IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Responding to COVID19 in Education: ED/IES and Government Supported Developers Offer Virtual Resources and Activities for Distance Learning

We recently posted this blog listing more than 80 learning games and technologies that are available at no cost until the end of the school year in response to the closure of schools due to the COVID crisis. The resources were created by education technology developers with support from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Programs at ED/IES and other agencies, as well as through programs at IES and across government. In recent weeks, more than 100,000 teachers and students around the country have accessed these learning technologies at a distance.

Today, we are sharing more resources and activities that this group of developers is making available to the education community in response to COVID19.

A Series of Day-Long Virtual Unconferences

Over the coming weeks, developers are hosting a series of free virtual “Unconferences” on different topics for educators, parents, and students. The events will feature innovative models and approaches to teaching and learning during this time of distance learning and in-depth looks at the learning games and technologies created by the presenters, available at no cost until the end of the school year. While presenters will describe the delivery of online interventions via computers and devices, sessions will also focus on innovative approaches to implementing the interventions in low-resource settings.

The events are called “Unconferences” because the sessions are informal in nature and attendees can select sessions to join across the day. Attendees can participate by asking the presenters questions through the chat box and by responding to polls that capture reactions and views on topics.

Schedule and Information about the Virtual Unconferences in Education:

National K12 Student Challenge

ED/IES SBIR awardee Future Engineers (@K12FutureE) launched a nation-wide challenge for K12 students to submit entries to “invent a way to make someone smile or feel appreciated during COVID19.” Teachers can sign up a class to participate or students can participate on their own. See this page for more information and to submit an entry.

Stay tuned to the Inside IES Blog for more information and resources about the response to the COVID19 in education.

 


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.

 

ASSISTments: From Research to Practice at Scale in Education

ASSISTments is a free, web-based formative assessment platform for teachers and students in Grades 3 through 12. The tool is designed for teachers to easily assign students math problems from OER textbooks such as Illustrative Math and EngageNY, existing item banks, or items they have developed on their own. ASSISTments will continually assess students as they solve math problems and provide immediate feedback and the chance to try again. The computer-generated reports provide teachers with information to make real-time adjustments to their instruction. Teachers can use it with their school’s existing learner management systems, such as Google Classroom and Canvas. Watch a video here.

 

 

Over the past 13 years, ASSISTments was developed and evaluated with the support of a series of IES and National Science Foundation awards. With a 2003 IES award to Carnegie Mellon University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), researchers created the first version of ASSISTments. The system was populated with Massachusetts high-stakes mathematics test questions and the tutoring for the questions was authored by WPI staff with assistance from local teachers. After students completed problems assigned by the teacher, reports provided teachers with information about question difficulty and the most commonly submitted wrong answers, initiating class discussions around the completed assignments. In 2007, researchers at WPI received an award to build additional functionalities in the ASSISTments program so that teachers could assign supports (called “skill builders”) to students to help them master content.  An additional eight grants allowed the researchers to create other features. 

With a 2012 IES research grant award, SRI evaluated the efficacy of the ASSISTments program as a homework tool for academic learning.  In the study, the researchers took all 7th grade textbooks in the State of Maine and added answers to homework problems into ASSISTments.  The results of the efficacy trial demonstrated that teachers changed their homework reviewing behavior, mathematical learning improved an extra three quarters of a year of schooling, and using ASSISTments reliably closed achievement gaps for students with different achievement levels. ASSISTments is currently being evaluated again through two IES studies, with over 120 schools, to attempt to replicate this result. To view all publications related to ASSISTments, see here.

As of 2020, ASSISTments has been used by approximately 60,000 students with over 12 million problems solved.

 

Interview with Neil Heffernan and Cristina Heffernan

From the start of the project, was it always a goal that ASSISTments would one day be used on a wide scale?

We created ASSISTments to help as many teachers and students as possible. After we learned that the ASSISTments intervention was effective, we set the goal to have every middle school student in the country get immediate feedback on their homework. We created ASSISTments to be used by real teachers and have been improving it with each grant. Because of the effectiveness of ASSISTments, we kept getting funded to make improvements allowing our user base to grow.

At what point was ASSISTments ready to be used at a large scale in schools?

We were ready in year one because of the simplicity of our software. Now that we integrated seamlessly with Google Classroom, most teachers can use the system without training!

ASSISTments is backed by a lot of research, which would make some think that it would be easy for many schools to adopt. What were (or are) the biggest obstacles to ASSISTments being used in more schools?

A big obstacle has been access to technology for all students. The current environment in schools is making that less and less of a barrier. Now, teachers are looking for effective ways to use the computers they have.      

What options did you consider to begin distributing ASSISTments?

We had major companies try to buy us out, but we turned them all down. We knew the value was being in control so we could run research studies, let others run research studies and AB test new ideas. It was important to us to keep ASSISTments free to teachers. It is also a necessity since we crowdsource from teachers.

How do you do marketing?

Our biggest obstacle is marketing. But we are lucky to have just received $1 million in funding from a philanthropy to create a nonprofit to support the work of making our product accessible. Foundation funding has allowed us to hire staff members to write marketing materials including a new website, op-eds, blog posts and press releases. In addition to our internal marketing staff member, we work extensively with The Learning Agency to get press and foundation support for ASSISTments.

What costs are associated with the launch and distribution of ASSISTments, including marketing? Will a revenue model needed sustain ASSISTments over time?

When creating ASSISTments, we didn’t want a traditional business model based on schools paying. Our vision for future growth, instead, focused on crowdsourcing ideas from teachers and testing them. We are trying to replicate the Wikimedia platform idea created by Jimmy Wales. He crowdsources the content that makes up the encyclopedia, so it must be free. We envision using ASSISTments to help us crowdsource hints and explanations for all the commonly used questions in middle school mathematics.  

Do you have any agreement about the IP with the universities where ASSISTments was developed?

The ASSISTments Foundation was founded in 2019 and supports our project work in tandem with Worcester Polytechnic Institute due to our integration with research. The close relationship takes care of any issues that would arise with intellectual property. Additionally, the fact that we are a nonprofit helps address these issues.

How do you describe the experience of commercializing ASSISTments? What would you say is most needed for gaining traction in the marketplace?

Even though we are free, we do have several competitors. To gain traction, we have found that word of mouth is an effective disseminator and our positive efficacy trial result. Currently, there are many teachers on Facebook sharing how much they like ASSISTments. We also attend conferences and are working on an email campaign to get new users onboard.

Do you have advice for university researchers seeking to move their laboratory research into widespread practice?

Make sure your work is accessible and meaningful! We are solving a super-pervasive problem of homework in schools. Everyone finds meaning in making homework better.


Neil Heffernan (@NeilTHeffernan) is a professor of computer science and Director of Learning Sciences and Technologies at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.  He developed ASSISTments not only to help teachers be more effective in the classroom but also so that he could use the platform to conduct studies to improve the quality of education.  

Cristina Heffernan (@CristinaHeff) is the Lead Strategist for the ASSISTments Project at WPI. She began her career in education as a math teacher in the Peace Corps and after went on to teach middle school math in the US.  She began working with teachers while a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh. As one of the co-founders of ASSISTments, Cristina has nurtured the system to be a tool for teachers to improve what they already do well in the classroom. 


This interview was produced by Edward Metz of the Institute of Education Sciences. This is the fourth in an ongoing series of blog posts examining moving from university research to practice at scale in education.​

Education Technology Platforms to Enable Efficient Education Research

Education research is often a slow and costly process. An even more difficult challenge is replicating research findings in a timely and cost-effective way to ensure that they are meaningful for the wide range of contexts and populations that make up our nation’s school system.

In a recent op-ed, IES Director Mark Schneider and Schmidt Futures Senior Director for Technology and Society Kumar Garg pitched the idea that digital learning platforms may be a way to accelerate the research enterprise. These platforms will enable researchers to try new ideas and replicate interventions quickly across many sites and with a wide range of student populations. They could also open the door for educators to get more involved in the research process. For example, Learn Platform supports districts as they make decisions about purchasing and implementing products in their schools, and ASSISTments provides infrastructure for researchers to conduct cheaper and faster studies than they would be able to do on their own.

IES Director Mark Schneider and NCER Commissioner Liz Albro recently attended a meeting sponsored by Schmidt Futures focused on these issues. Two major takeaways from the meeting: first, there is already progress on building and using platforms for testing interventions, and, second, platform developers are enthusiastic about integrating research capabilities into their work.

As we consider how we can support platform developers, researchers, and education personnel to co-design tools to enable more efficient, large scale research on digital learning platforms, several questions have arisen:  

  1. What digital learning platforms already have a large enough user base to support large scale research studies?
  2. Are there content areas or grade levels that are not well supported through digital learning platforms?
  3. What are the key features that a platform needs to have to support rigorous tests and rapid replication of research findings? 
  4. What are the barriers and challenges for companies interested in participating in this effort?
  5. What kinds of research questions can best be answered in this research environment?
  6. What kind of infrastructure needs to be developed around the platform to enable seamless collaborations between education stakeholders, researchers, and product developers?

We know there are some of you have already given these questions some thought. In addition, there are other questions and issues that we haven’t considered. We welcome your thoughts. Feel free to email us at Erin.Higgins@ed.gov and Elizabeth.Albro@ed.gov. And join NCER’s Virtual Learning Lab in their virtual workshop “Designing Online Learning Platforms to Enable Research” on April 17th, 3:00pm-5:00pm Eastern Time. Learn more about the workshop here.

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 for a recap and here for a video trailer 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 88 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.

List of 88 Education Learning Games and Technologies (updated on April 23, 2020)

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. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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 Penn State University 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. Killer Snails’  BioDive (Video Demo) combines virtual reality and online digital journaling to enable students to experience the life of a scientist. Middle school students take on the role of marine biologists investigating the delicate ecosystems of venomous marine snails. Throughout their expedition, students observe, discover, and hypothesize about abiotic and biotic factors that impact marine biodiversity. Developed through a 2017 NSF SBIR.
  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. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. In Secrets of the Sea, secondary and middle school students navigate the hidden treasures of a coral reef. From the tiniest plants to the largest hunters, they'll discover the connections between the creatures and restore health to the reef.  Developed by the Smithsonian Institution.

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. KinderTEK’s ipad app helps students with or at risk for disabilities learn important preschool/kindergarten level math skills. Developed with grants from IES/NCSER and OSEP. Note: Teachers can set up free cloud-synced class accounts for students to use at home by contacting KinderTEK through the website.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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. 
  9. 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. 
  10. 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. 
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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 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.
  4. In KidCitizen, kindergarten through 5th grade students learn about civic engagement and history by exploring primary source photographs from the Library of Congress.  KidCitizen includes seven episodes on topics ranging from Community Helpers to Congress to the role of photographers in civic action. KidCitizen is always free to use and works in the browser on all platforms. Developed by Snow&Co, the USF College of Education, and Muzzy Lane through a 2015 grant from the Library of Congress.
  5. The We the People Open Course and the Strengthening Democracy in America are two free online courses for history, civics, and government teachers. Teachers deepen their knowledge of the historical and philosophical origins of the U.S. Constitution and the challenges facing American constitutional democracy in the twenty-first century. Developed with funding from ED.

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: smokeSCREEN is a theory- and evidence-informed smoking and vaping prevention videogame for individuals aged 10-16. smokeSCREEN addresses the range of challenges that young teens face, with a dedicated focus on youth decision-making around smoking and vaping and includes strategies for both smoking prevention and cessation. Developed by the play2PREVENT Lab and 1stPlayable in part with funding from NIH.
  4. 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.

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

 

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