied to learning products. If you look closely, most of the time what is offered is “administrative-level” data and simple scoring data:

  • Time-on-task data – How long did learners use the interactive?
  • “Attendance” data – Did learners participate?
  • SCORM-compliant scores reported to a learning management system (LMS) – How well are learners doing?
  • Simple score reports – How many right, how many wrong?

It turns out that in order to improve anything, you have to be able to measure it, but so far in education we have been measuring the wrong thing – the final answer.

This explains why scoring is the key issue. In the past, most open-ended assessments had to be human-scored. And this greatly reduces the frequency with which teachers and professors assign open-ended assessments. Yet it is open-ended tasks that best assess the ability of a candidate to perform well in today’s job market.

Why metacog is different

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U.S. Education Market Snapshot: English Language Learners (ELLs)

The Early Days

In the 1960s, Victoria Porras attended Melrose High School in Massachusetts as an exchange student from Bogotá, Colombia. She was far from home. Her host family, teachers, and new schoolmates were friendly and eager to help, but the everyday English spoken in the Boston area is accented, idiomatic, and studded with acronyms.

Victoria decided then that she would find a way to help other exchange students navigate spoken English. The idea of Victory Productions grew from that experience.

When Victoria established Victory Productions in 1995, its mission was to develop educational materials to teach English as a Second Language (ESL), but she found that what the market wanted was Spanish translation. Only later did the market recognize the need for materials dedicated to English Language Learners (ELLs).

The ELL market has certainly changed since those early years. Most early programs focused on teaching English language skills so students could learn in the mainstream classroom. The products offered to the market were Spanish student editions, bilingual student editions, and supplemental programs designed to build English reading skills. Today’s market, however, is different.

Today’s Market for English Language Learners (ELLs)

The U.S. Department of Education recorded 4.85 million English language learners (ELLs) enrolled in public schools in the academic year 2012–2013. ELLs attend public schools in all 50 states, so the market is national. As shown in the map below compiled by the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA), the greatest populations of ELLs (by percent of total enrollment) are in southwestern states. In 2012, there were six states with a 10% or higher density of ELLs: California, Texas, Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, and New Mexico. On the east coast, only three states—Florida, New York, and Virginia—ranked in the top fifteen states in ELL student density.

U.S. State Map of Highest Density of English Language Learners (ELLs)

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Instructional Design 101

Before we plunge into instructional design, let’s step back. What does it mean to design? Here’s the definition, according to Merriam-Webster:

Design

1. to create, fashion, execute, or construct according to plan: devise, contrive

2. a: to conceive and plan out in the mind

b: to have as a purpose: intend

c: to devise for a specific function or end

Design is applied in many fields. Engineers design, construct, test, and refine solutions to problems. Fashion designers bring art to life in clothing, jewelry, and accessories. And then there’s user interface design, video and film design, marketing, and even publishing. In educational publishing, design often refers to graphic design—envisioning and creating the visual look and feel of a book or product. However, graphic design is just one small part of another field of design essential to creating educational materials—instructional design.

Instructional Design Models

Over the years, numerous instructional design models have been developed that serve as frameworks for modules or lessons, by:

  • increasing and/or enhancing the possibility of learning, and
  • encouraging the engagement of learners so that they learn faster and gain deeper levels of understanding.

Instructional design is the systemic process by which instructional materials are designed, developed, and delivered. Instructional design creates a learning environment that is focused on the learner, with an organized structure for content and activities designed to achieve specific learning objectives. This involves applying educational research and teaching practice to craft curriculum and instructional materials aligned to those objectives, thereby improving learning outcomes.

You often hear about instructional design in the context of technology—specifically, digital learning experiences. But the primary goal of instructional design is not the use of technology—it’s good instruction. Technology is just one tool that can be employed to achieve the larger goal: to improve learning outcomes.

The ADDIE Model

One of the earliest instructional design models, ADDIE, includes these five phases:

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Professional Translation and How To Avoid Flying Naked

flying-naked

Why is it important to have a professional write and translate your product?

In this era of new technology and immediacy, it is easy to get carried away with the specialized tools available to get the work done. But remember, they are only tools, which means they are only as good and effective as the person who uses them.

The same thing happens with free translation tools such as Google Translate, or even with professional tools such as Wordfast or SDL Trados. There are a number of automated tools for translation, but if used alone, they can be more harmful—or comical, for that matter—than useful. In 1977, an airline promoted leather seats in its first-class sections with the slogan “Fly in leather.” It was translated into Spanish as “Vuele en cuero” (a literal translation), which really means “Fly naked.” The biggest danger with automated tools is that they tend to translate literally and word by word. Continue reading

Talking to the Test—Spanish Localization

When people ask us to do a translation project, one of the first things to resolve is: Will localization be required? Localization depends on the target market. A translation for a Texas market will be different from one for New York or Florida.

Localization is especially important for high-stakes assessment, where accessibility is paramount. Whether we translate assessments, or create them in Spanish, we face a challenge—making sure the words we choose will convey the correct meaning to all students in the target market. Over the years, we have developed proprietary glossary tools to ensure that everyone working on a project is consistent in applying the same assumptions about localization.

How do glossaries help with localization?

There are so many rules and guidelines for assessment, that it’s like playing with a Rubik’s Cube™—you know where you have to get to, but how to get there is the problem. Localization is one more critical piece in the puzzle.