The Language of Content

Articles from the Speak Agent team that provide classroom resources, implementation strategies, research-based perspectives, and updates regarding our Content+LanguageSM platform.

Can Edtech Help with the Teacher Time Crunch?


September 28, 2022 | Ben Grimley |


"You want me to do what now?" Imagine this: You are a school or district administrator and the students in your district have fallen behind in math. You've found the perfect edtech solution to help bridge the gap. But when you share this solution with your teachers, you get this reaction: expressionless

"Why should I invest the time to implement this? Why should I take this on?"

Why indeed! Maybe this "perfect" solution has studies showing evidence it works, but those studies were done in a carefully controlled environment. With all the extra burdens and stresses now on teachers' shoulders, will adopting something new achieve the desired results? The solution you chose may theoretically work, but will it actually work in the classroom?

We take these questions seriously. If we're not helping teachers, we're not helping students. And helping teachers does not mean replacing them with whiz-bang AI machine learning or go-sit-in-a-corner, self-contained computer programs. It means saving teachers time and headaches. So how do we do that?

Here are the top 10 ways that Speak Agent reduces the workload for teachers and administrators:

1. Delivers engaging classroom-ready activities.

 

ReadAlong_HS_Physics_5

As an ESOL teacher, I constantly had to prepare materials, hunt for resources, or create things that engaged my students in effective, multimodal learning. Speak Agent delivers classroom-ready activities that integrate content and language learning objectives for each unit in your math and science courses. (You can even use the Speak Agent authoring tools to rapidly clone and modify lessons or create your own from scratch!) We know that students find Speak Agent engaging because 2,495 middle schoolers told us so in surveys from our district partners; 72% of students reported that Speak Agent was their #1 most effective STEM learning tool (including non-edtech activities).

 

2. Maps to your curriculum.


Image of Curriculum Mapping on Speak AgentIt's not good enough to have access to a library of engaging activities. It's still work to find each activity in a library, make sure it aligns with standards, evaluate whether it's appropriate for your students, adapt it to your lesson plan, and then figure out how to use it. What if the activities were laid out to match your scope, sequence, and pacing? No more having to sit down and make a spreadsheet of alignments or rewrite lesson plans. Now you have all of your integrated content and language resources for each STEM unit in one place and can assign the unit to your class. Done!

 

3. Embeds strategies into the activities.

Language Strategies

It's terrific to learn about great research-based strategies in a PD course or webinar. But then it takes time to figure out how to implement them — and you still have to create classroom-ready activities. (See #1 above.) What if the research-based strategies could be embedded into your engaging, curriculum-mapped activities so they become immediately actionable? Yes, you read my mind - because that is precisely what we do at Speak Agent! We were all classroom teachers too.

By the way, have you seen our free Content+Language Strategies series? Here are some free activities you can use with your students!

4. Embeds formative assessment into the activities.

Image of a student holding up a checklist

If you're like most other educators, you or your team have probably created a whole slew of formative assessment activities like Google forms, handouts, rubrics, exit tickets, etc., that are ongoing year-round. Speak Agent augments this by embedding formative assessment into every one of our activities. Unlike the assessments found in other programs, ours maps closely to your STEM curriculum. A completely unique aspect is that we give you progress data on both content and language learning objectives for each and every unit, by student, class section, and school.

5. Automates rostering.

Image of student rostering

Rostering can be a huge headache and time sink. Many tools provide automated rostering like Speak Agent, but if they don't, it's a whole new set of responsibilities you don't want to take on! We pull in the rostering data upfront and then sync up all year long. Unlike many tools, we also support co-teachers as full and equal partners in managing assignments and accessing student data. As an ESOL teacher, I found it incredibly frustrating when I did not have this access!

 

6. Provides easy and equitable access.

Image of devices

You are probably not surprised to learn that access is the #1 challenge for implementing any edtech solution. The barriers are (1) the ability to login and (2) the ability to make it work on the devices you have in your classroom. Speak Agent addresses both of these barriers head-on. For login, we support single sign-on through Clever and ClassLink. For our non-SSO partners, signing in directly through our website or app is also an option. Speak Agent runs on any device, from Chromebooks to smartphones, and is optimized for low bandwidth connections. Students can log in with any web browser or our mobile app at school or home for equal access to our program.

7. Offers a quick learning curve.
Image of Speak Agent PD

It can take a lot of time and training to acclimate to a new tool or resource. Will this take days? Weeks? Months? We deliver everything you need to get started in an engaging one-hour Speak Agent 101 session led by our staff who were full-time classroom teachers. At the end of one hour, you have everything needed to use it in the classroom. Then we offer 7 other courses that are available both synchronously and on-demand. Teachers can dive deeper into the strategies or the platform features as they need them, rather than in a forced progression.

8. Automatically builds a portfolio for each student.

MyWork-Portfolio-IconThere are many great tools that allow teachers to assemble a portfolio of student work online. But they require extra effort. Speak Agent captures student writing and speaking work samples with zero effort on the part of the teacher. There is no data entry. There is no uploading of files. Moreover, we connect the portfolio to our answer keys for convenient teacher access.

9. Helps you exactly when you need it.

Student with a questionLet's face it: We all get stuck sometimes. Speak Agent offers free, unlimited one-on-one coaching on demand for every teacher who uses our platform. This includes coaching on the research-based strategies, platform features, technology questions, or anything relevant to your implementation. After all, our team is made up of former educators. We all know the importance of asking questions!

10. Responds to your feedback.

Speak Agent Cares with a thumbs upThis part may sound incredible based on your prior experience with larger publishers or "growth"companies, but our team at Speak Agent cares deeply about making an impact in partnership with teachers. We listen and we respond. Several times a year, we release updates with new and enhanced features suggested by our teacher users. Speak Agent, Inc. is an independent, self-funded, and founder-owned organization. We are not beholden to venture capitalists or to private equity funds. We are accountable only to the learners, families, and educators we serve.

Other Good Reads:

Speak Agent in Action:

Ben Grimley

Written by Ben Grimley

Ben is CEO and Co-Founder of Speak Agent, Inc. An ESL teacher who became a leading educational app creator, Ben led the launch of PBS KIDS Mobile, where his apps resulted in significant gains in language acquisition for millions of young learners. He co-created Speak Agent to address the achievement gap for historically marginalized learners, pioneering a unique Content+Language integration approach based on current Learning Sciences research. Ben has served as Principal Investigator for impact studies sponsored by IES, NSF, and NIH.