Thursday, 28 June 2018

BrightFish Bootcamp - 2018 Edition

June is usually when our implementation team takes advantage of the relative quiet to document the great teacher feedback and observations from the past year and turn them into new features. This year we’ve had so many summer schools that taking stock will have to wait a little longer.

Summer school is a bit like bootcamp – short, intensive and kind of exhausting. While some of the students are returning users, most of the kids and teachers are new to BrightFish and each other. Teachers have just a few hours to get comfortable with the software tools and instructional approach and almost no time to get to know their students. Needless to say this can be a stressful and chaotic time but it’s also a great stress test for our software activation and customer support model.

Here are five things that we’ve learned so far from BrightFish Bootcamp, 2018 Edition:

  1. Full service is the baseline. As software developers we strive to build tools that are intuitive and designed for self-management. Dashboards, graphics, summary views and notifications are all part of helping teachers get what they need, fast. However, when you only have time for a 1-hour training webinar and you have a class full of new students waiting to start, the only “easy button” is having a live person on the other end of the phone, chat or email to be your virtual teaching assistant. Login IDs, class roster changes, new enrollments, computers with no audio – whatever the issue, there’s no time for self-help. Resource centers are great if you have time to read the articles and watch the videos. For everyone else, help has to be instant. Forget the morning coffee break – peak time is between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. Then the west coast gets started. But the teachers are really grateful, so it’s all worth it.
  2. Students are surprisingly motivated: Looking at the usage data over the past three weeks, the immediate observation is that students are getting a lot more done. Part of it is that they have dedicated time to work on BrightFish, usually every day. But that’s just one factor. Our analysis shows that students are completing their stories in about 20 percent less time than comparable groups over the school year. For example, 3rd graders are taking 1.2 hours on average during summer school compared to 1.5 hours for their peers during the school year. They are not simply rushing through to get it done – if anything the scores and improvements, particularly in vocabulary, are higher. Kids will even work on the weekend if it means they get extra credit for completing more work. Doing something different always increases engagement initially but we are seeing a sustained level of effort that has been a pleasant surprise.
  3. Points are more valuable than games: Another interesting observation is that summer school students are much less likely to redeem their points for games. Excluding classes that have had their access to the games store turned off, we’re seeing a much lower rate of students redeeming their points to play BrightFish games. Teachers report that students are more motivated by simply tracking their points and progress bar – and seeing if they can earn the top points score each week. Since BrightFish rewards both quantity and quality, the points reflect the amount of effort students are putting into their work and their attention to detail.
  4. Not all data is equal: Summer School is short and teachers are most concerned with two things: how much time students are working and what’s getting done. There’s not a lot of time to dig into the data, so having daily and weekly records of time on task is essential. Classes are often large, especially for upper middle and high schools, so being able to see which students are taking longer than their peers to complete work is very useful. Red color coding to point out areas where there are issues and notifications for any students who are struggling are two features of our reports that get the highest usage during Summer School. 
  5. Managed data is even better: Viewing data for any trouble areas and having time to interpret it are two very different things. During summer school, there just isn’t time to review student work at a detailed level. This year, we’ve sent out 1-page reports as a recap at the end of each week, showing usage by class, stories completed and points scores. In the notes, we include information on which students struggled on various activities and the recommended interventions if needed. Even though this is data that teachers can view in their dashboards, having our implementation team review the data and provide recommendations gives teachers added confidence in using the program. 
Teacher dashboard provides quick data points for usage and alerts for students.