4 Edtech Companies That Are Closing the Achievement Gap
*The Tech Edvocate is pleased to produce its “Best of the Best” resource lists. These lists provide our readers with rankings for edtech-related blogs, twitter accounts, influencers, products, etc. These lists are meant to be fluid, and for that reason, they are regularly updated to provide up to the moment information.*
The achievement gap is a well-documented phenomenon in American schools that has been talked about to at least some extent for over 40 years. Despite all that chatter, the achievement gap is still alive and well in American K-12 schools.
A University of Chicago report found that closing the achievement gap between students of color, or with documented economic disadvantages, was completely stagnant from 1990 to 2000. A 2007 report by the National Assessment of Educational Progress found that white students scored an average of 26 points higher on reading and math standardized tests for the 4th and 8th grade (on a scale of 0 to 500). A recognition of the fact that the achievement gap exists – and that it is in everyone’s best interest to close it – has become a standard of the K-12 education conversation.
Though conditions are improving, K-12 students that are minorities or come from economically disadvantaged circumstances are more likely to achieve less in school, and even drop out totally, than their peers. The days of letting children fall by the wayside simply because of home environment or skin color are becoming a thing of past, as more educators and even some politicians vocalize the need to level the achievement playing field.
Over the past decade, I have been pleased to see edtech entrepreneurs stepping up to plate, and developing edtech solutions aimed at helping all students to succeed academically. This is, of course, helps to close the achievement gap. In this article, we will profile 4 companies and their products. Without further ado, here we go.
No two people learn exactly the same, yet classrooms usually offer only a single approach to problems and solutions. CK-12 offers solutions that go above and beyond to ensure that you can give your students a more personalized (and customized) look at what they are learning. The best way to do that is with games and lessons that are online. Students can go back and learn about things at their own pace, review lessons you covered, and get an assessment of how well they understood the lessons. There are also some amazing simulations that illustrate some of the most challenging fields that really can’t be followed on paper (such as Physics and Chemistry).
The best way to understand what they have to offer is to go to their website and peruse the many areas and games that are available. There is definitively a math and science heavy approach, but there are other available lessons and games for a few of the arts.
No matter how well-designed games are, sometimes flashcards are the fastest most efficient way to learn. The problem is that they can be bulky and difficult to carry, making them impractical for use outside of the home. This is where BrainScape has found a niche and turned it into something that offers the ease and customization of games, but with a focus on flashcards. With an extensive list of possible flashcards topics, you can create your own or ask the program to make the cards for you. Select your deck, and then you can get started memorizing the terms and phrase you need. The biggest problem with flashcards is that people tend to focus on the areas where they do best, believing that they need to refresh these ideas, so they do not forget them constantly.
The problem is that you don’t progress when you always study what you know instead of focusing on your weaker areas. This gives you the false impression that you are doing better than you actually are. Brainscape does not allow for this. Instead, it forces you to focus and learn the things where you are weak. This means you will make real progress. There will be some refreshers on your strong areas as well so that you don’t forget, it just won’t be where you start your lessons.
Formative has been labeled as a “game changer,” and its soaring popularity speaks to this. This edtech feature allows teachers to set assignments, receive live results and provide feedback. It can be utilized with students of any age and educators can tailor their feedback and assess class performance at a glance. Some features are pre-aligned with Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) standards. What makes this app so worth using is that it gives teachers alternative options for assessment and tries to move away from the overused multiple choice option. Formative is changing the way that testing is done and both students and educators will appreciate it’s easy to use interface.
The notion of play has always been an important aspect of education. DimensionU pushes students to play to play multiplayer games to promote math and l literacy in grades 3- 9. Students are encouraged to compete against one another and turn, foster a positive relationship with the subject content. The games can be downloaded onto a device or played online.
This article has presented a representative sample of what edtech companies are doing to help close achievement gap. More edtech companies are also fighting the good fight. Are we making progress? Maybe. One thing is for certain; learning opportunities for at-risk students must improve if significant improvement is expected in the coming decade.