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Institute of Education Sciences

The ED Games Expo “Goes Virtual” to Support Distance Learning

Each year, the U.S. Department of Education hosts the ED Games Expo, an in-person event to showcase educational learning games and technologies developed through programs at the US Department of Education and across the government. See here the recap of the 2020 Expo, which occurred the week of January 6, 2020, and was headlined by more than 150 in-person education technology demonstrations by 115 teams at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC. 

 

 

With the global outbreak of COVID19 and the closure of tens of thousands of schools across the United States and world, a group of government supported developers and researchers are now offering their learning games and technologies at no cost through the end of the school year for use in distance learning settings with internet access. The resources are appropriate for young children to postsecondary students as well as for teachers in education and special education across a wide range of educational topics, such as for early learning, in STEM, reading and language learning, and social studies. Most of the resources were developed iteratively with feedback from teachers and students, and most were evaluated through pilot studies to measure their promise to support improvements in relevant educational outcomes.

Below is the list of 82 learning games and technologies developed with funding across programs at the Department of Education and government that are now available online at no cost to until the end of the school year.

Notes:

  • Each of the entries provides a URL link to a website that provides information on how to access the resources. Some can be accessed directly on the website, some require a free app download from Google Play or the AppStore, and some require a registration so that the developer can provide additional login instructions. tablets, or phones. Many of the websites are optimized for the CHROME browser (not Windows Explorer).
  • Each of the entries differs in terms of the device and operating system that is needed to play or use the learning game or technology, including computers, Chromebooks. A few of the entries make apps freely available yet still require additional hardware, such as a virtual reality headset or a 3D printer.
  • DISCLAIMER: The US Department of Education does not endorse the developers, the learning games, or the technologies listed within.
  • Please email Edward.Metz@ed.gov with questions.

Government programs that supported the learning games and technologies include:

  • Department of Agriculture Small Business Innovation Research (USDA SBIR)
  • Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • Department of Education (ED)
    • Institute of Education Research Small Business Innovation Research (ED/IES SBIR)
    • IES National Center for Education Research (NCER)
    • IES National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER)
    • Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE)
    • Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)
    • Ready to Learn (RTL)
  • Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Adolescent Health (OAH)
  • Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)
  • Library of Congress (LOC)
  • National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)
  • National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
  • National Institutes for Health Small Business Innovation Research (NIH SBIR)
  • National Science Foundation (NSF)
  • National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research (NSF SBIR)
  • The Smithsonian Institution
  • The Wilson Center

Early Childhood

  1. The Cat in the Hat Builds That app is based on the PBS KIDS series, The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That, and introduces children three to five and parents to science inquiry and engineering (STEM) concepts through hands-on games and activities tailored to their learning progress. Developed by PBS KIDS, CPB, and Random House with a 2015  ED/Ready to Learn award.
  2. The Play & Learn Science app is designed for children ages three to five and parents to see the science in their world by modeling real-world locations and experiences. The related hands-on activities and parent notes prompt families to “try it” at home and provide tips for engaging in conversations. Developed by PBS KIDS, CPB, and Primal Screen with a 2015  ED/Ready to Learn award.
  3. The Cat in the Hat Invents app introduces children ages three to five and parents to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts, such as simple machines and the engineering design process, as they outfit robots with tools to overcome obstacles in fantastic Seussian worlds. Developed by PBS KIDS, CPB, and Random House with a 2015 ED/Ready to Learn award.
  4. The Photo Stuff with Ruff app is based on PBS KIDS’ short-form animated digital series, “The Ruff Ruffman Show,” and inspires children ages four to eight to discover what the “stuff” in their world is made of. In this camera-based experience, children learn about science by exploring surroundings and taking pictures of different materials to complete silly scenes. Play it together and record and share your observations in fun, creative ways! Developed by PBS KIDS, CPB, and WGBH with a 2015 ED/Ready to Learn award.
  5. In the Molly of Denali (Video Demo) app, children aged five to eight use everyday informational texts (i.e., field guides, recipes, diagrams, etc.) to solve problems and fulfill their curiosity in an immersive version of Molly’s Alaska Native village. Developed by PBS KIDS, CPB, and WGBH, through a 2015 ED/Ready to Learn award.
  6. In Space Scouts children ages five to eight learn badges and mindset rewards as they play five space-themed engineering design and science inquiry games. Developed by PBS KIDS, CPB, and Wind Dancer Films through a 2015 ED/Ready to Learn grant.
  7. The Jet’s Bot Builder app is based on the PBS KIDS series, Ready Jet Go!, and allows children ages five to eight to create new parts, explore, learn and have fun building a robot with Jet and friends. Jet’s Bot Builder adapts to your young learner’s progress. Developed by PBS KIDS, CPB, and Wind Dancer Films with a 2015 ED/Ready to Learn award.

Note: The PBS Kids website includes more apps and videos, all available at no cost.

  1. MathBRIX (Video Demo) is a game for pre-K to grade two children to think mathematically and problem-solve by moving virtual replicas of toy-building bricks into place to arrive at solutions. PlayPACT, the home companion, encourages parents to help children build early cognitive skills using a “connected play” approach. Developed with 2016 and 2019 NSF SBIR awards.
  2. Chef Koochooloo (Video Demo) is a game platform that teaches kindergarten through fifth grade students cultural sensitivity, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) concepts (assessed as per national standards), and sustainability through healthy cooking in schools. Developed in part with a 2019 NSF SBIR award.
  3. My Home Literacy Coach  is a resource for parents and caregivers to maintain the reading growth of children in Kindergarten to grade 3. Using evidence-based approaches, 15-minute language art lessons are calibrated daily to match individual children’s progress. Developed by Learning Ovations and researchers at the University of California Irvine with a 2015 ED/IES SBIR award and several IES Research Grants.
  4. Cognitive ToyBox for Schools (Video Demo) is a hybrid observation and game-based assessment platform for teachers, practitioners, and children from birth to five years old. Children play developmentally appropriate touchscreen games for five minutes per week, and teachers have access to timely information on each individual child’s learning trajectory. Developed with awards in 2016 from NSF SBIR and 2019 from ED/IES SBIR.

Special Education

  1. In Go Phonics and Early Reading Skills Builder, (available here)  (Video Demo), students in special education learn to read through phonics instruction aligned to third grade. Developed by the  Attainment Company through a 2011 ED/IES SBIR award.
  2. In Access Language Arts (available here)  (Video Demo), special education students access adapted literature and language arts instruction, grade-aligned to middle school. Developed by the  Attainment Company through a 2014 ED/IES SBIR award. 
  3.  SOAR  (Strategies for Online Academic Reading) (Video Demo) is a web-based curriculum for middle school students with learning disabilities to promote competency when reading and researching online. The tool supports student efforts to search for, find, evaluate, read, and use appropriate and relevant online information. Developed at the University of Oregon with a 2012 ED/OSEP award. 
  4. Project ESCOLAR (Etext Supports for Collaborative and Academic Reading) (Video Demo) supports middle-school students, including those with learning disabilities, in learning science in an engaging environment. Developed at the University of Oregon with a 2013 ED/OSEP award.
  5. The Communication Matrix is tool for teachers, speech-language pathologists, and parents to support students with complex communication needs. The online forum provides a space for information sharing, learning from the field, and offering and receiving support. Developed at the Oregon Health and Sciences University with an ED/OSEP award.
  6. The WRITE Progress Monitoring tool automatically grades writing assessments for middle school students specific to narrative, persuasive, and expository genres of writing.  Developed at the University of Kansas with an ED/OSEP award.
  7. The Project Core implementation model is designed for special education practitioners, parents, and caregivers to provide students with significant cognitive disabilities and complex communication needs access a personal augmentative and alternative communication system and instruction to learn to use it. Developed at the University of North Carolina with support from ED/OSEP.
  8. The Tar Heel Shared Reader implementation model supports teachers, therapists, and parents to provide shared reading instruction to students with significant cognitive disabilities. Developed at the University of North Carolina with an award from ED/OSEP.
  9. AvePM.com is a website for teachers of students who are deaf or hard of hearing, that tracks sign language and oral communication development for students ranging from pre or early reading through sixth grade. Developed at the University of Pennsylvania with an award from ED/OSEP.

Science

  1. In Killer Snails’ Scuba Adventures (Video Demo), grade school students race against the clock as scientists, tagging creatures before their oxygen tanks runs out of air. Earn extra points for tagging venomous creatures whose deadly toxins may unlock the secrets to saving human lives. Developed with a 2017 NSF SBIR award.
  2. In Killer Snails’  Rainforest Rumble is a printable card game for children age 5 and up where only the best equipped survive! In this game of survival defend your animals with smart arguments and scientific facts. Developed with a 2017 NSF SBIR award. 
  3. The Animator App with lessons at (the pink “Flash Points” posts) is an open-ended tool for students of any age to create animations quickly to explore grade school-level concepts of colors and patterns to gas laws and reactions in high school chemistry. Developed by Alchemie with a 2017 NSF SBIR award.
  4. Inq-ITS (Video Demo) personalized online labs score themselves and support students in grades five to 10 to learn and apply science practices across physical, life, and earth science. Developed by Apprendis, Rutgers Graduate School of Education, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute with 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016 NSF research grants, 2009 and 2012 ED/IES research grants, and 2015, 2016, and 2018 ED/IES SBIR awards.
  5. The Mechanisms app (Video demo) brings game-based interactivity to the learning of college-level organic chemistry. All 275 Mechanisms puzzles have hints, goals and a corresponding video to guide student learning. Developed by Alchemie through a 2017 NSF SBIR award.
  6. The ModelAR app (Video demo) is a digital molecular model set used by students in middle school to college to build and explore chemistry concepts, from isomers and functional groups to large molecules such as Buckyball and proteins. The molecules can also be built on an Augmented Reality tag to manipulate the compound in real space. Developed by Alchemie through a 2017 NSF SBIR award.
  7. The iNeuron (Video Demo) game introduces neuroscience basics to middle and high school students and challenges learners to complete neural circuits, and can be played individually or in groups. Developed by Andamio Games through a 2011 NIH SBIR award.
  8. CellEnergy Photosynthesis Labs (Video Demo) uses interactive challenges and virtual labs with an experimental playground to engage high school students and deepen understanding of photosynthesis and cell respiration. Developed by Andamio Games through a 2017 NSF SBIR award.
  9. In Martha Madison (Video Demo) middle school students join meerkat scientist Martha Madison on quests to help her community, while learning physical science and 21st century skills. Jump, fly, slide, and bang through game levels built on a side-scrolling platform that plays like a video game. Developed by Second Avenue Learning with a 2012 NSF SBIR award.
  10. The Tyto Online (Video Demo) game engages middle school students in storylines to explore science phenomena and solve authentic problems. For example, students work with a botanist to solve a food shortage while learning about genetics. Developed by Immersed Games with a 2017 NSF SBIR award and a 2018 IES SBIR award.
  11. In MissionKT players age eight to 13 learn about the story of Stardust: "we are made of Stardust that was once in the body of Albert Einstein and the Last T-Rex."  The story is about atoms: their creation, size, number, and how they are shared. Up to 4 internet-connected players visit a world of dinosaurs and have fun as they discover how they inherited Stardust from the Last T-Rex. Developed by TheBeamer through a 2017 NSF SBIR award.
  12. In Building the Universe middle students and up go back in time to the Big Bang to create the first atoms and in the process learn about quarks, protons, neutrons, electrons. This physics game eventually finishes 13.8 billion years later with the Solar System and a habitable planet Earth.  Developed by TheBeamer through a 2017 NSF SBIR award.
  13. Immune Defense (Video Demo) is a real-time strategy game for biology students in grades five to 12 where players use proteins and phagocyte cells to eat bacteria, while learning cellular behavior and the role of protein receptors in an engaging, problem-based format. Developed by Molecular Jig Games with a 2009 grant from NIH SBIR.
  14. Immune Attack (Video Demo) is a third-person shooter game for biology students in grades five to 12. Students fly a Microbot and a nanobot inside a 3D body to activate proteins and phagocyte cells to eat bacteria in an engaging, exciting mission-based format. Developed by Molecular Jig Games with a 2004 research grant from NSF SBIR.
  15. In LightUp Studio (Video Demo) middle and high school students explore the world’s scientific wonders in true-to-life 3-D, and create augmented reality videos to share what they learn with each other. Topics include physics, biology, chemistry, earth science, space science, and AP-specific content. Developed with a 2015 NSF SBIR award.
  16. In Journey through an Exploded Star middle and high school students adventure through the full spectrum of radiant energy of a dying star as it blossoms out in 360° in this never-before-seen 3-D view of a supernova remnant. Built with real scientific data, this interactive allows the user to visualize the electromagnetic spectrum. Developed by the Smithsonian Institution.
  17. In Sama’s Learning Platform (Video Demo), chemistry students engage in advanced visualization of abstract concepts and immersive interaction in Virtual Reality (VR) and also through engaging videos. Developed with a 2019 NSF SBIR award.
  18. In HoloLab Champions (Video Demo), middle students and above perform experiments to learn chemistry in an immersive Virtual Reality (VR) game environment. NOTE: While the app is free to teachers to provide to students in a class, it must be used with a VR headset or system. Developed by Schell Games through a 2016 ED/IES SBIR award.

Math

  1. Teachley’s suite of math game apps include Addimals (Video demo), Subtractimals (Video Demo), and Mt. Multiplis (Video Demo) to support fact fluency and promote math strategy development for students in kindergarten to grade five. Developed with a 2013 ED/IES SBIR award.
  2. NumberShire (Video Demo) is a math game focusing on whole number concepts and skills that uses a narrative arc to motivate and provide individualized support to students in kindergarten through grade two, especially those at risk for mathematical difficulties. Developed with 2011, 2012, and 2013 ED/IES SBIR awards; 2012 and 2016 IES awards; and a 2016 OSEP award to the University of Oregon. NOTE: Teachers must contact (ns1its@uoregon.edu) to request a free account for their students.
  3. Fractions Boost (Video Demo) and Boost 2 (Video Demo) are 3-D games for students in grades three to five to develop a conceptual understanding of fractions, while emphasizing social relationships with a track builder that allows students to build levels for their classmates. Developed by Teachley with a 2015 NSF SBIR award.
  4. ProblemScape (Video Link) is an online course for middle school students in introductory algebra packaged in a 3D role-playing adventure game. Developed by RoundEd Learning with a 2018 NSF SBIR Award.
  5. Math Snacks (Video Demo) is a suite of games for middle school students including Agrinautica on expression building, Curse Reverse on variables, Game Over Gopher on coordinate points, Ratio Rumble on ratios, Gate on place value, Monster School Bus on ten-frames and fractions, and Pearl Diver on number sense. Developed by New Mexico State University with 2009 and a 2015 NSF awards.
  6. Woot Math (Video Demo) provides students in grades three to 12 with engaging activities and teaches with actionable data, a formative assessment platform, and interactive content to address gaps in student understanding. Developed by Simbulus with 2015 NSF SBIR and a 2018 ED/IES SBIR awards.
  7. Collaborative FluidMath (access here in CHROME) is designed for distance teaching and learning for middle school, high school and higher education teachers and students to share the same virtual Mathematics workspace. Note: Enter code EDCOVID19. Developed in part with a 2018 award from ED/IES SBIR, and awards from NSF SBIR, and NIH SBIR. 
  8. webFluidMath (access here in CHROME) is designed for distance learning and remote teaching of K-12 and Higher Education Mathematics and enables teachers to easily make interactive presentations and create and distribute Mathematics activities, assignments, and self-grading assessments via the web. Enter code EDCOVID19. Developed in part with a 2018 award from ED/IES SBIR, and awards from NSF SBIR, and NIH SBIR. 
  9. FluidMath Practice (access here in CHROME) is a fun application for kindergarten to grade five students to practice automaticity, fluency, and numeracy in a gaming environment while also providing teachers with data about student performance. Enter code EDCOVID19. Developed in part with a 2018 award from ED/IES SBIR, and awards from NSF SBIR, and NIH SBIR. 
  10. ASSISTments (video demo) is a free tool for middle school math teachers to assign homework or classwork. Students receive immediate feedback as they complete their assignments, and teachers receive a report with student- and class-level insights to inform instruction. The tool is compatible with Google Classroom and has a vast library of content. Developed by researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute with the support of IES and NIH.
  11. Muzology (Video Demo) is a gamified learning platform that uses music videos (created by hit songwriters!) to get middle and high school students algebra-ready. The platform includes student and teacher dashboards and assignment features for distance learning. Developed by Muzology with a 2018 NSF SBIR award.
  12. Graspable Math (Video Demo) is an algebra notation tool for middle and high school students that turns math symbols into tactile virtual objects that can be explored and manipulated. Developed by researchers at Indiana University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute through a 2011 IES award and a 2019 ED/IES SBIR award.
  13. MidSchoolMath’s EMPIRES (Video Demo) is a multiplayer game aligned for seventh grade math standards, set in Ancient Mesopotamia and built around an epic story-based narrative that allows math to be coherently used within context. Developed with 2013 ED/IES SBIR award.

Engineering & Making

  1. Future Engineers uses an online platform to offer free STEM/STEAM challenges for students in kindergarten to grade 12, such as NASA’s “Name the Mars Rover” competition. Teachers can assign challenges to students, and students can upload their creations to a kid-safe gallery. New challenges in response to the COVID-19 crisis are available now. Developed with a 2018 ED/IES SBIR award.
  2. Fab@School Maker Studio (Video Demo) is a web-based design and fabrication tool for students in pre-Kindergarten to grade eight to design, invent, and build their own geometric constructions, pop-ups, and working machines using low-cost materials like paper and cardstock and a wide range of tools from scissors to inexpensive 2-D cutters, 3-D printers, and laser cutters. Developed by FableVision Studios, Reynolds Center for Teaching, Learning and Creativity, with initial funding in 2010 by ED/IES SBIR.
  3. In CodeSpark Academy’s Story Mode (Video Demo) Kindergarten to grade five students learn the ABCs of computer science with a highly accessible word- free approach. Students program lovable characters called The Foos to create their own interactive stories, learning core computer science concepts in the process. Developed through a 2019 ED/IES SBIR award.
  4. Vidcode (Video Demo) is an online coding platform that teaches students from grade three and up computer science, computational thinking, and JavaScript through multimedia art projects. Developed in part with a 2019 ED/IES SBIR award.
  5. In DESCARTES (Video Demo) students in grades three to five use engineering design, apply math and science concepts, simulate in a sandbox game, and 3-D print their own prototypes (submersibles, boats, gliders, and other machines) using a standards-aligned design platform and curricula. Developed by Parametric Studio with a 2017 IES/SBIR award.
  6. In EDISON (Video Demo) students in grades six to nine solve real engineering problems with gamified engineering design software; make and test designs involving structures, electronics, and RC cars; and simulate and visualize designs in virtual reality and augmented reality. Developed by Parametric Studio with a 2018 NSF/SBIR award. 

Reading, Writing, Speaking, Languages

  1. Speak Agent (Video Demo) is a digital teaching and learning platform for students in kindergarten to grade eight for math, reading, and science that delivers tailored activities that integrate content with the language needed to understand it. Developed with 2015 ED/IES SBIR and NSF SBIR awards.
  2. Readorium’s (Video Demo ) reading in science program for students in grades three to eight provides strategies to understand standards-aligned non-fiction science text. Interactive science books are written different levels with video mentor guides and supports to individualize learning. Educators can view progress reports in real-time and download resources. Developed with awards from ED/IES SBIR.
  3. STORYWORLD (Video Demo) teaches students of any age (and English Learners) language and literacy through stories in English, Spanish and Mandarin. The program works on any device—computer, tablet, or smartphone. Stories include quiz-games that reinforce vocabulary, reading and listening skills, as well as capture written and oral responses for teacher review and assessment online. Developed with a  2018  ED/IES SBIR award. 
  4. Moby.Read (Video Demo) is an engaging oral reading fluency assessment for students in Kindergarten through grade five. Students use their own voice to read passages aloud, retell key details, and answer short-answer questions for real-time practice and assessment. Developed by AMI through a 2017 ED/IES SBIR award, with initial support from IES.
  5. Walden, a Game (Video Demo) is a first person exploratory about the life of American philosopher Henry David Thoreau during his experiment in self-reliant living at Walden Pond in 1845. The game allows players of all ages to walk in Thoreau’s virtual footsteps, discover his ideas and writings, engage with historical characters such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, and experience the changing seasons of Walden Woods. Developed by Tracy Fullerton and the Game Innovation Lab with awards from NEH and NEA.
  6. AlphaBear2 on GooglePlay and itunes (Video Demo) is an award winning English word-spelling game app for players of all ages, similar to Scrabble or Boggle, in which spellers of any age can learn new words and collect cute bears. Developed by Spry Fox with a 2017 ED/IES SBIR award.

Social Studies

  1. Mission US is a multimedia game that immerse students in grades four and up in U.S. history, in topics such as the Revolutionary War (Video Demo) , the Great Depression (video Demo), and immigration ( Video Demo). Developed by Electric Funstuff with awards in 2013 from ED/IES SBIR award and from NEH.
  2. AzTech Games (Video Demo) is a 3D game series for middle school students to learn basic statistics and measurement, as well as Central American and U.S. Latino history. Developed by 7 Generation Games with a 2016 USDA SBIR award.
  3. In the Making Camp (Video Demo) game series, students in grades three to five review multiplication and division along with language arts while learning elements of Native American history. The game includes bilingual versions in English/Spanish and English/Lakota. Developed by 7 Generation Games with a 2016 USDA SBIR award.
  4. Spirit Lake (Video Demo) is a 3D virtual world game for students in grades three to five that teaches multiplication and division and the history of the Dakota. Developed by 7 Generation Games with a 2013 USDA SBIR award.
  5. Fish Lake (Video Demo) is a 3D game for students in grades four to six that teaches fractions and the history of the Ojibwe. Developed by 7 Generation Games with a 2013 USDA SBIR award.
  6. Forgotten Trail (Video Demo) is a game for students in grades five to seven that teaches fractions, decimals, measurement, and multi-step problem solving along with Native American history. Developed by 7 Generation Games with a 2013 USDA SBIR award.
  7. The The Fiscal Ship game helps students age 10 and above with no prior experience with the federal budget learn what will and won’t work. Designed to be whimsical and nonpartisan but grounded in the fiscal facts, the game highlights that small changes to spending and taxes won’t suffice. To win the game, you need to find a combination of policies that match your values and priorities and set the budget on a sustainable course. Developed by The Wilson Center.
  8. Engaging Congress is a digital civics interactive tool for students in middle school and up that uses primary sources to develop content knowledge, build critical thinking skills and expand analysis techniques all in the civics education arena. Modules are played in 30 to 40 minutes for Civics, Government and U.S. History and cover topics from the Founding Era to Present. Developed by Half Full Nelson with support from the Library of Congress.
  9. Race to Ratify (Video Demo) teaches students in middle school and up history and civics through a game about the Federalists and Anti-Federalists between 1787 and 1789. It is designed to help students understand the key debates surrounding the ratification of the Constitution (including an extended republic, the House of Representatives, the Senate, executive power, the judiciary, and a bill of rights). It uses an engaging narrative to allow students to interact with the ideas, perspectives, and arguments that defined the ratification debate, which spanned geographic regions, populations, and socio-economic class. Developed by iCivics with a grant from NEH.
  10. DBQuest (Video Demo) teaches students in middle school and up history and civics through the use of primary source documents and evidence-based learning. It offers a platform, accessible with mobile devices, that reinforces evidence-based reasoning and Document Based Questioning by teaching students to identify and evaluate evidence, contextualize information, and write sound supporting arguments. Developed by iCivics with a grant  from the Library of Congress. 

Note: Also check out the iCivics “School Closure SchookKit”

  1. In Digital Cards Against Calamity (Video Demo) players gain insight into difficult trade-offs when community stakeholders make decisions during a community issue, such as decisions coastal communities make during a hurricane. Developed by 1St Playable with an award from NOAA.
  2. Inspired by historical documents and events, the Traders & Raiders game allows players age eight to 12 to learn more about history, geography, and the life of a pirate. The game teaches players about the transatlantic trade, piracy, and how Philipsburg Manor, a National Historic Landmark site in Sleepy Hollow, NY, played a role in this vast and complex system. Developed by Historic Hudson Valley through a 2014 IMLS grant.
  3. People Not Property: Stories of Slavery in the Colonial North is an interactive documentary intended to introduce high school teachers and students to the history of Northern enslavement. The project focuses on what is known or may be interpreted about the lives of individual enslaved people, whose stories are rarely highlighted. Far from comprehensive, People Not Property nonetheless offers an interactive cross-section of human stories emblematic of the lived experience of slavery in colonial America. Developed with funding from NEH.

Social, Emotional, and Healthy Development

  1. Brainology is a multi-media intervention that teaches a growth mindset skills to students in grades PreK to 12 through a wide range of interactive activities illustrating how the brain gets smarter with effort and learning. Developed by Mindset Works in part with support of a 2010 ED/IES SBIR award and a 2015 IES research award.
  2. Healthy U is a sexual health learning platform for high school students aligned to the CDC's National Health Education Standards and is appropriate for both general education and students with or at risk of disabilities. Topics covered include Puberty, STDs, HIV, Pregnancy and Healthy Relationships. Students practice and build skills through games, animated information videos, dramatic vignettes and connect to their future. Funded by a 2015 HHS/Office of Adolescent Health grant.
  3. PlayForward: Elm City Stories is a role-playing videogame for middle school students focused on sexual health and risk reduction and a range of behaviors including substance use, academic dishonesty, and unsafe driving among others. Developed by the play2PREVENT Lab and Schell Games with the support of NICHD.

Thinking

  1. Smart Suite includes three games for students in grades 4 and up to support the development of executive functions: CrushStations, All You Can ET, and Gwakkamole. Developed by New York University’s CREATE Lab with partial support from a 2016 IES research award.

Careers

 

  1. Hats & Ladders (Video Demo) is a game-based apps to empower students ages 14  and up to explore in-demand careers that fit their strengths and interests and to engage in real-world skill building to help prepare for success in the world of work. Developed by Hats & Ladders with a 2015 and 2019 ED/IES SBIR awards and a 2017 OCTAE award.

For Parents and Teachers

  1. Gamesandlearning.co is an index platform where parents and teachers can access dozens of learnings resources (e.g., educational games, digital learning, virtual field trips, video lessons, and hands-on activities) for home or school use by children in pre-kindergarten to grade six. The platform provides a filter for users to find specific resources quickly and permits for individualized playlists to be created. Developed in part with an award from NSF SBIR.

Edward Metz is a research scientist and the program manager for the Small Business Innovation Research Program at the US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences. Please contact Edward.Metz@ed.gov with questions or for more information.

Seeking Your Help in Learning More About What Works in Distance Education: A Rapid Evidence Synthesis

Note: NCEE will continue to accept study nominations after the April 3rd deadline, adding them on a regular basis to our growing bibliography found here. Studies received before the deadline will be considered for the June 1 data release. NCEE will use studies received after the deadline to inform our prioritization of studies for review. Awareness of these studies will also allow NCEE to consider them for future activities related to distance and/or online education and remote learning.

In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, we know that families and educators are scrambling for high-quality information about what works in distance education—a term we use here to include both online learning as well as opportunities for students to use technology or other resources to learn while not physically at school.

Leaders in the education technology ecosystem have already begun to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak by creating websites like techforlearners.org, which as of today lists more than 400 online learning products, resources, and services. But too little information is widely available about what works in distance education to improve student outcomes.

If ever there is a time for citizen science, it is now. Starting today, the What Works Clearinghouse™ (WWC) at the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences is announcing its first-ever cooperative rapid evidence synthesis.

Here is what we have in mind:

  • Between now and April 3rd, we are asking families and educators to share with us questions they have about effective distance education practices and products. We are particularly interested in questions about practices that seem especially relevant today, in which educators are called to adapt their instruction to online formats or send learning materials home to students, and families, not all of whom have internet access, seek to combine available technology with other resources to create a coherent learning experience for their students. Early education, elementary, postsecondary, and adult basic education practices and products are welcome. Submit all nominations to NCEE.Feedback@ed.gov.
  • During that same time, we are asking that members of the public, including researchers and technologists, nominate any rigorous research they are aware of or have conducted that evaluates the effectiveness of specific distance education practices or products on student outcomes. As above,  education, elementary, postsecondary, and adult basic education practices and products are welcome.
    • Submit all nominations to NCEE.Feedback@ed.gov. Nominations should include links to publicly available versions of studies wherever possible.
    • Study authors are strongly encouraged to nominate studies as described above and simultaneously submit them to ED’s online repository of education research, ERIC. Learn more about the ERIC submission process here.
    • We will post a link to a list of studies on this page and update it on a regular basis.
       
  • By June 1, certified WWC reviewers will have prioritized and screened as many nominated studies as resources allow. Based on the responses received from families, educators, researchers, and technologists, we may narrow the focus of our review; however, nominations will be posted to our website, even those we do not review. Reviews will be entered in the WWC’s Review of Individual Studies Database, which can be downloaded as a flat file.
     
  • After June 1, individual meta-analysts, research teams, or others can download screened studies from the WWC and begin their meta-analytic work. As researchers complete their syntheses, they should submit them through the ERIC online submission system and alert IES. Although we cannot review each analysis or endorse their findings, we will do our best to announce each new review via social media—amplifying your work to educators, families, and other interested stakeholders. Let me know at NCEE.Feedback@ed.gov if this part of the work is of interest to you or your colleagues.

Will you help, joining the WWC’s effort to generate high-quality information about what works in distance education? If so, submit your study today, let me know you or your team are interested in lending your meta-analytic skills to the effort, or just provide feedback on how to make this work more effectively. You can reach me directly at matthew.soldner@ed.gov.

Matthew Soldner

Commissioner, National Center for Education Evaluation and
Agency Evaluation Officer, U.S. Department of Education

New International Data Highlight Experiences of Teachers and Principals

The Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) 2018 surveyed lower secondary teachers and principals in the United States and 48 other education systems (in the United States, lower secondary is equivalent to grades 7–9). Following the release of volume 1 of the TALIS 2018 U.S. highlights web report in 2019, volume 2 provides new data comparing teachers’ and principals’ opinions about job satisfaction, stress, salary, and autonomy.

According to the survey results, nearly a quarter of U.S. lower secondary teachers (26 percent) reported they had “a lot” of stress in their work. This was higher than the average across countries participating in TALIS (16 percent) (figure 1). The U.S. percentage was higher than the percentage in 35 education systems, lower than the percentage in 3 education systems, and not measurably different from the percentage in 10 education systems. Across educations systems, the percentage of teachers who reported experiencing “a lot” of stress in their work ranged from 1 percent in the country of Georgia to 38 percent in England (see figure 8T in the TALIS 2018 U.S. highlights web report, volume 2).


Figure 1. Percentage of lower secondary teachers in the United States and across TALIS education systems reporting that they experience “a lot” of stress in their work: 2018


Less than half of U.S. lower secondary teachers (41 percent) “agree” or “strongly agree” that they are satisfied with their salary, which was not measurably different from the TALIS average (39 percent) (figure 2). The U.S. percentage was higher than the percentage in 22 education systems, lower than the percentage in 17 education systems, and not measurably different from the percentage in 9 education systems. The percentage of teachers who “agree” or “strongly agree” that they are satisfied with their salary ranged widely across education systems, from 6 percent in Iceland to 76 percent in Alberta–Canada (see figure 10T in the TALIS 2018 U.S. highlights web report, volume 2).

About half of U.S. lower secondary principals (56 percent) “agree” or “strongly agree” that they are satisfied with their salary, which was not measurably different from the TALIS average (47 percent) (figure 2). The U.S. percentage was higher than the percentage in 15 education systems, lower than the percentage in 3 education systems, and not measurably different from the percentage in 29 education systems. As with teachers, the percentage of principals who “agree” or “strongly agree” that they are satisfied with their salary ranged widely across education systems, from 17 percent in Italy to 86 percent in Singapore (see figure 10P in the TALIS U.S. highlights web report, volume 2).


Figure 2. Percentage of lower secondary teachers and principals in the United States and across TALIS education systems who “agree” or “strongly agree” that they are satisfied with the salary they receive for their work: 2018


TALIS is conducted in the United States by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and is sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental organization of industrialized countries. Further information about TALIS can be found in the technical notes, questionnaires, list of participating OECD and non-OECD countries, and FAQs for the study. In addition, the two volumes of the OECD international reports are available on the OECD TALIS website.

 

By Tom Snyder, AIR; Ebru Erberber, AIR; and Mary Coleman, NCES

Learning from CTE Research Partnerships: Using Data to Address Access and Equity Barriers in Massachusetts

As part of our ongoing blog series aimed at increasing state research on career and technical education (CTE), Corinne Alfeld, Research Analyst at the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and Austin Estes, Senior Policy Associate at Advance CTE, are conducting interviews with individuals who are part of successful CTE State Director research partnerships. The third interview was with Cliff Chuang at the Massachusetts Department of Education and Shaun Dougherty of Vanderbilt University. Note: this interview, from February 5, 2020, has been edited for length and clarity.Photograph of Cliff Chuang and Shaun Dougherty

Could you start by talking about the projects that you’ve worked on, your research questions, and how you settled on those research questions?

Shaun - It grew out of my dissertation work that was using some of the school data and then some of the statewide data from Massachusetts. It started pretty narrowly but the director of research was happy enough with what I was able to do that she talked about whether we could address some additional questions, and more data was becoming available. That more or less triggered the expansion, and then with Cliff coming into the role it became a two-way conversation that was more explicitly about what’s of academic interest and what’s of interest or of need on the practice and policy side for CVTE (career/vocational technical education).

Cliff – I would say that the particular catalyst for our most recent partnership is our desire as an agency to understand the waitlist demand issues related to chapter 74 CVTE in Massachusetts. If I recall correctly, we put out an RFR (request for responses)[1] for a research partner to help us analyze different aspects of who is and is not getting access to CVTE programs in Massachusetts. And Shaun and his partner Isabel at Harvard, a grad student there, their bid was selected. From that project there have been a lot of offshoots through the CTEx exchange collaboration that Shaun and others have established. We’ve been engaged in a lot of informal research inquiry as well as additional formal research that uses that data.

Could you talk a little bit about what the findings were from that project and what have been implications in the academic space but also on the policy front, how are you using those findings to change policy in Massachusetts?

Shaun – The basic findings were that in fact there is much more interest in these high-quality CTE programs, these chapter 74-approved programs in these standalone technical high schools, than can be met by current supply. This was more confirmatory evidence with a little more granularity and maybe confidence in the figures than was possible previously.

Cliff – Shaun’s team also helped us look at just the straight enrollment data comparisons, which is still not as ideal as looking at applicant data. It was helpful to have a more rigorous definition of what data protocols are needed around application and admissions. We have now made the decision to collect waitlist data systematically at the state level to allow researchers like Shaun to more rigorously analyze across the board the attributes of who’s interested in voc tech, who’s getting in, who’s applying, etc.

I think it also stimulated a variety of program initiatives on the part of state government in Massachusetts to increase access to CVTE programs through collaborative partnerships like After Dark, which is an initiative that seeks to utilize shop space in our technical schools after the regular school day paired with academics provided by a partner academic school to get more kids the technical training that we are unable to do in the standard day program structures.

I would also add that Shaun is continuing other aspects of the research now that we’re very excited about, based in part on some of the research they did do to look at longer term trends of students and their outcomes post high school.

Shaun – The first order concern is that lots of people want [access to CVTE programs] and there’s a limited amount of it, so should we have more?

The second order concern – but certainly not secondary question – is one about equity and whether or not the students who were applying and the students who were getting access look like a representative cross-section of the community at large.  We know that students who choose CTE or select a lot of it are maybe different than those who don’t, but we don’t know a ton about whether and how we expect students who are making those investments to look like the overall population or whether or not access concerns lead to equity concerns.

Cliff – We would like to look more closely at whether the gaps are simply due to application gaps – which is still an issue in terms of kids not applying – or whether there are actual gaps related to who is applying and getting in. That was the data gap that we haven’t quite been able to close yet. But Shaun was able to create some comparative data that is just based on enrollment that has allowed us to engage in these conversations. We’re having the conversation about trying to expand the number of seats available so there’s less of a waitlist, but also to ensure that access into the existing seats is equitable and doesn’t disadvantage certain subgroups over others.

Over the course of the partnership, what have been some of the major challenges and hurdles that you’ve faced? What are some of the speedbumps that you’ve hit getting things formalized up at the front?

Shaun – Fortunately, one thing that we didn’t face, although I know it’s an obstacle in many places, is processes related to how one gets permissions and access to the data. In fact, as the process has evolved, having those structures in place has made it really easy, so that if Cliff and I say “hey, we’d like to add this,” it’s a pretty easy amendment of the MOU (memorandum of understanding). And then the people who deliver the data get approval and then they deliver it through a secure portal.

Cliff – I would also say that researchers left on their own probably would have had much less success in getting district participation in the survey study we did together. I, on the other hand, am someone with positional authority at the state level and established relationships that I can leverage to get that participation. And then I can pass it off to the research team that actually has the expertise and bandwidth to execute on the very labor-intensive data collection, both quantitatively and qualitatively.

It seems like you have a good partnership and a good synergy between the state office and the research team. If you were talking to CTE leaders and other researchers, what are some strategies and practices to make sure that partnership runs effectively and can be as impactful as possible?

Cliff – I think it’s important to have someone in the role of a researcher director type person whose job it is to facilitate these partnerships and to do some of the nitty gritty around data sharing, MOUs, etc. The other thing I would say is to have a commitment to an evidence base in terms of policymaking, and have people in the programmatic leadership who see the value of that and have enough knowledge of how research functions to parlay whatever policy or relational capital they have to support the research agenda.

Shaun – I think sometimes overcoming the incentives related to purely academic publishing restricts some of the willingness of some academic researchers to invest or to think about important questions in practice and policy. It’s being willing to realize that strong partnerships with local and state agencies means that more and better work can be done, and the work can have impact in real time. There is something very fulfilling and useful and practical about taking that approach from a research standpoint and then, if you come from practice like I did, then it helps ground the work.

Other blog posts in this series can be viewed here.

 

[1] Cliff explained that this is a formal process by which they solicited proposals for pay. “What’s been nice is that because it’s a partnership, Shaun has secured funding from other sources so there’s not an explicit contractual arrangement always. Aspects of the research that are ongoing are follow-ons from the original study. We have an interest in continuing to mine the data long-term to inform practice and policy.”

Activities for Students and Families Stuck at Home due to COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

As I write this blog post, my 4-year-old is spraying me with a water sprayer while I am desperately protecting my computer from a direct hit. Earlier, while I was listening in on a meeting, she yelled out “hi!” anytime I took myself off mute. Balancing work and raising kids in this bizarre situation we find ourselves in is an overwhelming experience. When schools started closing, some parents resorted to posting suggested schedules for kids to keep up a routine and deliver academic content during the day. These were wonderful suggestions. As someone whose dissertation focused on how people learn, I should be applauding such posts, but instead, they filled me with a sense of anxiety and guilt. How am I supposed to balance getting my work done while also designing a rigorous curriculum of reading, writing, and math instruction for a kid whose attention span lasts about 10-20 minutes and who needs guidance and adult interaction to learn effectively? Let’s take a step back and recognize that this situation is not normal. We adults are filled with anxiety for the future. We are trying to manage an ever-growing list of things—do we have enough food? Do we need to restock medications? What deadlines do we need to hit at work?

So here is my message to you, parents, who are managing so much and trying desperately to keep your kids happy, healthy, and engaged: recognize that learning experiences exist in even the simplest of interactions between you and your kids. For example—

  • When doing laundry, have your child help! Have them sort the laundry into categories, find the matching socks, name colors. Create patterns with colors or clothing types (for example, red sock, then blue, then red, which comes next?).
  • Find patterns in your environment, in language (for example, nursery rhymes), and when playing with blocks or Legos. Researchers have shown that patterning is strongly related to early math skills.
  • Talk about numbers when baking. I did this with my daughter yesterday morning. We made muffins and had a blast talking about measuring cups, the number of eggs in the recipe, and even turning the dial on the oven to the correct numbers. Older kids might be interested in learning the science behind baking.
  • Take a walk down your street (practicing good social distancing of course!) and look for different things in your environment to count or talk about.
  • Bring out the scissors and paper and learn to make origami along with your kids, both for its benefits for spatial thinking and as a fun, relaxing activity! In this project, researchers developed and pilot tested Think 3d!, an origami and pop-up paper engineering curriculum designed to teach spatial skills to students. The program showed promise in improving spatial thinking skills.
  • If you choose to use screen time, choose apps that promote active, engaged, meaningful, socially interactive learning.
  • If you choose to use television programs, there is evidence showing that high quality educational programs can improve students’ vocabulary knowledge.

Hopefully these examples show that you can turn even the most mundane tasks into fun learning experiences and interactions with your kids. They may not become experts in calculus at the end of all of this, but maybe they will look back fondly on this period of their life as a time when they were able to spend more time with their parents. At the end of the day, having positive experiences with our kids is going to be valuable for us and for them. If you have time to infuse some formal learning into this time, great, but if that feels like an overwhelmingly hard thing to do, be kind to yourself and recognize the value of even the most simple, positive interaction with your kids.

Written by Erin Higgins, PhD, who oversees the National Center for Education Research (NCER)'s Cognition and Student Learning portfolio.