UO offers parents resources for remote learning

First published in Around the O on April 21st, 2020.

As more parents turn to online educational resources for their kids’ remote learning needs, here’s a look at a few of the UO-developed applications that are available to parents.

The UO’s College of Education has a reputation for conducting cutting-edge work in many areas. Much of this evidence-based research has given rise to online learning applications, some of which are now available for free or at a reduced rate.

Math resources for preschoolers/kindergarteners

Researchers in the college have lowered the price on a tablet-based math program for kindergarten students to make it more readily available for students and families.

KinderTEK, an app that grew out of research in the UO’s Center on Teaching and Learning, is now available to families for 99 cents. Teachers can set up free, cloud-synced class accounts for students to use at home by visiting the KinderTEK website. The application is only available for iPads and helps students age 3-8 learn important preschool/kindergarten-level math skills.

“This is a resource that kids like, that works well and that they can use independently,” said Mari Strand Cary, senior researh associate in the Center on Teaching and Learning and project director of KinderTEK.

What differentiates KinderTEK from other apps, Strand Cary says, is that it teaches math through thoughtful sequencing and resarch-based instructional practices. KinderTEK individualizes instruction and feedback to teach students what they need to know and rewards them for perseverance and mastery.

KinderTEK was co-developed with a private partner, Concentric Sky, with grant funding from the U.S. Department of Education and is available in the Apple App Store. For more information, visit the KinderTEK website

Math education gaming for students in kindergarten through second grade

Numbershire, math education game for students in early elementary school, is now available at a reduced rate. Developed at the UO Center on Teaching and Learning and funded with grants from the Institute of Education Sciences and the Office of Special Education Programs, Numbershire teaches students in grades kindergarten through second grade concepts that are critical for math proficiency, especially students who are struggling.

The program uses an engaging storyline set in a Renaissance-themed village with unique characters, narrative goals and visual rewards.

“There’s an overall storyline that kids begin with and navigate through and to which math concepts are intimately connected,” said Nancy Nelson, a research assistant professor and director of clinic and outreach at the Center on Teaching and Learning. “Kids are taught and shown how to do something, and they get feedback about whether they are doing it correctly or incorrectly before they practice it on their own.”

Numbershire is focused on critical whole number concepts and aligned with Common Core State Standards. Its initial effectiveness in improving math learning was demonstrated in an 8-week pilot study involving 250 students in 26 classrooms, and has since been tested in 60 classrooms involving thousands of children with similar results.

The home version of the Numbershire app for the iPad is now available for 99 cents in the Apple App Store. Parents can also access a web-based version of the classroom edition for free by contacting developers at ns1its@uoregon.edu and requesting an account. For more information, visit the Numbershire website.

Online science activities for middle schoolers

All middle school students, including those with learning disabilities, can boost their science learning with the online ESCOLAR curriculum.

ESCOLAR, which stands for Effective Scholastic Curriculum for Online Learning and Academic Results,was developed and evaluated within the College of Education’s Center for Equity Promotion. 

ESCOLAR is different from other online science modules because it was created for a digital environment and it is aligned to Next Generation Science Standards. Also, unlike other programs, it has been proven effective in research with middle schoolers, according to UO research assistant professor Fatima Terrazas-Arellanes, who leads the ESCOLAR effort.

“Schools are spending thousands of dollars on some popular online science programs that are not evidence-based,” Terrazas-Arellanes said.

The complete ESCOLAR middle school science curriculum, originally designed with a National Science Foundation grant, was intended for teachers to use in their classrooms, but parents can easily access the units after setting up free accounts. Units last 12-20 weeks and are divided into the areas of life sciences, physical sciences, earth and space sciences, and foundational skills. Developers will soon begin releasing ESCOLAR units in Spanish.

 Learn more on the ESCOLAR website

Online research skills for middle schoolers

Middle school students, including students with learning disabilities, can improve their ability to conduct academic online research with the web-based SOAR curriculum.

SOAR, which is short for Strategies for Online Academic Research, was developed and evaluated within the Center for Equity Promotion. 

SOAR has been shown in research studies to help middle school students learn how to search for, evaluate and use appropriate online information. These skills are critical in a digital world where misinformation thrives. Funded with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the program is geared to fifth- and sixth-grade students.

Parents can easily access the SOAR curriculum after setting up free accounts. Using SOAR’s online Student Toolkit, students can navigate through nine different units.

Lessons show how to use search engines effectively, how to ask the right questions and choose the right search words; how to distinguish governmental, nonprofit and other noncommercial sites; and how to evaluate the reliability of the information they are finding.

Learn more on the SOAR website

Positive behavioral intervention for K-12 at home

The Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports framework is an evidence-based practice that takes a systems approach to helping teachers make education more safe, predictable and positive.

Developed in the College of Education’s Educational and Community Supports unit, the framework creates systems for educators and students to follow. But unit director Kent McIntosh, Philip H. Knight Chair of Special Education and a professor in the Department of Special Education and Clinical Sciences, said parents can apply some of the principles of the program to their own home learning environment with a newly released behavioral intervention app called Be+ that’s been available for free since September in the Google Play store and was just released in the Apple App Store.

“It allows people to put everything in one place and remind yourself of the positive things that you want to do more often, so we can be more effective at helping our kids out,” McIntosh said.    

McIntosh said it’s easy for parents to notice improper behavior, but harder to remember to give kids feedback on positive behavior. Parents can use Be+ app to practice the kinds of positive reinforcement at home that have shown to be effective in classrooms.

Used in more than 25,000 schools in 50 states and 20 countries to help improve student outcomes, and funded with grants from US. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs and Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. For more information, visit the program's website.

Neuroscience resources for kids of all ages

While working on a collaborative project during the Eugene BrainHack event, Kate Mills and her lab developed a collection of resources for parents and educators seeking neuroscience guides and lessons for kids.

“Children are just inherently fascinated in how their brains work,” said Mills, a professor in the Department of Psychology, whose research on brain development and behavior in children puts her in contact with the College of Education. “Having hands-on activities can help solidify kids’ understanding of what’s going on in their brains.”

Intended as the basis for a neuroscience for kids website, the resources Mills and lab members Lucy Whitmore and Melanie Clark gathered have been compiled in a Google spreadsheet that’s available to everyone.

By Lewis Taylor, University Communications