Pearson Writer now integrates with Microsoft Word

Pearson is expanding the power of digital technology to help students build strong writing skills. Now, Pearson Writer digital writing resources are integrated with Microsoft Word, providing students access to support for improving their writing skills.

According to the 2016 Workforce-Skills Preparedness Report created by Payscale, 44 percent of hiring managers feel writing proficiency is the hard skill most lacking among recent college graduates. Now, when students are writing with Microsoft Office 365 or Microsoft Word 2013 or later, they will have access to support that helps build the writing skills that today’s employers are looking for in new hires.

Pearson Writer helps students manage writing and research projects and get answers to their questions from trusted, searchable content. It’s accessible anytime, anywhere—from any device including laptops, desktop computers, smartphones and tablets.

“This integration of two powerful digital tools presents today’s learners with a tremendous opportunity to build an essential life skill, one that is particularly critical, coveted, and too often lacking in today’s workforce,” said Paul Corey, managing director for Higher Education Courseware, Pearson.

Asking learners to work on the same task in multiple, disparate locations splits their attention unnecessarily and adds to extraneous cognitive load, as shown by Richard Mayer’s research detailed in his book, Multimedia Learning.

To enhance the learning experience and improve achievement, Pearson Writer now includes an Add-In for Word, which is accessible in a side panel within Word. This allows students to view and edit their outlines, add citations and bibliographies, and find resources in the Writer’s Guide quickly and easily while they write in the same space where they compose.

“The Pearson Writer Add-In for Microsoft Word helps students improve their writing and research skills,” said Rob Howard, director of Ecosystem, Microsoft.

Pearson Writer has been used by more than 350,000 students at over 500 colleges and universities nationwide. In addition, 81 percent of learners agree that Pearson Writer helped them better prepare for writing assignments. Nine out of 10 students agree that Pearson Writer was easy to use.

“I have a hard time planning for essays, and I usually procrastinate. However, Pearson Writer gave me example essays, an easy way to plan for my essay, citations in MLA format, and was easy to use. Using Pearson Writer, I got an A on my assignment,” said Yasmeene Younis, a student at Lorain County Community College, Elyria, Ohio.


Edgenuity acquires Compass Learning

In a major move, online and blended learning solutions provider Edgenuity has acquired education software company Compass Learning, creating a suite of digital curriculum products.

The acquisition that will expand Edgenuity’s reach across the entire K-12 educational spectrum – empowering schools to achieve their academic goals and improve outcomes for all students.

“Quality education must start from day one and now is the right time for a provider that can span each critical stage of learning, from elementary to the middle grades to high school, and deliver improved student outcomes across the board,” said Sari Factor, CEO of Edgenuity. “Edgenuity is the leader in courseware for grades 6-12 and Compass Learning has enjoyed a long history in the market for intervention and skills instruction in K-8 math, reading and language arts. Together, we will address schools’ most critical needs across the K-12 spectrum.”

Compass Learning gives Edgenuity a full K-12 math and English language arts curriculum product line, enabling Edgenuity to more effectively meet the growing demand of school leaders and teachers for personalized, targeted learning at all grade levels. The combination reinforces both companies’ acclaimed rigor and commitment to delivering high-quality online content and courses aligned to state standards.

Compass Learning, based in Austin, Texas, offers software for blended learning, intervention and inquiry-based personalized learning. Compass Learning products help pinpoint and close skill and concept gaps and move students forward academically with explicit instruction, supported practice, independent practice and ongoing formative assessment.

“The ed-tech industry is rapidly growing and evolving – with an increasing need for data to drive personalized instruction and support blended learning in the classroom,” continued Factor. “Schools need a provider to help them implement effective strategies to integrate online curriculum. Both Edgenuity and Compass Learning have established strong reputations for delivering engaging, research-based solutions that propel learning. Together, we are well-equipped to realize our mission of helping all students achieve academic success.”

Edgenuity’s headquarters will remain in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the company will maintain an office in Austin, Texas. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed.


A tale of two pilots

Ed. note: Choosing hardware or software for an entire school district is a momentous decision, so it only makes sense that districts across the country are choosing to pilot products before signing on the dotted line. Here are two case studies of how carefully planned and executed pilots helped districts make informed choices—and improve teaching and learning.

Listen and Learn

Central Falls School District, Rhode Island
Becky Oristaglio, Speech and Language Pathologist

Hearing and understanding what is being said in the classroom play a crucial role in a student’s speech and language development, reading and spelling ability, attention and concentration, and overall academic achievement. Experiencing the impact of poor acoustics in the classroom led me on a journey to create an environment where communication was optimal for students in my charge.

In early 2010, I began the search for the best amplification system to implement in the classrooms of Veterans Memorial Elementary School to improve learning for students with hearing loss and impairments, learning disabilities, and English Language learners. I turned to university-level research and the district’s consulting audiologist for high-quality recommendations on the best system available, and almost everything I read documented Lightspeed Technologies’ Redcat audio system as the system of choice.

I presented the research and my vision for change to the principal, who embraced the idea and gave permission for a trial period. I contacted the local Lightspeed representative to discuss my lofty goal of implementing soundfield systems in all classrooms in the district and requested two trial units. The Lightspeed representative sent three units for trial, came to Veterans School to set up units, and provided instruction on how to use the Redcat.

Piloting one classroom at a time

The system came in three parts — speaker, wearable teacher’s microphone, and a Sharemike handheld student pass-around microphone — which were simple enough that I was able to move the systems between classrooms after one week to give many teachers the opportunity to access the system’s usability and impact on learning and student performance.  At the end of the trial, the classroom teacher completed a questionnaire and provided feedback on their experience. At week’s end, teachers were pleading to retain the system, because they noticed their students were more engaged in lessons and distractions were minimal.

My search for a solution that would help students with hearing impairments and learning disabilities and English Language learners led to the realization that being able to hear the teacher clearly benefited every single student in the district. With university research, documented trial data, and teacher/student feedback, the district clearly acknowledged the need for this tool in all classrooms. We made plans to expand our pilot.

Since this sort of technology was not budgeted, the Special Education Director, consulting audiologist, and I wrote a grant asking for funding to pilot the amplification system in every classroom in the school. We received the funding, and in 2010, 29 Lightspeed systems were installed at Veterans Memorial Elementary. Every year since, we’ve added more and more systems to our schools. Today our district has Redcat systems in 127 classrooms. Central Falls recently acquired funding and purchased 16 additional units scheduled for installation in ELL classrooms this summer.  I hope to be able to procure the needed 10 soundfield units to fulfill my original goal.

But we’ve gotten more than just hardware. Lightspeed and Central Falls have a close partnership. Every teacher gets troubleshooting tips before implementation, training on how to use the system, and ongoing support.

In addition to each classroom’s Sharemike handheld microphones, we have purchased several additional teacher microphones for our shyest students to wear throughout the day. Hearing their voices amplified and the responses from their peers has increased their confidence, participation, and social interactions, resulting in improved academic performance and the establishment of positive peer relationships.

Next page: Build enthusiasm by starting with Rock Star teachers


This resource will help states prep for ESSA next-gen assessments

What would learning look like if students could demonstrate knowledge and skills through embedded, performance-based assessments throughout the year rather than a statewide, end-of-year multiple choice exam?

Thanks to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), some states are about to find out. Through ESSA’s Innovative Assessment and Accountability Demonstration Authority, seven states initially will be able to pilot high-quality, student-centered systems of assessments with a group of districts in an attempt to eventually scale the system state-wide.

KnowledgeWorks and the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment (Center for Assessment) have launched a new site to explore the State Readiness Conditions critical to a successful application for the assessment flexibility provided under ESSA.

“We know many states are intrigued by this opportunity but don’t necessarily know where to start,” KnowledgeWorks Vice President of Policy and Advocacy Matt Williams said. “Our goal with this project is to give states the roadmap so this becomes a strong option for redefining their education system.”

The site will include seven briefs, diving deeper into the readiness conditions. Specifically, the briefs will help states and districts identify the critical steps they will need to incorporate in their planning and design processes as they prepare for an application opportunity.

The first three resources are already available.

The first brief provides a high-level overview of the intent and flexibility behind the assessment pilot, while helping state leaders create a unique and compelling state vision for an innovative assessment system that aligns all elements of the teaching and learning system.

The second brief helps states recognize the opportunities and challenges of developing or selecting high-quality assessments in an innovative assessment and accountability system.

The third helps states clarify the definition of comparability and provides in-depth examples of the design features and implementation processes that would support claims of comparability in an innovative assessment and accountability system.

“We have learned a lot about the challenges and opportunities with innovative assessment and accountability systems through our deep work with New Hampshire’s Performance Assessment of Competency Education (PACE) pilot,” said Scott Marion, Executive Director of the Center for Assessment. “These briefs provide an opportunity to share and generalize our experience for states considering pursuing this flexibility.”

The project, which was supported by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, will help states clarify the need and desire for pursuing an innovative pilot application and provide important tools to guide them through the exploratory, planning, design, and implementation stages of this opportunity.

KnowledgeWorks and the Center for Assessment will release the remaining State Readiness Conditions briefs over the course of the summer and early fall. These will be available to states at and will address the following topics:

  • Supporting Educators and Students
  • Evaluation and Continuous Improvement
  • Timeline and Budget
  • Building Capacity and Stakeholder Support

Tenn. district partners with Discovery to transition to digital learning

Tennessee’s Wilson County Schools and Discovery Education announced a new six-year partnership supporting the creation of authentic digital learning environments in classrooms district-wide.

Through this new collaboration, Wilson County educators will, beginning in the 2016-2017 school year, integrate Discovery Education’s Science Techbook (Grades K-12), Social Studies Techbook (Grades 6-8) and Math Techbook (Grades 6-12) into classroom instruction. In addition, all K-12 classrooms across the district will have access to Discovery Education Streaming Plus, a comprehensive digital service supplementing instruction across all K-12 curricular areas.

This new partnership directly supports Wilson County Schools’ Digital Transformation Plan 2016-19, which guides the implementation of technologies district-wide. Directing Wilson County Schools’ efforts to create challenging, equitable learning experiences that promote higher level learning and performance, this plan provides a blueprint for the creation of digital learning environments across the school system.

The Digital Transformation Plan also serves as a roadmap for the district’s efforts to prepare students to compete successfully in today’s information society, which will be accomplished, in part, by empowering teachers and students with dynamic, cross-curricular digital content and learning resources. Key components of this effort include providing all students and educators access to technology and digital resources; implementing collaborative professional development initiatives for faculty and staff; improving equity of access for teaching and learning; and developing equitable funding and implementation plans.

“Wilson County Schools is committed to ensuring that every student develops the high personal expectations, knowledge, and skills necessary to be successful today and in the future,” said Donna Wright, Ed.D, Director of Schools at Wilson County Schools. “Our partnership with Discovery Education provides the unique combination of digital content and professional development necessary to support both this mission, and the modern digital learning environments that support student success.”

Discovery Education’s Techbooks are breakthrough digital textbooks that are aligned to rigorous standards, support a comprehensive curriculum, and are updated regularly at no cost. The series encourages all learners through interactive features that change the reading level of text and enable text to be read aloud. The Techbook series saves teachers’ time with a comprehensive design that places model lessons, student activities and assessments at their fingertips.

Techbooks are platform neutral and can be used in 1:1 or 1-to-many configurations and in any instructional environment.

The Social Studies Techbook series uses an inquiry-based instructional approach that emphasizes informational text literacy and the analytical writing and problem solving skills that students will apply in the classroom and beyond.

Each subject area includes primary source documents and activities, digital investigations, a multimedia reference library, interactive maps and informational texts. Utilizing an inquiry-based format built on the 5E model, the Science Techbook, through hands-on labs, digital explorations, an interactive glossary, and data analysis activities, helps teach students to read, write, and think like scientists.

Math Techbook, the latest addition to Discovery Education’s award-winning line of digital textbooks, transforms the way students and teachers experience math through engaging instructional strategies and real-world problems that motivate and excite students with diverse learning styles.

In addition, the Discovery Education Community will continue supporting Wilson County Schools’ educators’ efforts to transform students’ learning experiences with digital media. A global community of education professionals, the Discovery Education Community connects members across school systems and around the world through social media, virtual conferences, and in-person events, fostering valuable networking, idea sharing and inspiration.

“Discovery Education is proud to be a part of Wilson County Schools’ efforts to transform their classrooms into dynamic digital learning environments,” said Rob Warren, vice president of partnerships at Discovery Education. “We look forward to continuing to support their talented team as they engage in a digital conversion that supports student learning and achievement.”


How augmented reality enhances the classroom — even without technology

Several years ago, I made one of those foolish Dad choices. Despite my wife’s better judgment, I let my six- and seven-year-old sons watch Men in Black. What I thought would be a cool evening of fighting aliens turned into one of those nights ending with two kids afraid of going to sleep under a wife’s “I told you so” glare.

Miraculously, I stumbled onto a solution when my elder son came into our bedroom around midnight saying he kept waking up scared because he was afraid a giant bugman would get him. In the moment, a solution arose. I told my son that I kept special, super strong anti-bugman powder in the bathroom, so strong it could only be used in emergencies, but that it could keep bug monsters out of the house. With that, I went into the bathroom, filled a small plastic bag with talcum powder, and spent the next thirty minutes walking around the house throwing the powder about the place while chanting “Go away bugmen!” with my son. He slept the rest of the night.

The point of the story is not about showing myself to be a good parent (I abandoned any pretense to that title when I said to my wife, “The boys might be scared at first, but by the end they’ll be laughing”). What this incident demonstrates is a kind of teaching technique that too often is underutilized or even forgotten.

Consider when my son came into my room, professing his fear of bugmen. I could have lectured him that, in fact, there were no bugmen, and that his view did not comport with reality. This “cold water in the face” approach would have done little to alleviate my son’s latent fears while demanding that he take a hard U-turn into reality while in the midst of dealing with those fears. On the other hand, denying that there might be bugs in the house at all would create an unrealistic virtual world that might have placated my son for the moment, but then be shattered by the next day’s discovery of some critter.

The answer, as my half-awake mind stumbled into, was to take reality (there are bugs), take my son’s perception of that reality (bugs can lead to bugmen) and move forward on that premise by adding another layer on top (there is a solution: anti-bugmen powder). Having been empowered to defeat the challenge, and having fun doing it, my son was ready later to then learn more about bugs, bugmen, and aliens as we sat together at the computer looking up such things during the next few weeks.


“Too much of our education system is structured like virtual reality. We create an artificial world where subjects like history, science, and physical education are separated into distinct, and unreal, classes without reference to each other.”

This approach has a name, at least in the computer gaming world: Augmented Reality, or AR. In AR, extra information is digitally overlaid onto the real world to enhance the experience either for information or entertainment purposes. If you have ever been to a museum and listened to a “virtual tour” on a headset while you look at the very real exhibit or pieces in front of you, then you have experienced AR. That these tours are misnamed “virtual” demonstrates the somewhat confusing, but important, distinction between “Augmented Reality” and “Virtual Reality” (VR). In a nutshell, VR creates an entirely made up world that can be as divorced from reality and its rules (like gravity) as the designer wants, while AR takes what is real and enhances or overlays information to get more out of exploring our world.

This distinction is even more pronounced and important in education. Unfortunately, too much of our education system is structured like VR. We create an artificial world where subjects like history, science, and physical education are separated into distinct, and unreal, classes without reference to each other. So too, the student’s day is blocked out into delineated (and often arbitrary) chunks of time. Students are asked to read about things and solve problems that have no connection to their immediate world, such as a math/economics problem about securing a mortgage, but are expected to embrace such things because “it will be their reality in the future.” Unfortunately, learning things because they will be important in the future is a poor motivator and weak sales pitch, as nearly every twenty-something who has to listen to retirement investment options will tell you.

AR, on the other hand, is an approach that has endless possibilities for enhancing the motivation and actual learning for students. Starting with the world as students know or perceive it, such an approach presents the world in a way that engages students. Once engaged, or having “bought into it” as teachers like to say, the students are much more receptive to the follow-up learning that the teacher can then add on top.

A good example of AR teaching is the game, now a few years old, called GeoGuessr. We wrote about this as an educational tool back in 2013, when it was just catching on. With GeoGuessr, a player is placed, via their phone, tablet or computer, in some random place in the world via Google Maps. Looking around and wandering by using the arrow keys to navigate, the player looks for clues (climate, vegetation, road sign language, geographic and man-made features) to guess where they are. Points are awarded for how close the guess is to the actual spot. The game was a hit generally, but clever educators found it a boon to their classrooms. Kids vied for the highest score, all the while learning how to look at and process information (palm trees) for application (where do palm trees grow?). Turning human and physical geography into a fun game allowed teachers to impart significant information and processing experience for students. As Mary Poppins might say, that spoonful of AR helped the learning go down.

Next page: What AR should look like in the classroom


App of the Week: Turn your phone into a science lab

Ed. note: App of the Week picks are now being curated by the editors of Common Sense Education, which helps educators find the best ed-tech tools, learn best practices for teaching with tech, and equip students with the skills they need to use technology safely and responsibly. Click here to read the full app review.

Science Journal

What’s It Like? 

Measure sound, light, and more using the sensors in your Android phone. Google refers to the Science Journal app as a pocket science laboratory because it allows students to measure data in real time using a phone. Sensors record ambient light (lux), intensity of sound in decibels (dB), and acceleration of the phone moving in three planes (m/s2). Students can design their own experiments and use Science Journal to collect and annotate data.

Price: Free

Grades: 6-12

Rating: 4/5

Pros: A free alternative to expensive classroom light, sound, and motion sensors.

Cons: Not all students have an Android phone.

Bottom line: Science Journal does a good job recording real-time motion, sound, and light data using Android phones.