You will have less busywork and paperwork as the computer does all the quick grading.
Your class size will be cut in half, allowing you to use more effective teaching techniques.
You will have better built-in support for students with special needs and few interruptions for "pull-out" services.
You will have reduced stress from clashing systems, complicated schedules and frustrated students, parents and administrators.
Your ESL, special-ed, TAG and other students can thrive and meet tough but attainable academic goals.
Leverage the Computers
Education is the last major industry to figure out how to leverage computers, probably because everyone who's spent time with children knows you can't just throw them in a room with the internet and call it good.
But let's start with something obvious: Never do a spelling test again! This is a perfect task for the computer; it doesn't mind repeating a word three times because a student wasn't paying attention; it can pause for just one student's urgent trip to the bathroom without slowing down anyone else; it can do the whole lesson and quiz five times for the student who isn't fond of standard spelling; and it instantly grades every quiz with no arguments about poor handwriting.
However, the computer is less awesome at book club discussions, illustrations to demonstrate comprehension of a chapter, judging the humor in creative writing assignments, organizing skits and plays, building solid research skills, and building cross-subject connections with other topics you've already covered. Those are your jobs.
But seriously: never do a spelling test again. If you're deeply attached to your current spelling or vocab lists, you can even make your very own lessons on our platform (spelling lessons are quick: they take about an hour to make and then you can use them with thousands of students for years and years). We'll even give you a few free credits--see our Partners Program.
Cut Your Class in Half
Whether you're just getting started with one subject or jumping in for the full experience, you can cut your class in half right away.
In our lab school we used two different systems, and teachers liked them both.
In one, all the students stayed in one room, with half on computers/tablets/smartphones around the edge and the other half working at tables in the middle.
This method was the best for flexibility; the teacher could easily slide students or groups back and forth as they finished online or hands-on assignments.
In the other, half the students went to a dedicated computer lab with an aide while the other stayed with the teacher.
This method was the best for loud or interesting hands-on activities (to minimize distractions for the on-line group), and for teachers who prefer a more structured lesson plan.
Either way, teachers agreed that it's easier to teach everything to fifteen students than to thirty.
Help Students with Special Needs
Our Foundations Series program was inspired by the Montessori Method, which was created by an Italian doctor to work with "uneducable" students and later also used with young children. Dr. Montessori basically invented Special Education and Early Childhood Education.
While most Montessori schools in the US are prohibitively expensive and extremely particular, the core philosophy of slowly and carefully teaching small, component skills to absolute mastery before recombining them is an approach we've embraced strongly.
We hold all our students to the same academic standards, even if some intellectually disabled students continue to work on Foundations skills for years before they are prepared to tackle harder work. In our lab school we helped a middle school student with an IQ around 60 learn to read about 300 phonetic and sight words over two years. Before that this student could only read the word "stop" and, well, only when it was on a stop sign.
Our Knowledge Series program also proved to be very popular with students with ADD/ADHD and autism spectrum disorders, for two different reasons.
Our "super long lessons" format maximizes the amount of on-task time with just two lessons a day. Each lesson is 80 minutes on-line and 80 minutes hands-on. On average, our students with ADD/ADHD needed about 15 minutes to settle in to do their work after a transition. In a typical 40-minute class, this would leave 25 minutes (or 62.5%) on-task time; with our 80-minute class, this left 65 minutes (or 81.25%) on-task time.
In addition, there is much less paperwork in our system so they were more successful just because their work was inside the computer instead of the bottom of a backpack or locker.
Our half on-line/half hands-on system was the factor that helped most with students with autism spectrum disorders. First, because during half the day they could focus on learning without also having to interact with other people.
Second, because all of our lessons are on the same platform they didn't have to learn a bunch of different systems or fiddle with CDs, cables or other software.
And third, when they were doing the hands-on lessons the class was smaller (and typically quieter), again reducing the complexity of interpersonal interactions.
Fourth, they also benefited from the "super long lessons" format: fewer transitions, less set-up and clean-up time, therefore less chaos in general.
With special needs symptoms on the rise in children, you are probably already overwhelmed with your students' very serious needs. Hopefully your district will continue to improve the training and supports you need to help your students be successful; in the meantime, our system was built specifically with these students in mind to maximize their success.
Reduce Unnecessary work Stress
The teaching profession doesn't need to be as stressful as it is right now. It's tragic that we lose so many teachers after just three years--great teachers who love their students and love teaching but just can't stand the unnecessary stress of it all.
We're here to help.
We've already talked about how the super-long lessons minimize transitions, set-up and clean-up and maximize on-task time for everyone. And how you'll never do drudgery like spelling tests, lectures or reading from a textbook again. But we cannot overemphasize how much less paper you'll have to deal with. Seriously. You'll cut your paperwork in half, at least. And no more piles of daily homework or quizzes to grade!
Now that we've lightened your workload, let's also simplify your day. With our system, students are never pulled out of your class for special tutoring or interventions. Students who need a lot of these take them instead of a Second Language.
The quarterly schedule is simple too: After 100 instructional days, there are 5 final exam days (you could also use one each quarter for state tests), 5 teacher training/prep days and 5 vacation days (though these may be rearranged to account for other holidays). This gives you a full two weeks between each quarter to rest and reflect, plan and prepare.
And finally, parent meetings (including for IEPs) tend to be a lot calmer and more productive. With all the built-in supports, flexible options for students who work at different speeds or are early or late bloomers, and real-time reports so that everyone knows what's really done, creating a really workable plan for every student takes fewer meetings and success is easier to measure.
And successful students leads to calm and happy parents, and much smoother cooperation all around.