Match Next Technology Recap

Guest Post by Andrew from Match Next

Hi all - Andrew here from Match Next. For anyone new to the blog, allow me introduce myself. I’m a big DC sports fan with a pretty streaky jump shot. Also, I joined the Match Next founding team about a year and a half ago as the ‘tech guy.’ As part of my job I research and test out all sorts of technology that might be helpful for our school. When we find something that works, I help roll it out in classes. Here’s the blog I wrote about my research and testing process.

Next week I’ll start writing posts that give lots of grainy details on a particular tool we’ve used. Today, let me catch you up on the big picture of what technology we use now.


What we use regularly:

It’s a pretty short list. And frankly, nothing in here is particularly revolutionary. If “blended learning” schools were salsas, we’d be mild. That’s because a lot of the spicy stuff isn’t that good yet, in our opinion. More on that in later posts.

Here’s the list of tech we’re using so far this year:

ChromebookHardwareAll ClassesLaptops
KindlesHardwareIndependent Reading, LiteracyE-reader
Accelerated ReaderSoftwareIndependent ReadingDatabase of quizzes for pleasure-reading books
Google Forms, DocsSoftwareLiteracySurvey tool, Word Processing
CramSoftwareMathOnline flashcards
Khan AcademySoftwareMathMath practice problems
ST MathSoftwareMathMath practice problems (conceptual)
TypingClubSoftwareTypingTyping practice



How do we actually use all these pieces?

Chromebooks: We have one of these laptops per kid (ed-tech nerds like me call this being a “1:1 school”). If you’re not familiar, Chromebooks are a low-cost ($200 - $300 each) laptop. They’re so cheap because they only really do one thing - go on the internet. That’s it. No downloading, running crazy programs, etc. In addition to our 50 that we use regularly, we also keep 10 spares in case any student computers go down.

Kindles: Our students spend the first hour of every morning reading on their Kindles during our Independent Reading period. Sometimes there’s a handful of students reading a paperback book, which we’re fine with as long as they’re reading the book they want to read.

Accelerated Reader: Students take a short quiz on Accelerated Reader whenever they finish a book. The program has a quiz for almost every book our students would ever read. In some rare cases, though, we’ll have to make our own quiz if AR doesn’t have one. Each quiz typically takes 10-15 minutes for students to complete.

Google Docs: We use this pretty much every single day. Our Literacy Director, Debby, uses Google Docs to distribute content to students. It’s the easiest way we’ve found to share stuff with all the students.

Google Forms: Super easy to use survey tool. We use Google Forms for the majority of our Literacy assessments. Last year, we only used it for multiple choice questions. This year, we’re having our students complete both multiple choice and open response questions on Google Forms.

Cram: Our replacement program for “Anki,” the flashcard program we used last year for our students to practice their math facts. We’re using Cram similar to how we used Anki, but we like it because kids have to type in their answers rather than just self report if they knew it. Students are on it for about 4 minutes at the start of every math period to practice math-fact flashcards.

Khan Academy: We’re using Khan Academy more than we did last year. Our students are on it about twice a week for at least 30 minutes each session to get practice on low to medium level math problems. There’s also a small group of students that use it for roughly 90 minutes a week to learn basic computer programming (Intro to Javascript).

ST Math: This is a software we use to help lay the conceptual framework of math concepts students will eventually learn in class. They’re on it about 2-3 times per week, for a total of about 90 minutes.

TypingClub: Our 5th graders are learning how to type. They’re on TypingClub 4 days a week for about 30 minutes each day.


Next time: I’ll post my first software review on ‘TypingClub,’ the software we’re using to teach our students how to type. Stay tuned.


If you’d like to talk shop:


Match Next - Year One Intro

Guest post by Ray from Match Next


Last year, my colleague Andrew wrote a weekly entry about a tech product we’ve tried at Match Next. Since then, we’ve been knee-deep in getting this launch-year up and running with our 50x5th graders. Today, I’ll give a brief overview of our work thus far. Later this week, Andrew’s going to start writing his regular ed-tech entries again.

If you have no idea what I mean by ‘Match Next,’ check out this video. It gives a nice overview of our school design.

For everyone else, here’s what we’ve been up to:

We finished our pilot year in June. That was 50x4th graders from our elementary school, Match Community Day, spending 3 hours each morning doing a mini-version of ‘Match Next.’ The rest of their day was spent in our elementary school’s ‘traditional’ 25:1 classes.

This summer, Ben joined our small team. He used to work on the Match-wide tutor recruiting team. Now he’s the Match Next operations/enrichment/tutor director/dean. Basically, a renaissance man for our mini-school. He and I spent the month of July figuring out the million details of how our full-day program was going to run. Culture systems, physical space, Dean’s office procedures, enrichment classes, tutor training, etc.

This August, our crew of 18 tutors arrived for Match Next training. They’re a tiny subset of the much larger pool of around 150 tutors who work across the rest of the Match schools. We ran a (mostly) separate training with them for two weeks.

The first week of September, kids arrived. The same 50 kids we worked with during our pilot, now as 5th graders. (This is the oldest cohort that started as 2nd graders at our elementary school when it opened in 2012.)

So we’re now off and running in our first official year. We have three main things we’re trying to do differently:

  1. Reorganizing the way tutors and teachers work with students and each other.

  2. Rethinking reading ‘instruction’ and how to improve comprehension.

  3. Learning when and how to effectively use technology.


I’ll write more over the coming months about how those things are shaping up, and Andrew’s regular posts will give a good sense of what we’re learning on the tech front.


Next up: Andrew will begin describing what’s happening on the tech-front at Match Next.


Rick Hess: "Don't Blow Up Schools of Ed"

I originally launched this blog calling it Starting An Ed School.  That's what my colleagues and I were doing at the time, trying to create one. 

Then Match began doing more things, like starting an ELL-focused school; some tutoring partnerships with large districts; a blended-learning school, etc.  And our Ed School was approved, so we were no longer starting one.

So we changed the blog name. 

But we remain quite interested in all things Ed School.  And one of my favorite provocative thinkers, Rick Hess of AEI, wrote a must-read blog

For two decades, I've attended conclaves where impassioned reformers have declared that "We've got to blow up the ed schools." Now, given that I graduated from a school of education (and have taught at a few of them), I understand the frustration. Hell, I've had more than my share of bruises from ed schools--involving everything from being boycotted to being labeled an "enemy of public education." But I also think the "blow 'em up" response has been misguided and counterproductive.

Rick continues: 

....As a rule, education school faculty display strong biases on questions like accountability, use of monetary incentives, and school choice. Those who see things differently have responded by starting nonprofits and small businesses to train principals and superintendents, relying on think tanks and advocacy groups to spread their ideas. But, importantly, I think the absence of competing voices in ed schools is less a matter of any grand conspiracy than convenience, routine, and groupthink. And that means there's a lot of opportunity to do something about it.

Rick is trying to solve an Ideas problem.  Groupthink, biases, few competing voices.  I agree this is a concern.  Rick looks to law school changes.  He describes 3 large strategies over the last 30 years to diversify the ideas exchanged there.  Then he explains how that might work in Ed Schools:

One is the Federalist Society model, which entails launching an organization to help ensure that junior faculty and graduate students in schools of education encounter different thinking and have the opportunity to take its tenets seriously. There's a ready array of relatively inexpensive complementary investments in campus chapters, including scholarships, post-doctoral fellowships, and conferences.

A second strategy is the "law and economics" model: endow new faculty chairs, create lecture series, and fund new instructional programs....Indeed, recent ventures like Harvard's Strategic Data Project and Stanford's Center for Education Policy Analysis show that it's possible to launch initiatives that remain admirably free from convention and committed to empirical rigor.

The George Mason model entails founding new institutions. One tack involves building start-ups like the Relay Graduate School of Education or the High Tech High Graduate School of Education from tightly focused teacher prep programs into something much more akin to a full-service education school.

It's a great column. 

Rick is addressing an Ideas problem.  But - you knew there was a "but"...

Most Ed Schools are 2 things, right?  Teacher Prep.  And Everything Else (including ed policy).  Teacher Prep cross-subsidizes Everything Else. 

Teacher Prep is not effective by almost anyone's reckoning.  When people discuss, to use Rick's term, blowing up Ed Schools, I think they mean overcoming an institutional defiance to any meaningful change in Teacher Prep. 

Here's my question for Rick. 

Have any of these 3 legal efforts solved a very different problem, which is law schools graduate many rookie lawyers who aren't very good at being lawyers? 

From what I've read from various legal commentators and from the recent law grads (and everyone I've spoken to personally who runs District Attorney offices or law firms), that answer is no.  Here's the NY Times take.  It's called "What They Don’t Teach Law Students: Lawyering."

Law schools may be more open to conservatives and to competing ideas than 3 decades ago.  It's not clear that they are any better at training lawyers. 

Which is one reason, ahem, some scholars argue we should Blow Up The Law Schools



English Testing - Great Idea From Lisa Hansel

How could states create much better English standardized tests?  The goal would be tests that:

1. Induce schools to have kids actually read lots of books (particularly science, social studies, music, geography, civics)....rather than do lots of reading strategy practice or other stuff that doesn't really help much anyway. 

2. Measure more of what teachers "control" (the books that kids are assigned to read, not the vocabulary/knowledge level of the kids the day they walked in the door, presumably from their homes).

3. Is a 2-fer....English tests that double as science and social studies tests. 

The problem to date has been that every school reads different stuff.   As Lisa writes:

The only way to construct truly fair reading comprehension tests is to ensure that the passages are on topics that have been taught in school. Since states’ English language arts standards usually do not specify which books, poems, short stories, etc. to teach in each grade, ELA standards are a poor guide for test developers concerned with equity.

Lisa has the solution, though. 

But states’ science and social studies standards usually do specify some core content to be taught in each grade. The obvious path forward is to construct reading comprehension tests that assess language arts skills using the science and social studies content specified in the standards.

After all, skills depend on relevant prior knowledge, so such tests would give a more accurate picture of schools’ impact on students’ language abilities than our current random-content tests. And for the cost and time of just one test, we would have a decent gauge of three subjects.

Even better would be to draw the topics for passages on reading comprehension tests from science, social studies, art, music, geography, and civics standards.

So does Lisa's idea accomplish our 3 goals?  Why yes. 

Such tests would (1) induce schools to develop a broad, content-rich curriculum and support teacher collaboration, (2) reduce the impact of the home on students’ scores, (3) build the knowledge and vocabulary that is essential to literacy, and (4) be the foundation for an accountability system that requires fewer tests yet still ensures that standards are being met.

A very clever idea.  The estimable Joanne Jacobs likes it too. 

Read Lisa's whole thing here

Teacher Time Mgmt

Our friend Maia has a new online course.  Free.  8 hours.  Reasonably entertaining.  It's on Coursera, via Relay GSE.  I recommend it.  Maia writes:

With an eye toward long-term sustainability, The Together Teacher examines the purpose for planning ahead, provides tools for tracking time commitments, deadlines and tasks, and helps teachers develop a personal organization system that interacts with their day-by-day practices.

All that fancy talk?  It just means you can help a teacher either

a. Free up some time to help some struggling kids


b. Go to the gym.  (And therefore arrive to work tomorrow feeling refreshed...and ready to help some struggling kids). 

High ROI.  If you invest the 8 hours, and get tools that help you save just 20 minutes a day, that's 60+ hours over the course of a school year.