Monday, 24 December 2018

A few of our favorite things

It’s been a busy fall in our schools, so it’s a treat to have a moment to rest, reflect and take stock in between the feasts and festivity of the season. With that in mind, I’ll share a few of my favorite things from the first part of the school year as we look forward to 2019.

#1 Great gains on maze tests

Many of our schools completed the midyear maze testing in our program this month, and we just love watching those upward trends on our graphs. Of course the maze is just one of many metrics used to determine progress, but it’s very encouraging to see the positive indicators in word fluency and comprehension. Anecdotally, we also hear about improvements students are making in all subject areas as their reading skills and confidence grow. If you’re interested in learning more about the maze, we recently posted an excellent white paper from Research in Education that looks at the maze, what it measures, and how it can be used for both assessment and classroom instruction.

#2 Data with insights for learning and growing

We’ve noticed an interesting trend with BrightFish students. If you show them the data, they want to see more! From the beginning, we’ve incorporated points, gameplay, and a dashboard that lets students track their progress in any story or activity. As students get into the program, their interest shifts from time on task and points totals to looking for insights into how they are improving and what they can do to achieve more. When we first set out to design BrightFish, our thoughts on engagement centered around high-interest content, multimedia support and rewards systems. While those features are still an important part of the design, our developers are now heavily focused on finding ways to give students access to their own learning profiles and improvement metrics.

#3 Kids logging in – even on weekends!

We use monitoring software that lets us see when students are logged into BrightFish Reading, and for how long. This year we quickly set a new benchmark for hourly usage of 300 users – and then just as quickly surpassed it. Evenings and weekends used to be “safe zones" to update the system without affecting response times for our users. Now we have so many students logged in at all hours, and even on weekends, that we’ve had to start posting alerts for system updates and scheduling them between 12 midnight and 5 a.m. At least, for now, those times seem to be safe!

#4 Words that give meaning

The instructional approach to vocabulary in BrightFish Reading is a holistic one, in that instruction revolves around a selected text and understanding both word definition and application in the passage. While vocabulary knowledge tends to be the biggest area of weakness for our students, it’s also the activity they find the most value in doing. Periodically, we invite students to give us anonymous feedback on the program. After the games (no surprise), the “most liked” is vocabulary – and it’s also the skill they want to work on more. To take vocabulary development beyond BrightFish, we’ve developed a series of teacher resources for data chats, remediation, and extension activities that can be woven into review and instruction.

#5 Inspiring ideas tied up with strings

Collaboration with BrightFish teachers is by far the most rewarding part of our work in schools. We get a lot of great ideas from teachers using BrightFish in the classroom, which makes our product wish list a piece of cake. Turning those ideas into software is a little more difficult, but the inspiration and excitement that we get from our dedicated teachers and the way they are using BrightFish Reading to help their kids is a gift all its own. Some of the ideas we’re working on for the next half: improvement profiles based on story progress and scores; customized tutorials for constructed response questions; and teacher feedback in the students’ backpack.

We're looking forward to more "favorite things" in 2019!