(An interview with myself, for FETC ’12)

Q: The New York Times has been writing up instructional software lately for still not delivering on its promise. Why this bad rap?

A: Because a lot of ed software is not robust enough to deliver consistent, positive results.

Q: What do you mean by “robust enough”?

A: Well it’s incredibly difficult to show that a program delivers consistent results across the real-world range of program implementations. Consider even common-sense non-tech programs, like professional development, that frequently fail to statistically show significant results.

Q: So how do you make a program robust enough?

A: Our strategy at MIND Research has been to use digital usage data to continuously inform program development, and equally important, teacher training and support. Over the last 12 years, based on how teachers and students actually use our program, we have closed the feedback loop on program implementation. As a result we’ve put our software through 4 major generations.

Q: What kinds of results have you seen?

A: In 2011, we looked at all new schools nominally implementing our ST Math® supplemental math software across 11 locations in 5 states, averaging about 15 schools and over 2,000 students per location. We consistently saw approximately double the growth in percent of students math proficient, compared to similar local schools.

Q: Are tablets finally going to make this kind of success commonplace?

A: Like for the waves of computers and interactive whiteboards that have come before, it depends on what you do with the tablets. I believe that for any hardware to make a game-changing difference, it needs to enable something previously impossible. Just doing the conventional, but more quickly, or cheaply, or even cleverly, isn’t going to cut it. The educational value comes from innovative software, running ON the cool new hardware. But too many people still treat instructional software as a commodity, not knowing yet how to recognize even some basic instructional design principles we now know are required to be effective – and robust.

Q: So do you believe tablets will be game-changers?

A: Yes, we are very excited about the potential to do just that. At FETC 2012 we are announcing ST Math® Touch, the latest evolution of our supplemental, grade-leveled math software. Our field-proven visual manipulatives approach, interactively animating for the student or teacher how math concepts make sense and work, is a perfect application for tablets and touch. Rather than simply porting a mouse/pointer environment to become touch aware, we are taking students to a new level of immersive experience. They will literally work with their hands on mathematics problem-solving, just like physical manipulatives of old – like popsicle sticks and rubber bands. Only now we can extend the use of “concrete” way past first grade right up to middle school, using rigorous, purposeful, game-based software, undergirded by a state of the art curriculum and reporting system.

Q: How can I find out more?

A: Get iPad sample games Kickbox or BigSeed. And follow us @MIND_Research for the latest info.