Using Software for Credit Recovery

There is a wonderful multi-part series on Slate’s Schooled section called “The Big Shortcut” on the advantages and disadvantages of using software for credit recovery. The first story is here.  In a nutshell, there are real pros and cons to consider if your district is going to use software:

Pros

  • easy to implement for administrators
  • easy for students to use
  • flexible use of time and space is great for students with other obligations
  • students can learn basic facts and skills
  • allows focus on content rather than socializing

Cons

  • boring and isolating
  • easy for students to game and/or Google
  • easy for students to “pretest” out quickly
  • difficult for students who are not self-motivated or who need structure
  • shallow content emphasizing breadth instead of depth
  • shallow assessment (as in multiple choice assessments vs. essays, presentations, or products)
  • linear presentation of material does not allow exploration

The most successful curricula heavily involve teachers and the class looks more like a blended class than computer lab.  Students get the actual teaching that they need while proceeding in an environment that is an alternative to traditional classes.

Therefore, the questions to keep in mind about using software for credit recovery (and credit acceleration!) include the following:

  • do you have subject-area teachers available to monitor, assess, and give assistance and feedback?
  • in social studies, is the software consistently updated? (For example, WorldView programs were the social studies component of Edmentum’s Plato Courseware for many years, but their version is no longer updated by us.)
  • is there a discussion component (either virtual or IRL)?
  • does the software’s content comprehensively cover your state’s standards? Look for software that has made it through your state’s textbook adoption process, which is a higher standard.
  • are there options for different types of assessment (not just multiple choice questions)? WorldView programs have different levels of multiple choice questions (factual, conceptual, chronological, and image), guided and un-guided essays, short answer questions, and projects.
  • how much repetition/randomization do the multiple choice questions employ? How often can students retake the test? WorldView programs even have multiple testing options for multiple choice questions: Study Questions are Socratic, allowing students two tries and give a mini-lesson explanation for the answer.  Practice Tests allow the student one try.  And coming soon are Mastery Questions that contain different question stems, answers, and distractors.
  • how secure is your IT system? how much of the internet can students access from within the program? do they have access to their own devices?

And so on!  Are you a teacher, administrator, or home-schooler using software for credit recovery or acceleration? Let us know what issues you’ve discovered in the comments.


BulbgraphOnOffUse the answers to the “Questions for Thought” in the overview as a note-taking guided exercise.


Preview WorldView Software’s programs for free at company logohttp://www.worldviewsoftware.com/preview/

Free Pilot for Canvas® Users!

If you’re a Canvas® LMS user, pilot one of our programs between now and the end of the semester for free!

With end of term testing just weeks away, WorldView is offering schools free unlimited access to one of our social studies products via Canvas® at no cost through the end of this school year.  Our interactive workbook-style programs can be used as your digital textbook, as a supplementary aid in class, as a test prep tool, or for credit recovery.

All WorldView titles can be seamlessly embedded into your on-line Canvas® courses utilizing a single sign-on.  Canvas® tracking remains fully operational.  Just contact WorldView for a Consumer key and Shared Secret of the title of your choosing.

Each student receives a personal account with access to the entire WorldView product.  Our comprehensive programs include hundreds of writing activities, thousands of test or study questions, and a plethora of resource material: biographies, chronologies, glossaries, original source documents, and much, much, more.

Visit our website, www.worldviewsoftware.com, for more information on all our social studies titles. (If you’re not a Canvas® user, contact us for a regular product preview.)


BulbgraphOnOffUse the answers to the “Questions for Thought” in the overview as a note-taking guided exercise.


Preview WorldView Software’s programs for free at company logohttp://www.worldviewsoftware.com/preview/

Parents Across America Warn about Misuse of EdTech in Schools — Diane Ravitch’s blog

This just in from the parent advocacy group, Parents Across America: Contact: Laura Bowman, PAA-Roanoke Valley: 540-819-6385 Julie Woestehoff, PAA interim executive director: 773-715-3989 Our Children @ Risk Parents raise alarm about EdTech’s harmful effects on children’s academic, intellectual, emotional, physical and social development Echoing the 1983 “Nation at Risk” report, Parents Across America (PAA) […]

via Parents Across America Warn about Misuse of EdTech in Schools — Diane Ravitch’s blog

Post about the worrying trend of attempting to use technology to replace teaching. [WorldView Software publishes online digital textbooks that are aligned with state content standards. They are NOT teacher replacements!]

#EdTech: WiFi Hotspots and the Digital Divide

As you may know, in late March, the FCC approved an expansion of  Lifeline discounts on phone service to include home internet access.  While this may help some, the truth is that in some areas, it still won’t be enough, whether because of lack of money and/or of infrastructure (such as the lack of broadband services period).  The digital divide is real:

Nationwide, families in neighborhoods with median household incomes below $34,800 — the lowest fifth of neighborhoods nationally — are five times more likely not to have access to broadband than households in areas with a median income above $80,700 — the top fifth, according to a Center for Public Integrity investigation.

This blog has previously noted (see #EdTech and the Human 1.0) that not only is internet access critical, how it is accessed is also critical.  Mobile is great, but to really do research or create something, the power, capabilities, and input devices of a desktop are necessary.  That previous post also noted survey research that illustrates the large and growing gap between people who can access the internet in many ways, and those who do so primarily through their phones.

One solution to this dilemma is mobile wifi hotspots — portable 4G LTE WiFi devices using cellular networks to create a personal broadband Internet hotspot.  Public libraries are pioneers in using this technology.  The New York Public Library trialed lending wifi hotspots with the help of grants from the Knight News Challenge; this is from their grant proposal:

The program will provide essentially 24/7 quality access to those who are currently limited to accessing the Internet during a 40-minute, once-a-day time slot at one of NYPL’s 92 physical facilities, allowing them to continue to learn, work, explore, and create even after library doors have closed. In short, this effort will connect wired users who live in disconnected households, fostering an expanded community for reading, learning, and creativity.

NYPL’s initial program was for the 2014-2015 school year, as it worked in partnership with the NYC school system, and lent to parents with children enrolled in the library’s educational programs.  It was so successful that a second round was approved, with expanded eligibility for borrowing.

Depending on where you live and what kind of access your students have at home, such a program might be worth developing in your school district.  If funding is tight, in addition to grant money there are programs that can assist.  The biggest one is probably the E-Rate program from USAC that provides discounted telecommunications services for schools and libraries.  According to the U.S. Department of Education:

The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) is an independent, not-for-profit corporation created in 1997 to collect universal service contributions from telecommunications carriers and administer universal support mechanisms (programs) designed to help communities across the country secure access to affordable telecommunications services. USAC carries out its functions as the administrator of the federal universal service programs and Universal Service Fund (USF) under the oversight of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). USAC administers universal service programs for high cost companies in rural areas, low-income consumers, rural health care providers, and schools and libraries.

Note: As a company, we have an interest in this.  Increased access at home means you could “flip” your class and have students use our programs at home as well as at school.  As Jessica Rosenworcel, a member of the US Federal Communications Commission, has noted, the “homework gap” of students without broadband at home are “holding our education system back” because teachers won’t assign digital homework if they fear that their students lack safe and consistent Internet access.


BulbgraphOnOffHave a question about what a program element does? Click on the Help icon for detailed information.


WorldView Software square logoPreview WorldView Software’s programs for free at http://www.worldviewsoftware.com/preview/

Open Educational Resources (OERs)

Open Educational Resources (OERs) are freely available, openly licensed documents and media that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing.  OERs are part of the movement for open access to code, data, and information, and have the power to revolutionize how you teach.

If you’re new to OERs, a really great starter kit explaining the concept has been assembled by the folks at Edutopia, available here.  They go over the terms used in OER discussions, such as explaining what “creative commons” licensing is, and introduce resource collections.  More resources are also available from OERCommons and from the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER).

While WorldView Software’s programs are not OERs (they are copyrighted), they are still free to preview, which means that teachers can access the material — which is up-to-date, written by content-area experts, and has been correlated to state and national standards in social studies — and use it in the classroom or assign it individually to students.  Because it’s software, it’s able to handle much more content than a regular print textbook, yet flexible enough to use as workbook for practice or enrichment.

Our business model depends on the value we add; where we make our money is from the ability to save responses (including computer-graded assessments) and to run reports on those responses, including aggregate reports for your class.  This “back-office” action allows you to spend more time on customizing instruction for each student, reflecting on your own teaching process as you interpret the aggregate reports, and on deep research.

One other note: the more OERs you use, the more bandwidth you’ll need.  If your school, library, or consortium doesn’t already apply for the e-rate for schools and libraries, definitely put the application deadline on the calendar for next year!


BulbgraphOnOffConceptual questions test students’ ability to use their knowledge of the material in analysis, such as making inferences and evaluations.


Preview WorldView Software’s programs for free at company logohttp://www.worldviewsoftware.com/preview/

Digital Textbooks vs. Online Schools

For K-12 students, online-only learning is likely to leave more people behind than it is to help them advance.  According to a recent report from researchers at the University of Washington, Stanford University and the Mathematica policy research group, online pupils fell far behind their counterparts in the classroom. In math, it was the equivalent of pupils having missed an entire year in school.

The study’s findings: far too little teacher/student interaction time and low levels of student engagement (for a medium that requires MORE student engagement to work):

  • Student–driven, independent study is the dominant mode of learning in online charter schools, with 33 percent of online charter schools offering only self-paced instruction.

  • Online charter schools typically provide students with less live teacher contact time in a week than students in conventional schools have in a day.

  • Maintaining student engagement in this environment of limited student-teacher interaction is considered the greatest challenge by far, identified by online charter school principals nearly three times as often as any other challenge.

  • Online charter schools place significant expectations on parents, perhaps to compensate for limited student-teacher interaction, with 43, 56 , and 78 percent of online charters at the high school, middle, and elementary grade levels, respectively, expecting parents to actively participate in student instruction.

Read the complete study here.  It’s clear that online-only, while it has its uses, is more limited than supporters would have you believe.

If this all sounds familiar, that’s because it was already tried at the college level.  Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) were the hot new flavor some time ago.  San Jose State University’s partnership with Udacity, a for-profit MOOC provider, ended in a “breather” several months later when it turned out that their students needed more of everything that can only be delivered by a teacher in person.


BulbgraphOnOffArt images can be used to discuss the differences between visual and textual sources.

Using Software for Home-Schooling in Social Studies

There’s a bewildering amount of software out there, especially if you’re home-schooling your child (or children) in social studies — how can you decide what’s best for your needs?

First, you should look at what your state requires students to learn.  These state standards can be found on the state department of education websites, and all publishers work to correlate their products and programs with these standards.  The correlations indicate whether or not a particular standard is covered in the program, and in how much depth.  For all WorldView products, just go to our website, select the product you want to use, and then choose the state from the drop-down menu to see the correlation for that product.

Next, take a look at our curriculum guides to get a start on how you would plan your curriculum: what you want to cover, when, and how.  Once you have an idea of the scope and sequence of your curriculum, check out the program and see how you would incorporate specific activities and assessments.

Homeschool users have free access to lesson plans for each type of activity, blueprints for planning the day.  These lesson plans were developed by experienced teachers, with well-defined learning and behavioral objectives that can be measured.  They also give alternatives for students who are having trouble with the material, as well as for those who have breezed through and want more challenging work.

[Featured image is “Mother and daughter in kitchen” by Jason Kasper from Harrisburg, USA – Modified version of 100_4456. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons]


BulbgraphOnOffWhen assigning students an internet project, remind them they can refer to the “Internet Research Primer” tutorial for help.