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District uses math and science "activity objects" to get more from interactive whiteboards

Adaptive Curriculum software helps students get hands-on familiarity with complex concepts, raises scores

With computers and interactive whiteboards becoming more prevalent in classrooms, districts are looking for tools to help maximize the technology's benefits and improve educational results.

The Sundale Union Elementary School District in Tulare, Calif., found those tools in Adaptive Curriculum's software for math and science. The district superintendent was impressed with a demo of Adaptive Curriculum's interactive activity objects. At the same time the district was looking for a way "to ratchet up our middle school science curriculum," according to Vice Principal Darin Bawks.


"Of course we had textbooks, but we wanted something more technology based and more interactive to appeal to our digital-age students and improve student achievement in science," Bawks said.

The district, which serves a small, rural farming and dairy community in the San Joaquin Valley, decided to implement Adaptive Curriculum in February 2010. A one-hour webinar was all it took to get the school's science teachers excited. Said Bawks: "Our teachers ran with it after just one hour of training. They appreciate the curriculum support—they find the supplementary materials and assessment very useful. They are as enamored with Adaptive Curriculum as our students."

Adaptive Curriculum has more than 400 standards-based activity objects designed to use multimedia lessons to reinforce complex concepts. The software also has online teacher guides and lesson plans, and it provides instant feedback and reinforcement.

Eric Garcia, a sixth grade science teacher, has seen significant results since he started implementing Adaptive Curriculum. He uses the program with his interactive whiteboard for whole class projects and to prepare students for handson science labs and science fairs.

"Our teachers ran with it after just one hour of training."

"Adaptive Curriculum is great for preparation," he said. "We do a lesson in class, and then students are familiar with the language when they start a hands-on project. So the software gives them an idea of what I'm looking for and makes it easier for them to apply what they know to other projects."

Twice a week, Garcia sets up four or five Adaptive Curriculum centers for small group projects, with students spending 15 minutes at each center and completing one Adaptive Curriculum lesson.

For individualized, self-paced work, students complete one or two Adaptive Curriculum lessons in the computer lab. "I like the design of the program," says Garcia. "It's so easy to select different activities for different students and differentiate lessons based on skill level and pacing." The results have been tangible.

Standardized tests for eighth grade science students showed an increase ranging from 31 to 59 points. On Adaptive Curriculum's built-in tests, Garcia notes that students improved over the year to achieving 80 to 100 percent results.

Finding effective tools to marry to the technology of interactive whiteboards is a challenge that the International Society for Technology in Education identified at its 2010 convention in Denver.

"One of the consistent messages received from our members was the need for strong Math and Science middle school and high school solutions that would allow teachers a point of instruction tool for use on their interactive boards. Certainly, the trend is to find programs that would help school systems realize their investment on those boards as it relates to STEM and these core content areas," said Helen Padgett, ISTE president.

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