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Institute of Education Sciences

New Grant to Develop a Learning Game About the Supreme Court Features ED/IES SBIR Education Technology Platform

In April 2022, iCivics was awarded a $400,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to develop Supreme Justice, a live-action multiplayer experience that simulates the deliberation process used by Supreme Court justices.  The game is being developed in partnership with small business Gigantic Mechanic and deployed using their VOXPOP platform, which was developed through the ED/IES SBIR program with awards in 2018 and 2019.

VOXPOP is a technology-enabled, class-wide, role-playing game for high school students. Using any web browser, teachers access a library of simulations on a range of topics drawn from the AP U.S. history curriculum and Common Core History Standards. VOXPOP’s platform provides resources to guide implementation, including videos, individualized student profiles, and real-time voting, and facilitates each student playing a unique historical role. Throughout the experience, the software guides participants with facts and primary sources, with students engaging in face-to-face discussions, and debating issues central to the simulation. All VOXPOP content can be found at www.voxpop.io

On July 15, VOXPOP was selected as the winner for the “Best Civics Game” through the Games For Change 2022 Awards. This annual award competition recognizes the year's best games for social impact and learning. All awards are competitive with submissions are evaluated by expert jurors.

In the new Supreme Justice game, students in grades 6 to 12 participate in a live-action multiplayer simulation focused on freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and due process rights. Classrooms are divided into different groups to play petitioners, respondents, and justices as they argue and consider cases of constitutional law. Supreme Justice will model deliberation and critical thinking in a civic setting, grounded in historical cases and relying heavily on the U.S. Constitution as evidence. The experience will engage students in face-to-face discussions and debates, while collaborating to craft arguments central to civic and government life. Once the game is developed, it will be freely available on the iCivics website.

 

 

Along with the iCivics NEH grant, Gigantic Mechanic is partnering with other organizations and museums, such as Revolutionary Spaces (see video below), to develop custom role-plays and simulations for their platforms and spaces.

 

 


Stay tuned to @IESResearch for news and updates on research, initiatives, and project updates in the area of tutoring to accelerate learning.

For more information, please contact Edward Metz (Edward.Metz@ed.gov), research scientist and the program manager for the Small Business Innovation Research Program at the US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.

 

Technology Facilitated Tutoring Programs to Accelerate Learning

It goes without saying, challenges caused by COVID-19 in the field of education remain widespread and have the potential to be long lasting. A recent report confirmed that during the pandemic the move to full-time remote schooling was related to a decrease in student achievement, especially in high-poverty districts. Now over two years later, school leaders continue to employ strategies to address learning loss, such as intensive tutoring programs. This is because decades of research support the effectiveness of in-person tutoring to accelerate learning, and recent research also shows positive effects for high dosage virtual tutoring for struggling learners during the pandemic.

While the human-to-human interaction will always be central to a quality tutoring experience, technology offers unique functionalities to enrich and extend tutoring. For example, new models of technology facilitated tutoring programs—

  • Engage students with game-based and multi-media content that adjusts to the level of the individual and generate real-time tips to scaffold learning
  • Employ tools such as virtual whiteboards and data visualizations to enrich the virtual workspace for the tutor and student
  • Use dashboards to present real-time data driven insights for tutors to track student progress and individualize instruction
  • Provide automated professional development and training opportunities to prepare tutors

Technology also enables schools and community organizations to offer remote tutoring programs at scale—to reach students anywhere and anytime, including after school and during the summer. This of course depends on student access to technology and the availability of qualified tutors.  

Four IES Supported Technology-Based Tutoring Programs

In spring 2020, to help address the crisis in education caused by the pandemic, four teams of IES-funded developers adapted and extended their learning technologies for remote tutoring to be ready to be used at scale. The technologies are all research based and offer unique capabilities to strengthen the tutoring experience and to allow programs to reach more students. Each of the following programs described below can now deliver tutoring in schools or remote settings.

A2i by Learning Ovations. A2i (watch video) is a web-based product for students in kindergarten to grade 3 that continually assesses reading and generates data-driven recommendations to inform instruction. A2i is used in hundreds of schools by tens of thousands of students each year. Originally developed for in-school use through multiple IES and other government awards, research demonstrates the efficacy of A2i to improve student reading.

At the beginning of COVID-19, the Community Literacy Support System was designed to extend A2i for tutoring at student homes and other non-school locations. The program provides customized lessons and data visualization tools for tutors and parents. In the past two years, the tutoring program has been used by 9,200 students across 5 different states, at 23 different community sites (such as this one), and within almost 8,000 homes.

ASSISTments by ASSISTments. ASSISTments (watch video) is used by teachers to assign problems to students from curricula, such as EngageNY, Illustrative Mathematics, and Open Up Resources. Students receive real-time instructional feedback while doing problems online, while teachers receive reports with actionable insights to inform instruction. Initially developed through multiple awards from IES and other sources, in 2021-22, ASSISTments was used by over 5,000 educators and 200,000 students at schools around the country. Research by SRI International demonstrated that classrooms that used ASSISTments increased in learning course content compared to a control group.

At the onset of COVID-19, ASSISTments designed TutorASSIST, a tool to present data visualizations for tutors to target specific student needs through remote (or in-person) sessions. More than 750 students across Louisiana, Georgia, and Maryland used the tool to support remote tutoring during the pandemic. With a 2021 ED/EIR grant, ASSISTments is further developing its core product and tutoring tool to serve historically underserved students, including starting a school tutoring pilot program in eight schools in partnership with EnCorps Tutors, with a focus on optimizing the technology for tutoring.

SAGA Coach by SAGA Education and Simbulus. SAGA Education and Woot Math (watch video) employ interactive and game-based activities to support student math learning and a dashboard that generates data-driven insights to promote dialogue and discussion of complex topics between teachers and students. The school-based intervention reaches approximately 75,000 students per year. Woot Math was developed through an ED/IES SBIR award and through other sources. In 2021, Woot Math was acquired by and integrated within SAGA Education’s online math program.  

During the pandemic, SAGA Coach was designed to extend Saga Education and Woot Math for remote tutoring through the addition of an interactive whiteboard shared by tutors and students, and online training materials for tutors. During the 2020-21 school year, 5,500 students used SAGA Coach for high-dosage remote tutoring, and in 2022-23, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America will use SAGA Coach to deliver a remote tutoring program.

Lightning Squad by Sirius Thinking and Success For All. Lightning Squad (watch video) is a multimedia platform where pairs of students in grades 1 to 3 who are struggling readers collaborate to read stories and play games that are presented by the computer, while a tutor provides targeted support. Developed through an ED/IES SBIR award, the product is currently being evaluated through a multiyear efficacy trial and will be used in 50 Baltimore City elementary schools in fall 2022.  

At the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, Lightning Squad was adapted for remote delivery in eight Baltimore City schools serving principally low-income students. In the remote version, tutors use a video platform (for example, Zoom) with pairs of students in their respective homes. Students proceed with the activities of the software and respond verbally while a tutor types responses on the screen in real-time for each team member to see. In the 2020-21 school year, 16 Baltimore City schools used Lightning Squad with over 800 students, most for remote tutoring. Research conducted during the project by Success For All (not yet reviewed by the Department) found that students who were able to maintain consistent participation with remote tutoring gained 1.5 years of progress as measured by their initial placement and end of year placement, double the expected gains in reading during the period of school closures.  An additional 1,200 students were served remotely using Lightning Squad in other states during this same period.

Additional Related Resources on Tutoring to Accelerate Learning

  • Lightning Squad and SAGA Coach are part of Proven Tutoring, a coalition of technology-delivered tutoring programs with a mission to help educators learn about and access tutoring programs. These evidence-based programs have the potential to increase the achievement of students performing far below grade level due to COVID school closures or other factors.
  • In June 2021 during the ED Games Expo, IES partnered with AmeriCorps to host a webinar focusing on government and community partner initiatives to support remote tutoring to accelerate student learning during COVID-19.

In April 2022, AmeriCorps partnered with ED to produce a webinar on lessons from the field on the topic of high-dosage tutoring. AmeriCorps and the Department, along with Johns Hopkins University’s Everyone Graduates Center, are partners in the National Partnership for Student Success (NPSS). Launched in July 2022, the NPSS is committed to engaging 250,000 adults as tutors, mentors, and coaches in evidence-based programs designed to accelerate students’ recovery from the pandemic. 


Stay tuned to @IESResearch for news and updates on research, initiatives, and project updates in the area of tutoring to accelerate learning.

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.

Melissa Moritz was the Afterschool and Summer Learning Fellow in the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE) at the US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences. She currently serves as the Director of Policy for the STEM Next Opportunity Fund.

Please contact Edward.Metz@ed.gov with questions or for more information.

 

Google Acquires Intellectual Property for IES-Supported Education Technology Products Moby.Read and SkillCheck

On April 1, 2022, Google acquired the intellectual property (IP) rights for Moby.Read and SkillCheck, education technology products developed through IES programs by California-based Analytics Measures, Inc. (AMI). AMI will continue as a small business and is honoring school contracts that use Moby.Read and SkillCheck until 2024.

Moby.Read is a technology-delivered, fully automated, oral reading fluency (ORF) assessment that is self-administered by grade school students. As students read a passage aloud into a tablet, the speech-recognition software generates an assessment of ORF in real time through natural language processing software that analyzes text passages of the read-aloud performances. SkillCheck is a component of Moby.Read that employs natural language processing software to analyze recordings and produce interactive report pages that rate and illustrate the student's basic reading skills.

 

 

The technologies were developed over two decades with IES funding. Beginning in 2002, AMI designed several early prototypes to be used for ORFs as a part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress and other national assessments administered by IES’s National Center for Education Statistics. In 2016 and 2017, the IES Small Business Innovation Research program (ED/IES SBIR) funded AMI to develop and test Moby.Read to be used in schools at scale. With 2020 and 2021 ED/IES SBIR awards, AMI developed the SkillCheck as an additional component of Moby.Read to provide educators activities to inform instruction. AMI conducted research at key points over 20 years to validate the results of the assessment.

Since commercial launch in 2019, the Moby.Read and SkillCheck have been used for more than 30,000 student assessments in 30 states. Google acquired the Moby.Read and SkillCheck IP with plans to incorporate these tools into Google suite of products for education.

For additional information on the research, development, and commercialization of these technologies, see this Success Story on the ED/IES SBIR website.


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.

 

Investing in Next Generation Technologies for Education and Special Education

The Department of Education’s (ED) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, administered by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), funds entrepreneurial developers to create the next generation of technology products for students, teachers, and administrators in education and special education. The program, known as ED/IES SBIR, emphasizes an iterative design and development process and pilot research to test the feasibility, usability, and promise of new products to improve outcomes. The program also focuses on planning for commercialization so that the products can reach schools and end-users and be sustained over time.

In recent years, millions of students in tens of thousands of schools around the country have used technologies developed through ED/IES SBIR, including more than million students and teachers who used products for remote teaching and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

ED/IES SBIR Announces 2022 Awards

IES has made 10 2022 Phase I awards for $250,000*. During these 8 month projects, teams will develop and refine prototypes of new products and test their usability and initial feasibility. All awardees who complete a Phase I project will be eligible to apply for a Phase II award in 2023.

IES has made nine 2022 Phase II awards, which support further research and development of prototypes of education technology products that were developed under 2021 ED/IES SBIR Phase I awards. In these Phase II projects, teams will complete product development and conduct pilot studies in schools to demonstrate the usability and feasibility, fidelity of implementation, and the promise of the products to improve the intended outcomes.

IES also made one Direct to Phase II award to support the research, development, and evaluation of a new education technology product to ready an existing researcher-developed evidence-based intervention for use at scale and to plan for commercialization. The Direct to Phase II project is awarded without a prior Phase I award. All Phase II and the Direct to Phase II awards are for $1,000,000 for two-years. Across all awards, projects address different ages of students and content areas.

The list of all 2022 awards is posted here. This page will be updated with the two additional Phase I awards after the contracts are finalized.

 

 

The 2022 ED/IES SBIR awards highlight three trends that continue to emerge in the field of education technology.

Trend 1: Projects Are Employing Advanced Technologies to Personalize Learning and Generate Insights to Inform Tailored Instruction

About two-thirds of the new projects are developing software components that personalize teaching and learning, whether through artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing, automated speech recognition, or algorithms. All these projects will include functionalities afforded by modern technology to personalize learning by adjusting content to the level of the individual learner, offer feedback and prompts to scaffold learning as students progress through the systems, and generate real-time actionable information for educators to track and understand student progress and adjust instruction accordingly. For example:

  • Charmtech Labs and Literably are fully developing reading assessments that provide feedback to inform instruction.
  • Sirius Thinking and studio:Sckaal are developing prototypes to formatively assess early grade school students in reading.
  • Sown To Grow and xSEL Labs are fully developing platforms to facilitate student social and emotional assessments and provide insights to educators.
  • Future Engineers is fully developing a platform for judges to provide feedback to students who enter STEM and educational challenges and contests.
  • Querium and 2Sigma School are developing prototypes to support math and computer science learning respectively.
  • ,Soterix is fully developing a smart walking cane and app for children with visual impairments to learn to navigate.
  • Alchemie is fully developing a product to provide audio cues to blind or visually impaired students learning science.
  • Star Autism Support is developing a prototype to support practitioners and parents of children with autism spectrum disorder.

Trend 2: Projects Focusing on Experiential and Hands-On Learning
Several new projects are combining hardware and software solutions to engage students through pedagogies employing game-based, hands-on, collaborative, or immersive learning:

  • Pocketlab is fully developing a matchbox-sized car with a sensor to collect physical science data as middle school students play.
  • GaiaXus is developing a prototype sensor used for environmental science field experiments.
  • Mind Trust is a developing a virtual reality escape room for biology learning.
  • Smart Girls is developing a prototype science game and accompanying real-world hands-on physical activity kits.
  • Indelible Learning is developing a prototype online multi-player game about the electoral college.
  • Edify is fully developing a school-based program for students to learn about, create, and play music.

Trend 3: Projects to Advance Research to Practice at Scale

Several new awards will advance existing education research-based practices into new technology products that are ready to be delivered at scale:

  • INSIGHTS is fully developing a new technology-delivered version to ready an NIH- and IES-supported social and emotional intervention for use at scale.
  • xSEL Laband Charmtech Labs (noted above) are building on prior IES-funded research-based interventions to create scalable products.
  • Scrible is developing an online writing platform in partnership with the National Writers Project based on prior Department of Education-funded research. 

 


*Note: Two additional 2022 Phase I awards are forthcoming in 2022. The contracts for these awards are delayed due to a back-up in the SAM registration process.

Stay tuned for updates on Twitter and Facebook as IES continues to support innovative forms of technology.

Edward Metz (Edward.Metz@ed.gov) is the Program Manager of the ED/IES SBIR program.

Michael Leonard (Michael.Leonard@ed.gov) is the Program Analyst of the ED/IES SBIR program.

 

Catalyzing Data Science Education in K-12: Recommendations from a Panel of Experts

Several efforts around the country are re-examining the skills students need to be prepared for the 21st century. Frontier digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and blockchain carry the potential—and in some cases have already begun—to radically transform the economy and the workplace. Global engagement and national competitiveness will likely rely upon the skills, deep understanding, and leadership in these areas.

These technologies run on a new type of fuel: data, and very large amounts of it. The “big data” revolution has already changed the way modern businesses, government, and research is conducted, generating new information and shaping critical decisions at all levels. The volume and complexity of modern data has evolved to such a degree that an entire field—data science—has emerged to meet the needs of these new technologies and the stakeholders employing them, drawing upon an inter-disciplinary intersection of statistics, computer science, and domain knowledge. Data science professionals work in a variety of industries, and data now run many of the systems we interact with in our daily life—whether smart voice assistants on our phone, social media platforms in our personal and civic lives, or Internet of Things infrastructure in our built environment.

Students in grades K-12 also interact with these systems. Despite the vast amount of data that students are informally exposed to, there are currently limited formal learning opportunities for students to learn how to understand, assess, and work with the data that they encounter in a variety of contexts. Data science education in K-12 is not widespread, suggesting that our education system has not invested in building capacity around these new and important skill sets. A review of the NCES 2019 NAEP High School Transcript Study (HSTS) data revealed that only 0.07% of high school graduates took a data science course, and 0.04% of high school graduates took an applied or interdisciplinary data science course in health informatics, business, energy, or other field. Critically, education research informing the design, implementation, and teaching of these programs is similarly limited.

To develop a better understanding of the state of data science education research, on October 26, 2021, NCER convened a Technical Working Group (TWG) panel to provide recommendations to NCER on 1) the goals for K-12 data science education research, 2) how to improve K-12 data science education practice, 3) how to ensure access to and equity in data science education, and 4) what is needed to build an evidence base and research capacity for the new field. The five key recommendations from the panel are summarized in a new report.  

  • Recommendation 1. Articulate the Developmental Pathway—Panelists recommended more research to better articulate K-12 learning pathways for students.
  • Recommendation 2: Assess and Improve Data Science Software—Panelists suggested additional research to assess which data analysis software tools (tinker-based tools, spreadsheets, professional software, or other tools) should be incorporated into instruction and when, in order to be developmentally appropriate and accessible to all learners.
  • Recommendation 3: Build Tools for Measurement and Assessment—Panelists advocated for additional research to develop classroom assessment tools to support teachers and to track student success and progress, and to ensure students may earn transferable credit for their work from K-12 to postsecondary education.
  • Recommendation 4: Integrate Equity into Schooling and Systems—Panelists emphasized the importance of equity in opportunities and access to high quality data science education for all learners. Data science education research should be conducted with an equity lens that critically examines what is researched and for whom the research benefits.
  • Recommendation 5: Improve Implementation—Panelists highlighted several systematic barriers to successfully implementing and scaling data science education policies and practices, including insufficient resources, lack of teacher training, and misalignment in required coursework and credentials between K-12, postsecondary education, and industry. The panel called for research to evaluate different implementation approaches to reduce these barriers and increase the scalability of data science education policies and practices. 

Given the limited evidence base informing data science education at the K-12 level, panelists expressed a sense of urgency for additional research, and for expanded research efforts to quickly build an evidence base to evaluate the promise of, practices for, and best ways to impart data science education. These transformations may carry significant implications for career and technical skills, online social and civic engagement, and global citizenship in the digital sphere.   

Importantly, this report highlights more research is still needed—and soon. IES looks forward to the field’s ideas for research projects that address what works, for whom, and under which conditions within data science education and will continue to engage the education research community to draw attention to critical research gaps in this area.


Written by Zarek Drozda, 2021-2022 FAS Data Science Education Impact Fellow.