Ed Tech Companies That I Really Love: Part II
By Matthew Lynch
Educational technology is a billion dollar industry, and I have been blogging about it for over a decade. Today, I will continue my series on ed tech companies that I really love. I’m interested to hear your thoughts on these ed tech companies and the wonderful work that they are doing.
Mathbreakers, is a virtual math playground that starts with topics as basic as counting and advances through complicated subjects like Calculus. Instead of handing students worksheet-style problems through digital means, Mathbreakers uses action adventure role-playing to give students a fun, yet calculated, gaming environment that puts math at the center. As classrooms become even more gamified, Mathbreakers is a leader in making those concepts effective ones with real-world applications.
The game uses number sense, or the ability to see how to work with numbers and multiple solution approaches, instead of using rote memorization concepts like times tables. Players are in control of their futures in a third-person shooter style that takes them through an array of conquests and challenges.
Mathbreakers is a step towards a full math curriculum available in a virtual world, where students can learn about multiple types of math in the same environment. The vision of the application’s creators is that math learners at many levels can use the game to help visualize and understand mathematics on a fundamental level. That starts with basics like number sense, fractions, the number line, operators, and negative numbers.
Instead of giving players one set answer, Mathbreakers lets them use creativity to use math and create their own worlds, in essence. I was really impressed with the way the application seamlessly integrated concepts like multiplication and functions with the storyline and fun of the game itself. Not only does the game encourage players to use math (not just recite it) but it really is a lot of fun.
CALL (Comprehensive Assessment of Leadership for Learning)
Two education college professors from The University of Wisconsin-Madison and a consultant from the Wisconsin Center for Educational Products and Services have developed a survey-based system that calculates areas of strengths and weaknesses in schools, and creates an action plan for improvement. The Comprehensive Assessment of Leadership for Learning, or CALL, does not single any particular educators but rather takes a snapshot of what is happening as a whole entity. It is a smart assessment tool to implement at the end of the year and then brainstorm actionable steps on improvement when school is back in session.
The survey and results-delivery system were born of necessity. More than ever, schools are in need of transformational leadership that creates learning opportunities for students but also prepares them for the real-world economy. The pressure has never been greater, particularly as Common Core Standards and other state-based ones heighten accountability for teachers, administrators and other instructional staff. The belief used to be that principals were responsible for all the leadership roles within a particular school but that theory is starting to fade. While principals certainly need solid leadership traits, distributing those responsibilities can actually lead to stronger school systems that are able to better support student bodies.
It really is true that “it takes a village” and understanding how each educator in a school can best contribute to its success leads to stronger student outcomes, and stronger schools. By implementing the in-depth CALL survey, schools can see exactly HOW to get where need to be when it comes to school leaders.
Alma: Free Student Information and Learning Systems
Alma is a student information and learning management system that combines a vast range of reporting features that are typically only available in several fragmented systems – instead of a central location. Alma brings together lesson planning and curriculum management with student and classroom management to give teachers all the tools they need right at their fingertips, and with one login.
Schools can upgrade the core package for a fee to include “extras” that may be helpful to their operations, like on-site support and custom data migration. Alma has customized solution plans based on the needs of the school, and the budget being used. Alma is a cloud-based system which means that there is no cumbersome hardware or software to install and maintain. There is optional set up support for schools who would like the hands-on help, but it is not a requirement for schools that have the staff and ability to handle it on their own. Most schools will be able to set up the system in a day or less.
As a former public school teacher, I wish I had access to the type of technology and reporting that Alma offers. I still remember thinking of the school bell at the end of my day as the signal of my “lunch break” and that there were still many hours of work ahead of me. Like other teachers, I did my work without complaint and did my best to ensure my students were learning what they needed to know before exiting my classroom doors for good. Still – between planning, reporting, communication with parents and actual teaching, it was nearly impossible to get it all done. So I feel the pain of today’s teachers, asked to do even more in an already-tight schedule.
In coming posts, we will look at more ed tech companies that I really love.