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Institute of Education Sciences

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.

Awards to Accelerate Research in Education Technology

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES), in partnership with the Small Business Administration (SBA), has made awards to two U.S.-based accelerators – organizations that provide support to technology developers and researchers in the development and launch of new innovations. They are among 68 awards made under SBA’s 2016 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition

The $50,000, one-year awards are designed to support accelerators in building the capacity of education technology small businesses to conduct research in the development and evaluation of new innovative products.

The Role of Accelerators in Education

Accelerators fill an important role in the fast-growing, education technology ecosystem by offering a “one-stop shop” for small businesses looking to advance their research and development, and commercialization processes. For example, accelerators assist with idea formation and market analysis, software development, licensing and copyright planning, networking, manufacturing, raising investment funds, and getting the products tested by schools.

However, not many education accelerators provide assistance to developers in conducting rigorous and relevant education research. Because start-ups typically do not employ or partner with education researchers, many new technologies are often not iteratively developed and refined based on feedback from students and teachers or evaluated for promise or efficacy in improving education outcomes. The lack of research-based information often leaves school practitioners without the information they need to guide decision making on whether to adopt a new intervention.

To help strengthen these areas, the U.S. Department of Education/IES partnered with SBA to create a new topic in this year’s Growth Accelerator Fund Competition—Education Technology Research. This topic called for applications from accelerators with plans to support developers in conducting education research, including research to inform concept idea development, research to test prototypes and inform refinements, and pilot studies to evaluate the promise and efficacy of fully developed technologies. Applications were reviewed by a panel of expert judges. The two awards were made to the following accelerators:

  • Virginia-based Jefferson Education, which will build a foundation for a national education researcher database to connect entrepreneurial developers to a qualified education research partners. The database will facilitate the creation of partnerships to carry out a wide range of research studies, from case studies to inform the development of a new intervention to experimentally designed studies of the education outcomes of fully developed technology interventions.
  • California-based New Schools Ignite/WestED Research Partnership, which will create a website with free resources and information on the role of different forms of research across the lifespan of a technology intervention, training and assistance in research methods, and with opportunities to conduct research in education settings. The funding will also be used develop data collection and analysis systems to help entrepreneurs understand the impact and effectiveness of the technologies housed within the accelerator.

Along with building the research capacity of developers, the awardees will disseminate information to developers about IES programs that fund research, development and evaluation, including the ED/IES Small Business Innovation Research program and the IES Research Grants Programs in Education Technology for Education and Special Education.

For more information about how IES is supporting the development of education technology, visit the IES website or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Five ED/IES SBIR Companies Win National Industry Awards for Innovation

The U.S. Department of Education’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program at the Institute of Education Sciences (ED/IES SBIR) has served as a catalyst for the research and development of innovative technology that seeks to transform how and where students learn.

In 2016, the program continues to be recognized for spurring innovation, with five companies winning national awards and recognition for their ED/IES SBIR-developed technologies.

In June, Strange Loop Games’ Eco won the Climate Change Challenge at the Games for Change Festival in New York City. Eco is a multi-player environment where students collectively work to build a virtual ecosystem. The game provides students the opportunity to see how individual and collective decisions and actions affect their environment and climate.

In May, mtelegence’s Readorium won the Best Reading/English/Language Arts Solution through the Software & Information Industry Association’s (SIIA) CODiE program. Readorium is a web-based intervention that provides engaging content and games to middle school students to improve reading comprehension of science content.

Science4us, in May, won the best Science Instructional Solution through the SIIA CODiE program, and won THE Best Science Program through the BESSIE awards in April. Science4Us is a web-based game and simulation platform that provides foundational science learning opportunities for students in Kindergarten through Grade 2.

Also in May, Electric Funstuff’s Mission US won the Website Gold from the Parents' Choice Awards. In 2016, Mission US was a finalist for three other awards, including Best Learning Game at Games For Change, Outstanding Interactive Series through the Daytime Emmy Awards, and Best Web Game through the Webby Awards.  Mission US, which is partially funded by ED/IES SBIR, is a series of tablet-based interactive role-playing game that immerses 5th through 9th grade students in history.

In February, Querium was recognized as one of the 10 Most Innovative Education Technology Companies of 2016 by Fast Company Magazine. Querium is developing the Stepwise Virtual Tutor, which is a mobile and desktop virtual tutor that provides real-time assessments and support to middle and high school students in Algebra.

For information on more ED/IES SBIR supported companies that have won awards and been recognized for innovation in technology, check out the program’s News Archive. Stay tuned for updates on ED/IES SBIR on Twitter and Facebook.

About ED/IES SBIR: The Small Business Innovation Research program at the Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences funds firms and partners to develop commercially viable technology products to improve student learning or teacher practice in regular and special education.  ED/IES SBIR emphasizes rigorous research to inform the development process and to evaluate whether products show promise for delivering on the intended outcomes.

Funding the Next Generation of Education Technology and Assessment

Games and other education technology are increasingly being used as a way to engage students in learning and support the work of teachers and educational leaders. The Institute of Education Sciences is proud to have been a part of this growth through its Small Business Innovation Research Program (ED/IES SBIR).

In recent years, thousands of schools around the country have used technologies developed through ED/IES SBIR funding, such as products by Filament Games, Fluidity Software, Zaption, and Mindset Works, to name a few. The program emphasizes a rapid research and development (R&D) process, with rigorous research informing iterative development and evaluating the promise of products for improving student outcomes. ED/IES SBIR also focuses on the commercialization after development is complete so that products can reach schools and be sustained over time.

This month, IES announced its 2016 awards, supporting 14 products covering a range of topics and forms of technology. Read about the awards here.


WATCH: YouTube Playlist of ED/IES SBIR PHASE II Awardees


The new awards continue two recent trends—developing new forms of assessment and applying next-generation technology for use in the classroom.

Emerging Forms of Assessment

All of the 2016 Phase II awards (for full-scale development) and several Phase I awards (for prototype development) are building technologies that center on assessment.

  • Using Phase II awards, Brainquake and Querium are fully developing adaptive engines to assess student performance on standards-aligned topics in mathematics and provide feedback to students and teachers to improve performance and practice. Teachley and Apprendis are building platforms to organize student performance data and generate reports to inform teacher instruction. And 3C Institute is developing a website for special education teachers to assess and track the social and emotional development of students diagnosed with High Functioning-Autism Spectrum Disorder.
  • Using Phase I awards, Analytic Measures is developing a prototype of an app to measure grade school student’s oral reading fluency and Early Learning Labs is developing a screening assessment for teachers of children who are Spanish-English Dual Language Learners.

The assessment trend echoes the broader movement in the field, and at ED, highlighted by the Every Student Succeeds Act, which calls for new forms of digital assessments, and the National Education Technology Plan, which includes a section on assessment.

Trend 2: Developing the Next Generation Technologies to Schools and Classrooms

Modern technological advances have transformed how we work and live every day.  For educators, the challenge is how to take advantage of next generation technologies in order to improve education. In the current group of Phase I awardees, many developers are seeking to make this happen.

  • Schell Games is integrating a virtual reality headset within a game so that students can do immersive chemistry experiments;
  • Spry Fox and Fablevision are developing mobile app-based learning games;
  • Parametric Studios is developing an engineering and design platform that incorporates a 3D-printer.
  • Analytic Measures is using automated speech recognition technology to assess students oral fluency in real-time; and
  • Two projects are building web-based platforms to organize user-generated content to inform practice.  Future Engineers is developing a platform to facilitate engineering design challenges and EdSurge is building a platform to support administrators in selecting technology tools to support school improvement.  

More Opportunities for Innovation in Education

SBIR is not the only IES funding program that feeds the R&D and evaluation pipeline.  The grants programs in Education Research and Special Education Research  support developers across the arc of a project lifespan – from basic research to test theories to inform concept ideation, to development and refinement of interventions or assessments, and for efficacy evaluations to test fully developed interventions in schools.  All awards are multi-year with funding levels varying from $1.4 million for development to $3.3 million for efficacy evaluations.

The Low-Cost, Short Duration Evaluation of Education Interventions supports rigorous evaluations of education interventions (including technology) over a short period. For developers, this program provides the opportunity to strengthen the research-base for existing technology products over the course of a school year. All awards are for up to one year and $250,000. The Request for Applications for Fiscal Year 2017 for these programs is now open, with a submission deadline of August 4, 2016. 

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

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