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Institute of Education Sciences

IES Makes Two New SBIR Awards for the Full-Scale Development of Web-based Tools to Inform Decision Making by Postsecondary Students

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) has announced two new awards to technology firms to fully develop web-based tools that inform student decision making in postsecondary education. The projects will focus on generating a measure of the return of investment (ROI) for different educational training programs and careers, so that high school and college students have access to data-driven information to guide their decisions.

The awards were made through a special topic offered by the U.S. Department of Education/IES Small Business Innovation Research (known as ED/IES SBIR) program, which funds the research and development of commercially viable education technology. (For information on the 22 awards made through the IES 2020 standard solicitation, read here.)

 

Background and Awards

While websites like College Scorecard and CareerOneStop provide information to explore training programs in colleges and occupations of interest, there is no tool that helps students understand the costs and benefits of individual postsecondary programs in an integrated, customizable, and user-friendly manner.  

A 2019 Phase I SBIR special topic solicitation requested proposals from small businesses to develop new ROI tools that would improve program completion rates, employment and earnings, and satisfaction with college or career, all while minimizing education-related debt. In 2019, two Phase I awards (see here and here) were made to firms to develop prototype ROI tools. The 2020 Phase II SBIR special topic solicitation requested proposals from the two 2019 Phase I awardees with plans for the full-scale development of the ROI tools, as well as an interface to present information to students and users.  Both firms received 2020 Phase II awards through this special topic:

 

  • Illinois-based BrightHive, Inc. is fully developing an open-source toolkit that states and networks can use to calculate metrics that support and inform decision-making by postsecondary students. The Training, Education, and Apprenticeship Program Outcomes Toolkit (TEAPOT) will include several components to support implementation, including data requirements, a field guide with instructional materials and technical tools to help partners to securely and ethically combine wage and education data, a resource hub containing expert guidance and recommendations for deploying the ROI metrics in different contexts and apps, and a reference interface that allows states and networks to present ROI data as part of their career guidance applications.

 

  • Virginia-based Vantage Point Consultants is fully developing the Return on College (ROC) tool to support students, families, and counselors with understanding of the lifetime costs and opportunity tradeoffs associated of different postsecondary degree programs.  In one version of ROC, students will be able to search colleges nationwide based on geographic location and occupational goals, with personalized output on projected debt, loan repayment, disposable income, graduation risk, and the ROI focal points of these decisions. In the other version of ROC, prospective students visiting a college website will receive data driven information on potential careers, salaries, price, and debt expected for degrees offered by a school.

 

After development is complete in early 2022, researchers will analyze whether the tools function as intended and are feasible for students to use. Research will also test if the tools show promise for producing a meaningful and accurate measure of ROI. Both firms will also focus on preparing for the wide-scale distribution of the tools to end users, as well as plans for sustaining the tools over time.

Stay tuned for updates on Twitter (@IESResearch) as IES projects drive innovative forms of technology.


Written by Edward Metz (Edward.Metz@ed.gov), Program Manager, ED/IES SBIR

Investing in Next Generation of Education Technologies to Personalize Learning and Inform Instructional Practice

The Institute of Education Sciences Small Business Innovation Research program (ED/IES SBIR) funds entrepreneurial developers to create the next generation of education technology for students, teachers, and administrators in general and special education. The program emphasizes an iterative research and development process and pilot studies to evaluate the feasibility, usability, and promise of new products to improve educational outcomes. The program also focuses on commercialization after development is complete, so that the products can reach schools 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. And in the past four months, about one million students and teachers used the technologies for remote teaching and learning, as many ED/IES SBIR-supported developers made their products available at no cost in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of schools.

 

ED/IES SBIR Announces its 2020 Awards

This week, ED/IES SBIR announced the results of its 2020 award competition. Of the 22 new awards, 16 are for prototype development and 6 are for full-scale development. IES also announced two additional awards through a special topic solicitation in postsecondary education. Read about these awards here.

 

 

Each of the new awards supports a project to develop a product to personalize the student learning experience or generate information that educators can use to guide practice.

Most of the projects are developing a software component (for example, algorithms, artificial intelligence, machine Learning, or natural language processing) that continually adjusts the difficulty of content, provides prompts to support individual students if support is needed, or generates real-time actionable information for educators to track student progress and adjust instruction accordingly. Other projects are developing technologies to promote student learning through self-directed, hands-on, simulated, and immersive experiences. If the future of education includes a blend of in-class and remote learning due to public health crises, or for whatever reasons, technologies such as these will be ready to keep the learning going.

The projects address different ages of students and content areas.

In science, LightHaus is fully developing a virtual reality (VR) intervention for students to explore plant heredity; LightUp is fully developing an augmented reality (AR) app for students to perform hands-on physical science investigations with their own on-device camera; and Myriad Sensors is developing a prototype artificial intelligence formative assessment system that generates feedback in real time as students do hands-on laboratory experiments.

In math, Muzology is creating a prototype for students to create music videos to learn algebra, and Teachley is creating a prototype transmedia kit with videos, comics, and pictures to enhance teaching and learning of hard to learn concepts.

In engineering and computer science, Parametric Studios is fully developing an augmented reality puzzle game for early learners, and Liminal eSports, Makefully, and Beach Day Studios are creating prototype components that each provide feedback to students as they engage in activities to learn to code.

In English Language Arts, Analytic Measures and Hoogalit are each employing natural language processing to develop new prototypes to facilitate speech acquisition, and Learning Ovations is developing a prototype data engine to make recommendations for what individual children should read.

For English learners, KooApps is developing an artificial intelligence prototype to support vocabulary acquisition, and Kings Peak Technologies is employing machine learning to generate passages that blend English and Spanish words together to improve reading comprehension.

For early learners, Cognitive Toybox is fully developing an observation and game-based school readiness assessment.

For postsecondary students, Hats & Ladders is fully developing a social skills game to foster career readiness skills.

In special education, Attainment Company is developing a prototype to support student’s self-management, and Alchemie is developing a prototype of an augmented reality science experience for visually impaired students.

To support school administrators and teachers, LearnPlatform is fully developing a dashboard that generates reports with insights for teachers to implement education technology interventions, and Zuni Learning Tree, Teachley and LiveSchool are developing prototype dashboards to organize and present results on student progress and performance in real time.

 

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


Written by Edward Metz (Edward.Metz@ed.gov), Program Manager, ED/IES SBIR

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.

 

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.

A2i: From Research to Practice at Scale in Education

This blog post is part of an interview series with education researchers who have successfully scaled their interventions.

Assessment-to-Instruction (A2i) is an online Teacher Professional Support System that guides teachers in providing Kindergarten to Grade 3 students individualized literacy instruction and assessments. Students complete the assessments independently online without the teacher taking time away from instruction. A2i generates instantaneous teacher reports with precise recommendations for each student and group recommendations. See a video demo here. Between 2003 and 2017, researchers at Florida State University (FSU) and Arizona State University (ASU), led by Carol Connor, developed and evaluated A2i with the support of a series of awards from IES and the National Institutes of Health. Findings from all publications on the A2i are posted here.

While results across seven controlled studies demonstrated the effectiveness of A2i, feedback from practitioners in the field demonstrated that implementation often required substantial amounts of researcher support and local district adaptation, and that the cost was not sustainable for most school district budgets. In 2014, the development firm Learning Ovations, led by Jay Connor, received an award from the Department of Education (ED) and IES’s Small Business Innovation Research program (ED/IES SBIR) to develop an technologically upgraded and commercially viable version of A2i to be ready to be used at scale in classrooms around the country. In 2018, with the support of a five-year Education Innovation and Research (EIR) expansion grant from ED totaling $14.65 million, A2i is now used in more than 110 schools across the country, with plans for further expansion. 

 

Interview with Carol Connor (CC) and Jay Connor (JC)

From the start of the research in the early 2000s, was it always the goal to develop a reading intervention that would one day be used on a wide scale?
CC: Yes and no. First, we had to answer the question as to whether individualization was effective in achieving student literacy outcomes. Once the research established that, we knew that this work would have wide-scale application.

When did you start thinking about a plan for distribution
CC: Before embarking on the cumulative results studies, in 2008, Jay said that we needed to know who the “customer” was… i.e., how purchasing decisions were made at scale.  His 2008 Phase I ED/IES SBIR was critical in shifting our research focus from individual classrooms to school districts as the key scaling point. 

Did you work with a technology transfer office at the university?
CC: Only to the extent of contractually clarifying intellectual property (IP) ownership and licensing. 

Who provided the support on the business side?
CC: Jay, who has an MBA/JD and has been a senior officer in two Fortune 100 companies was very instrumental in guiding our thinking of this evolution from important research to practical application. 


 Do you have any agreement about the IP with the university? What were the biggest challenges in this area?

JC: Yes, Learning Ovations has a 60-year renewable exclusive licensing agreement with FSU Foundation. FSU couldn’t have been better to work with.  Though there were expected back-and-forth elements of the original negotiations, it was clear that we shared the central vision of transforming literacy outcomes.  They continue to be a meaningful partner.

When and why was Learning Ovations first launched?
JC: In order to pursue SBIR funding we needed to be a for-profit company.  At first, I used my consulting business – Rubicon Partners LLP – as the legal entity for a 2008 Phase I award from ED/IES SBIR.  When we considered applying (and eventually won) a Fast Track Phase I & II award from SBIR in 2014, it was clear that we needed to create a full C – Corp that could expand with the scaling of the business, thus Learning Ovations was formed.

Who has provided you great guidance on the business side over the year? What did they say and do? 
JC: Having run large corporate entities and worked with small business start-ups in conjunction with Arizona State University (Skysong) and the University of California, Irvine (Applied Innovation at The Cove) and having taught entrepreneurship at The Paul Merage School of Business at UC Irvine, I had the experience or network to connect to whatever business guidance we needed.  Further, having attended a number of reading research conferences with Carol, I was quite conversant in the literacy language both from the research side and from the district decision maker’s side.

How do you describe the experience of commercializing the A2i? What were the biggest achievements and challenges in terms of preparing for commercialization?

JC: Having coached scores of entrepreneurs at various stages, I can safely say that there is no harder commercialization than one that must stay faithful to the underlying research.  A key strategy for most new businesses: being able to pivot as you find a better (easier) solution.  It is often circumscribed by the “active ingredients” of the underlying research.  Knowing this, we imbued Learning Ovations with a very strong outcomes mission – all children reading at, or above, grade level by 3rd grade.  This commitment to outcomes certainty is only assured by staying faithful to the research.  Thus, a possible constraint, became our uncontroverted strength.

Do you have advice for university researchers seeking to move their laboratory research in education into wide-spread practice? 
JC:  Start with the end in mind.  As soon as you envision wide-scale usage, learn as much as you can about the present pain and needs of your future users and frame your research questions to speak to this.  Implementation should not be an after-the-fact consideration; build it into how you frame your research questions. On one level you are asking simultaneously “will this work with my treatment group” AND “will this help me understand/deliver to my end-user group.”  I can’t imagine effective research being graphed onto a business after the fact.  One key risk that we see a number of researchers make is thinking in very small fragments whereas application (i.e., the ability to go to scale) is usually much more systemic and holistic.

In one sentence, what would say is most needed for gaining traction in the marketplace?
JC: If not you, as a researcher, someone on your team of advisors needs to know the target marketplace as well as you know the treatment protocols in your RCT.

____________

Carol Connor is a Chancellor’s Professor in the UC Irvine School of Education. Prior she was a professor of Psychology and a Senior Learning Scientist at the Learning Sciences Institute at ASU. Carol’s research focuses on teaching and learning in preschool through fifth grade classrooms – with a particular emphasis on reading comprehension, executive functioning, and behavioral regulation development, especially for low-income children.

Joseph “Jay” Connor, JD/MBA, is the Founder/CEO of Learning Ovations, Inc, the developer of the platform that has enabled the A2i intervention to scale.  Jay has 20+ years of experience in senior business management at the multi-billion dollar corporate level, and has experience in the nonprofit and public policy arenas.

This interview was produced by Edward Metz of the Institute of Education Sciences.