With educator-friendly tools, seeing where students are at gets a little easier.

GUEST COLUMN | by Lori Lynch

Do you wish you had a crystal ball?

Would you look to the future, like turning to the last page of a good book to see how it ends?

Now put on your teacher hat and think: What if you had a crystal ball for your students and could foresee their success?

Would you wonder how you might have impacted them differently for better outcomes?

Or would you look back on your tools and strategies and make different choices?

With today’s technology, we teachers who have stood the test of time may take advantage of keeping up with our former students, who are now enjoying their own adulthood, on social media. We may take pride in knowing we had a hand in their development along the way. But back to the original question: Do you ever wish you had a crystal ball?

Best Model, Best Choice

As we grow into a world of using ever more technology in education, we are inundated with choices for flipped classrooms, blended learning, formative assessment, summative assessment, differentiated instruction, and on and on.

So what’s the best model, and what’s the best choice?

Building a technology program takes great care and concern. We must create a engaging tools that not only interest the students of today but is also built on the pillars of what research shows is most predictive of future success in reading, writing, and math.

Working diligently with customers and researchers alike, we can take a look at how formative, computer-adaptive screening and ability-based, adaptive online instruction can take the place of that ethereal crystal ball. The fidelity in which the tool adjusts to each student’s responses, ability level, and individualized needs takes the place of that soothsaying device and lights the path for teachers to see the road ahead.

802 Items to Check Off My List

So what do we do with this lighted path? What items should we look at and why?

If I am an educator in today’s classroom and tasked with 802 items a day to check off my list, I know that true differentiation is one of the hardest types of instruction to build into my day.

If you have a digital partner along for the ride — and as we said earlier, it’s “lighting the path” — then this continues to immediately inform you of the road ahead for this student. Taking out the guesswork is half the fun!

Looking at my instantaneous, real-time data produced for my educational reflection, I see that one of my students, after taking an “indicators of progress” monthly screener, is struggling in alphabetic decoding and comprehension. Let’s say a third-grade teacher’s core instruction and standards focus largely on daily comprehension and fluency measures. However, my “crystal ball” has just shown me that this student lacks ability within alphabetic decoding.

Since a great platform is built on the research pillars of literacy areas most predictive of reading success, we can quickly see that without intervention and remediation for this student in alphabetic decoding, our grade-level expectations for comprehension and fluency won’t fit with their current grasp of decoding strategies.

Not only does the instantaneous data indicate the necessary areas for intervention based on the most recent monthly screener, but the instruction immediately takes the student into a differentiated online path of glorious, ability-based activities. Get ready—this gets even more exciting!

Educator-Friendly Data

As a former teacher, what I find most interesting is educator-friendly data to keep me informed, and if it links me to scripted, written lessons so that I can come back into the equation of a blended strategy and provide face-to-face small-group or one-on-one instruction on the targeted need—all the better.

A great program is identifying and teaching—and handing back the directions to you for further interaction. This cycle of amazing interaction and educator-friendly data continues round and round — as round as that crystal ball we don’t need anymore.

When you build the foundation on pillars of research, the crystal ball is set aside, and the lighted path for each student becomes apparent. No need to wish you could go back and fix something — great solutions give you the opportunity to address needs and stay agile and proactive.

I’ll leave you with this quote commonly attributed to C.S. Lewis:

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

Lori Lynch is a former early childhood educator and administrator, and has worked in both California and Texas. She began her educational career in 1994 and was an early adopter of technology in the classroom starting in the 1995-1996 school year. Her passion lies within helping educators become better educators with the right blended learning tools. As Senior VP of Customer Success at IStation, she leads a team of professional learning and development specialists who take educational best practices to an exciting level of engagement—and believes that professional learning should never be boring. Connect with Lori on LinkedIn.