Sometimes you DO get what you pay for.
Type of technology: Imagine Learning (Computer Program App)
SAMR Model Rating: Modification
Grade level: All (I think, but highly recommended for TK-2nd)
Subject area: English Language Arts and ELD
Cost: $30,000 – $40,000 per school!
I know this sounds like a crazy amount of money to spend on a computer program, but it really did allow me to significantly redesign my classroom (especially with growing class sizes and shrinking resources). This past year, my school was lucky enough to pilot Imagine Learning for our district. I found this program to be excellent! The students loved it. I could monitor their learning through different reports the program generated. There is a teaching component that allowed me to use the program to teach mini lessons that targeted common errors. When my students were using Imagine Learning, I knew they were learning and on task. This is what allowed me to redesign my classroom. To be perfectly honest, my favorite thing about Imagine Learning was what it allowed me to do with my students who were not using Imagine Learning.
I used Imagine Learning in many different ways to help redesign my classroom.
Sometimes, I would set up my whole class on Imagine Learning and do individual assessments, or just listen to my students read one-on-one. This helped me get more accurate assessment data because I wasn’t worried about what the rest of my students were doing, and because the student I was working with wasn’t distracted by the other 25 six-year-olds in the room. Reading one-on-one with first graders is priceless. It is often difficult for a teacher to give that kind of focused attention to just one student at a time, without a program like Imagine Learning, especially when there are no other adults in the room (which there almost never are).
Other times, I would split my class into three reading groups. One group would be working with me, one would be using Imagine Learning, and one would be working independently. I have done this type of grouping throughout my teaching career with other computer programs and without computers, but Imagine Learning made it much easier and more productive for everyone. The group on Imagine Learning was pretty much always focused and quiet. This helped a lot with management, and allowed me to focus on my reading group.
I also used Imagine Learning as an option for early finishers. This allowed me to work with students who needed extra help to finish a project, without being distracted by other students. This was especially helpful with writing. The difference in ability between first graders and their writing is huge. Some students can finish a five page book in 20 minutes pretty independently, and others need one-on-one help every step of the way. Imagine Learning allowed me to give my students the extra support and attention they needed.
Unfortunately, our district is not able to purchase Imagine Learning…yet. It really is very expensive, but it is so beneficial in so many ways. I hope that one day we will be able to get Imagine Learning back (or something like it). After all, we have already spent so much money on iPads and Chromebooks, we should invest in valuable programs that support our students learning, and puts our technology to good use. It is especially hard for primary students to work independently, and use technology productively, when the programs they are using don’t direct their learning and monitor their work.
I hope that our district will be able to get something like Imagine Learning soon, but in the meantime please let me know of other good computer programs similar to this one (that maybe don’t cost as much).
I also like DreamBox, epic books, starfall.com, code.org, National Geographic Kids, to name a few…but they don’t quite offer the same benefits as Imagine Learning. The main difference is that it is too easy for young students to get off task, and then I spend a lot of valuable teaching time helping students with their computers.
I love what technology can bring to education, both in how it augments student learning and better prepares them for the future, but also in how it allows me to give more focused attention to individual students and small groups.