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- When thinking about software, it's helpful to think about the distinctions between four different types. First we have whole course software, next we think of supplemental software that supports a core course. The third would be teacher tools and the final one would be learning apps. - When we think about whole course software, we're talking about the software that can replace an existing course. Think about a student taking Biology I or world history online. This is where the software does the majority of the learning work essentially on its own. And the teacher's job is to check in on student progress, monitor things but the majority of the learning is via the software. - So this is the sort of software that we're seeing in a lot of flex-like programs around the country, from Carpe Diem, from its schools in Arizona and Indianapolis to a lot of the dropout recovery schools and alternative schools that are popping up in school districts across the nation. - And some of the big companies in the space that we see schools using are folks like Apex Learning, Edgenuity, to name a couple. And the big advantage here is that it's all there in one package. The teacher's job isn't to pick resources and align everything and make sure everything's perfect, you hand a lot of the work over to the software. And of course the downside is it may not be as perfect as if the teachers actually curated and found everything on their own. So a little easier to use and maybe a little less personalized for each student what they need. - The second category is supplemental software. Supplemental software is that which really supports the core course but it's not delivering the core instruction per se. The teacher is still designing that experience or delivering lessons in certain aspects and so forth. So, think about our KIPP LA example where they use a lot of supplemental software such as ST Math and the teacher is still delivering core lectures, helping to group students and deliver interventions, and then students are going off to the online software to do various supplemental activities at various points. - And ST Math along with Dreambox are two of the titles we've seen in a lot of the schools that we visited in this elementary and middle school for the topic of math. ST Math is really nice because it's almost an entirely visual-based way of teaching math. Students can start with sort of number sense back in kindergarten and go all the way through more complicated algebra for middle school. And each topic that a student gets is just a little bit harder than the topic beforehand and kids are getting a lot of practice. So it's just this very iterative intuitive way of students to learn and it doesn't rely on them having to read anything, very self-directed in their own learning process. - The other program that Brian mentioned is Dreambox learning. And Dreambox uses a game-based engine for a lot of its content but it's actually adaptive and that's the real key part of it which is that it delivers problems to students that are generally just at their level. And if they miss something it will level down and give them something easier or if they need more challenging problems based on their performance, they'll serve up harder and harder problems over time. The third supplemental resource that a lot of people use and are familiar with is the Khan Academy. Now, the Khan Academy has gotten a legendary following for its videos on an impressive array of topics that started with math. But actually what we find most impressive about Khan Academy has nothing to do with its videos but this infinite set of practice problems that the Khan Academy provides, that allows students to continually practice and practice to actually show and demonstrate mastery and then dive back into concepts that they're still not getting something. So, the Khan Academy is also a free resource which is why we see a lot of schools get their start into blended learning by demoing with Khan. - I joke, I call it the gateway drug into blended learning. You know, it makes sense that math is where so many people start because math has a relatively concrete set of steps that you're supposed to go to learn it and there's a discreet right and wrong answer. And arguably it's gonna be a lot harder to design great software to teach philosophy. But even in the English Language Arts we're seeing a lot of new titles come that people are finding a lot of benefit from. There's a program that a lot of the schools we visited use called Achieve3000 which essentially takes current event topics and it writes the same article at different levels of reading comprehension for the text. So the whole class can be engaging in interesting learning and conversations together but students are reading at their just right reading level and then that can grow with them as their reading levels improve. - Another tool that our schools are using is Accelerated Reader. In Accelerated Reader, schools create libraries of leveled content at different Lexile levels of different books. And then basically what happens is that students read those different books at their appropriate level. After they've read the books they take quizzes on Accelerated Reader where then they get the data input into the system where teachers can check to make sure that students are actually comprehending what they're reading and that they're at the right level. From there then, basically what Accelerated Reader does is create a really cool virtual bookshelf. It sort of looks like your books on iTunes where students can keep track of all the books that they've read and Accelerated Reader also keeps track of all the words that students are reading as well. - When I was at navigator schools, a student was showing me her Accelerated Reader bookshelf and she was, you know, with pride showing me the books, and I said, "Wow! You've read all those books this year?" And she looked at me and said, "No, that's this month." And then she scrolled down and showed me this incredible bookshelf of titles that she had read. And the pride that she had was sort of really neat to watch. And this is an example of where the software doesn't have to do everything. All right, the act of just reading a book is arguably probably the most important part of the learning process we would imagine in schools. But the combination of a nice piece of software to ensure comprehension and that they give the teacher data, and maybe motivate kids a little bit makes it work so much more compellingly. - We're also seeing some innovations in English Language Arts around the book itself. So we're seeing companies popup like Gobstopper and Light Sail that are essentially trying to be the ebook for a lot of schools. And what they're doing is taking these books and putting them into a digital format, and then providing some intelligence around it. So the opportunity for teachers to embed videos or quizzes, just little notes to say, "Hey, did you pick up on this little passage? "What do you think it means?" Ways to interact more and more deeply with their students. Our third category of tools really focuses on software tools that help schools run better. So we're talking about teacher productivity tools meaning things that make teacher's lives easier, help you run the school better or help the basic administration in a school. - And there are just too many of these to cover in detail but we just want to give you a taste of a couple of the ways in which people are thinking about using technology to do things that used to be done manually either better or more quickly for teachers. - So one example is Edmodo which is a communications platform that a lot of teachers around the world actually are using to communicate with students and parents in a safe environment. Post articles and other content on the platform so people can access them and use them in a variety of creative ways. - It's almost like Facebook for teachers really. Another example is a company called Class Dojo that's really working on a student behavior system where they can give merits and demerit points for the kind of behavior as a student teacher wants more of or less of of the students. And the kids get to keep track of their own data and they do it via these cute little monster avatars that they each get to have. - We mentioned Exit Ticket earlier but basically in this tool, teachers can ask questions of students to check for understanding, and student respond via whatever digital devices at their disposal. And then teachers get a resulting poll map that basically allows them to see how their class is understanding what they're going over. Now, there are other tools like this as well including Socrative and Poll Everywhere. - There's also an important piece of software which would be the Learning Management System or what we would call the LMS. And this is really where schools and teachers are putting the assignments, keeping track of the videos that they've recorded, storing student's grades. - Now, this is a huge area with lots of players so it would be too complex to just give you a comprehensive list. But just to give you a flavor for what these look like, we're seeing companies like Blackboard, Modo which is an open source version of it. We have Instructure with their canvas system and even Edmodo in many classrooms is serving the purpose of an LMS. - And having a good LMS makes it so that schools don't just have to collect all these resources and send them via e-mail or have a big Google Doc. It's trying to create a holistic learning experience for the students all in one place. And lastly, there's the category of Learning Apps. And the big difference here is really about how much time and for how long of a period of time these are being used in a classroom setting. So an app might show up for a couple students when needed or for this particular little unit where something like Dreambox or ST Math, you see that being used by the majority of the students for the length of the year. The other interesting thing about apps is we're seeing parents use apps at home a lot to supplement what's happening in the classroom.