IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

ED/IES SBIR Awards: Funding the Next Generation of Education Technology

Images of SBIR Phase II ProjectsFor more than a decade, the Department of Education’s Small Business Innovation Research program, operated out of the Institute of Education Sciences, has funded projects to develop education technology designed to support students, teachers, and administrators in general or special education. The program, known as ED/IES SBIR, also focuses on the commercialization after development is complete so that the products can reach schools and be sustained over time. It’s research, with a start-up mentality.

In recent years, millions of students in schools around the country have used technologies developed through ED/IES SBIR funding, such as products by Filament Games, Sokikom, Agile Mind, and Mindset Works, to name a few.

This week, IES announced 18 ED/IES SBIR program awards for 2017. Of these awards, 11 are Phase I awards to develop and test a prototype, and seven are Phase II awards to fully develop and evaluate an education technology product in classrooms and schools. (See a video playlist of Phase II projects below)  

The new awards cover topics across math, science, engineering, reading, support social and behavioral development, and several are building platforms to inform decision-making by teachers and administrators. Several projects are pairing software with hardware-based technologies, such as Virtual Reality, 3D-printing, and Wearables.

The new awards also continue to fund projects in two major categories – learning games and dashboards for teachers and administrators.

Learning Games

For the past seven years, about half of ED/IES SBIR awards have focused on the development and evaluation of learning games (click here for a playlist). Continuing that trend, more than half of the 2017 ED/IES SBIR awards are for game-based technologies. Examples include:

  • Phase II awardee Schell Games and Phase I awardee Electric Funstuff are building games for use with Virtual Reality headsets so that students can engage with academic content in immersive 360-degree environments;

  • Phase II awardee Parametric Studios is creating a “makerspace” engineering simulated environment with a 3D-printer;

  • Phase II awardee Fablevision is developing a fractions game with an adaptive component that auto-adjusts in difficulty to meet the competency level of individual students;

  • Phase II awardee Spry Fox is building in-game supports and using rewards and competition to drive game play in teaching vocabulary to struggling middle school students and English Learners; and

  • Phase I awardees MidSchoolMath and Happy People Games are using story-based narrative to engage students and apply learning, while Fokus Labs and Safe Toddles are creating prototypes employing wearable devices paired with a game component to improve performance.

Dashboards for Teachers and Administrators

Many of the newly funded projects are developing a dashboard component populated with data and information to generate reports that teachers and administrators can use to guide instruction and decision making. Examples include:

  • Phase II awardee Analytic Measures is developing an automated speech recognition technology to assess students’ oral fluency in real-time with a dashboard to provide reports to inform teacher instruction;

  • Phase II awardee Future Engineers is developing an open online platform that generates lists of engineering and maker-based projects for students in K-12 classrooms.

  • Phase I projects by Story World, Strange Loop Games, TutorGen, Simbulus, and Myriad Sensors are creating prototypes of dashboards to provide teachers formative assessment results on student performance with reports to guide instruction; and 

  • Two projects focus on platforms for schools administrators – a Phase II project by EdSurge to inform the selection process for technology for school improvement and a Phase I project by LiveSchool to generate reports on student behavior across classes and school.

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

Written by Edward Metz, program manager, ED/IES SBIR

 

A Growing Body of Research on Growth Mindset

Growth mindset is the belief that we can grow our intelligence by working hard at it and the idea has attracted a lot of interest in the education world in recent years. There have been best-selling books and many magazine and newspaper articles written about the power of a growth mindset.

In a recent national survey*, nearly all (98 percent) of 600 K-12 teachers said they think that a growth mindset improves their own teaching and helps their students learn. However, only 20% reported confidence in actually being able to help their students develop a growth mindset. This disparity highlights a need for additional research and development of growth-mindset based interventions, as well as research to understand how to best optimize implementation and outcomes.

For more than a decade, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) has supported research on growth mindset. This includes a set of basic research studies to test a theory about growth mindset, an R&D project to build a technology-based growth mindset intervention, and an efficacy study to evaluate the impact of that intervention.

With a 2002 award from the IES Cognition and Student Learning Program (as well as grants from private foundations), researchers at Columbia and Stanford Universities conducted basic research to test and grow the growth mindset theory. This research provided a foundation for future R&D to develop school-based interventions focusing on applying growth mindset to student learning.

With a 2010 award from the ED/IES SBIR program, small business firm Mindset Works developed a web-based intervention to support teachers and grade 5 to 9 students in applying a growth mindset to teaching and learning. The Brainology intervention (pictured below) includes 20 animated interactive lessons and classroom activities for students on how the brain works and how it can become smarter and stronger through practice and learning. The intervention also teaches students specific neuroscience-based strategies to enhance attention, engagement, learning, and memory, and to manage negative emotions.

Brainology includes support materials for teachers to help them integrate the program and growth mindset concepts more generally into their daily activities at school. It is currently being used in hundreds of schools around the country.

And through a 2015 award from the Social and Behavioral Context for Academic Learning Program, researchers are now studying the efficacy of Brainology to improve students’ growth mindset and academic learning. In this four-year study, sixth- and seventh-grade science teachers are randomly assigned to either implement the program along with their school’s regular science curriculum or  continue with the regular science curriculum alone. Impacts of the growth mindset program on student mindsets and achievement (grades and test scores) are being measured in the early spring of the implementation year and in the fall of the following school year.
 
Follow us on Twitter and Facebook, or stay tuned to this blog, for more information about these and other research projects related to growth mindset.
 

Written by Emily Doolittle, NCER’s team lead for Social and Behavioral Research, and Ed Metz, ED/IES SBIR Program Manager

* - The survey indicates that growth mindset is of high interest to the general public and the education community. However, the Institute of Education Sciences was not involved in this survey and has not reviewed the methodology or results. 

#IES2016: The IES Year in Review

By Ruth Curran Neild, Delegated Director, IES

2016 was a busy year for the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) as we continued our commitment to support a culture of evidence-use in education. Among our work over the past 12 months:

  • We released more than 200 publications, including statistical reports and data collections, research findings and compendia, program evaluations, intervention reports, educator’s practice guides  and more;
  • We made significant improvements to our communications and dissemination efforts, including a new IES website, an improved What Works Clearinghouse site, videos about our work and the launch of IES and NCES Facebook pages. We also published 80 blogs focused on our work and our mission;  
  • We launched tools, like RCT-YES and  Find What Works, that make it easier to conduct, report, and find research;
  • We awarded more than $200 million in research grants and funding across a wide variety of topics, including:
    • More than $150 million in grants from the National Center for Education Research;
    • More than $70 million in grants from the National Center for Special Education Research; and
    • About $5.75 million in funding for the development of education technology through the ED/IES Small Business Innovation Research program.

At the end of the year, we shared a small portion of our 2016 work on Twitter using the hashtag #IES2016. If you weren’t following Twitter over the holidays, we created a Storify of those tweets, which we’ve embedded below.  Also, check out the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) Year in Review website for an overview of the WWC’s work in 2016.

 

 

The 2016 PI Meeting: Making it Matter

Hundreds of researchers, practitioners, and education scientists gathered in Washington D.C. for the 2016 IES Principal Investigators (PI) Meeting on December 15 & 16. 

The annual meeting provided an opportunity for attendees to share the latest findings from their IES-funded work, learn from one another, and discuss IES and U.S. Department of Education priorities and programs.

The theme of this year’s annual meeting was Making it Matter: Rigorous Research from Design to Dissemination and the agenda included scores of session that highlighted findings, products, methodological approaches, new projects, and dissemination and communication strategies. The meeting was organized by the two IES research centers—the National Center for Education Research and the National Center for Special Education Research—in collaboration with the three meeting co-chairs: Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, of the University of Delaware; Kathleen Lynne Lane, of the University of Kansas; and Grace Wardhana, CEO of Kiko Labs.

Attendees were active on Twitter, using the hashtag #IESPImtg. Several attendees took the opportunity to highlight why their research matters using a sign and a selfie stick. Below are some Twitter highlights of the 2016 PI meeting.  

 

See How IES is Supporting Technology-Delivered Assessments

For decades, student assessments have looked the same: multiple-choice or short-answer questions administered with pencil and paper, with all students receiving a common group of questions. Today, innovations in assessment design, greater understanding in the learning sciences, and new technology have all contributed to the way that assessments are administered and taken, and how the resulting information is shared with teachers, students, and families.

Since 2002, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) has made more than 100 awards for the development of new assessments that are driven and delivered through technology.  The awards were made to a mix of academic researchers, entrepreneurial firms, and larger education research organizations. All of the projects included a rigorous research and development process, with studies to validate that assessments are measuring what is intended and pilots to test the promise of the technologies for improving student learning outcomes.

To highlight some of the technology-delivered assessments, IES has created YouTube Playlists that feature 57 videos in seven areas:

The assessments highlighted are delivered via mobile apps or through web-based computers and administered for different purposes. Some are diagnostic assessments used to screen students at the start of a new unit or year to identify areas where students struggle or areas to target with intervention. Many serve as performance assessments to determine how well students analyze information and draw conclusions when engaging in complex scenario-based activities. Others are summative assessments used to measure student performance during and at the end of the school year. Many also include a formative assessment component that adjusts based on the level of performance, and are designed to provide feedback and cues to students to inform the learning process.

A good number of the assessments are administered as simulations, games, scenarios, and puzzles, allowing for complex challenges where students can demonstrate mastery of knowledge and skills. Several enable new opportunities for assessment through the application of technological advances, such as natural language processing and machine-learning, read-aloud stories, fast-paced tasks that require students to respond, and speech recognition programs. Many save classroom time because the assessments are self-administered, and teachers benefit from the automatic grading as students go.  Most of the assessments also provide teachers information to guide practice through data dashboards or generated reports. Several of the assessments are already being used in school around the country.

Below are highlights from each of the playlists. It is important to note that none of assessments highlighted are wide enough in scope or configured to measure the full depth and breadth of State learning standards. Therefore, they are not sufficient to replace statewide summative assessments used for accountability and reporting purposes.  Collectively, however, the examples highlight the promise of technology-delivered assessments to improve and expand on existing approaches for measuring student learning and social and emotional skills, and for informing teacher instruction.  

Mathematics and Science

ASSISTments is web-based mathematics platform that assesses and then provides immediate feedback to students in grades 3-12, and generates teacher reports use to inform instruction. 

SimScientists is a simulation platform that formatively and summatively assesses science inquiry skills and knowledge aligned to middle school Next Generation Science Standards. 

Reading and Writing

RAPID is an adaptive literacy diagnostic and summative assessment system for students in Kindergarten through grade 12. 

Revision Assistant provides automated sentence-level in-line feedback to students during writing tasks aligned to Common Core State Standards. 

Social and Emotional Development

VESIP is a web-based simulated environment that measures the ability of students in grade 3-7 to interpret social cues which research demonstrates are needed to resolve conflicts. 

Early Learning

The School Readiness Curriculum Based Measurement System provides universal screening, benchmarking, and progress monitoring in language, literacy, mathematics, and science, for students in Pre-K and Kindergarten students. 

English Learning

ONPAR assesses the science and mathematics content knowledge and skills of English- and Spanish- speaking students using hyperlinks and animations to make questions accessible to all students. 

Tools for Teacher Practice

CLASS 5.0 automatically analyzes classroom discourse (student and teacher talking during class) and provides reliable profiles to guide and optimize how teachers lead instruction. 

Students With Disabilities or At Risk for Disabilities

NumberShire is a game-based mathematics intervention for students with, or at risk for, disabilities in Kindergarten through Grade 2. The game embeds instructional supports such as providing explicit, systematic, and frequent instruction, goal setting, and allowing students to work at their own pace. 

AnimalWatchVi Suite is an iPad app covering pre-algebra mathematics for middle and high school students with visual impairments. The app includes accommodation tools such as problem narration, audio hints, braille, and tactile graphics to provide accessible assessment. 

Written by Edward Metz, ED/IES SBIR program manager and IES Education Technology topic program officer.