Discover Rewards-Based Learning Technology, and School Will Never Be the Same!
Fourth-grader Ethan Ard was always a good student at Zion Chapel School. He arrived at school on time, followed the rules, and completed all of his classwork and homework. But he was satisfied to blend into the background. He wasn’t interested in sports, according to his mother, even though sports are a big focus in the rural school system of Coffee County School District in southeast Alabama.
“My son is not a sports fanatic,” says Tazzie Writesel. “Ethan spends more time on electronics. He enjoys working on the computer and with technology, so I allow him to do what he loves. This is where he shines.”
Certainly, one of the appeals of technology for children and adults alike is the ability to do work with an independent, discrete focus. In today’s 21st-century classrooms, technology-based learning programs allow students to connect with academic content, instructors, and other students autonomously, in measured doses, and from the safety of the screen.
In one such program—the Stride™ rewards-based learning program by Fuel Education—Ethan discovered a passion that would transform his presence at school. The Stride program allows Ethan to answer math, reading, language arts, and science questions online through an engaging personalized platform, and rewards correct answers with coins that can be redeemed for playing time in a variety of enticing video games.
“This child will never be the same,” said Jan Moore, Instructional Coach at Zion Chapel School. “Ethan has achieved ‘celebrity status’ at our school because of Stride and has completely come out of his shell.”
Digital Rewards Nurture a Strong Devotion to Learning
Stride’s embedded video games deliver a brief “brain break” from learning and then motivate students like Ethan to continue working on academic content that is tailored to their unique needs. Within the video games, they experience additional levels of reward through earning game badges and “Star Points” for their game performance. Star Points accumulate for each student across the entirety of an academic year.
“I have never seen Ethan so excited and devoted to something like he has been with Stride,” says Ms. Writesel. “I couldn’t be more proud of my son!”
Early in the 2017–18 school year when Ethan entered fourth grade, he told his mother about his aspirations in Stride. “He said at the end of the year on Awards Day, he wanted to earn a certificate in Stride. He wanted to be recognized for something other than the annual ‘A’ Honor Roll.”
“I told him that he can do anything he sets his mind to. I advised him to set a goal for how many points he wanted to earn in Stride. He did, and then surpassed his goal. I was astonished at how many Star Points he wound up with at the end of the year!” she said.
Surpassing Expectations to Achieve Above Grade-Level
Over the course of the 2017–18 school year, Ethan answered 2,921 skills practice questions in Stride, covering a broad range of required Alabama College- and Career-Ready Standards in alignment with his teacher’s lesson plans. While the recommended Stride usage per week in a supplemental implementation is 60 minutes, Ethan, on average, spent 117 minutes per week in Stride—nearly double the recommendation. And, 38 percent of his total time spent working in Stride occurred after school hours, on his own time.*
Pictured above, right: sample Stride student interface
Moore says Ethan’s benchmark Scantron test scores at the beginning of the 2018–19 school year demonstrate how working in Stride has helped him grow skills in both reading and mathematics. “Now as a fifth grader, Ethan’s reading scores are on an eighth grade level (8.9). To be three years—nearly four—ahead of grade level is outstanding!” she reports. “Ethan’s math scores are also a year and a half above grade level.”
“As I watched Ethan work in Stride last year, he didn’t master everything on the first attempt. There were areas where he failed, but he kept working and persevered!” said Moore.
Ethan’s mother agrees, “Stride has helped Ethan academically. In addition to answering the practice questions, he is reading the questions and passages independently, and therefore improving his reading. When he answers a question incorrectly, Stride makes him stop and think on the question a little more before selecting a different answer.”
At the beginning of the year, Ethan’s homeroom teacher started weekly incentives to encourage participation in Stride. The student who earned the most points for the week received a special reward. “This really set Ethan into motion,” his mom said. “He would spend his free time on the weekends in Stride. His competitive side came out, and it was hard for him to stop once he was on a roll!”
Virtual Challenges Become Real Accomplishments
Even though Stride boasts a large selection of video games in a variety of genres such as arcade, logic, puzzles, and word games, Ethan became captivated by one game in particular and devoted all of his energy to mastering just this game. By year-end, Ethan had earned over 13,000 coins in Stride and more than 138 million Star Points—an unprecedented accomplishment!
“My favorite game is Squirrely Whirly,” Ethan says, “because there is so much trial and error, and I love the concept. My goal this year in Stride is to beat my current score and get 150,000,000 Star Points!”
According to Ethan, Squirrely Whirly was the most popular game among his classmates in the fourth grade. The game features an adorable squirrel who leaps through the obstacles of his virtual forest, collecting nuts to sustain him, and recovering from falls as he climbs to higher and more challenging levels.
Perhaps Ethan recognizes something about himself in his furry virtual friend, as he now navigates the ups and downs of the fifth grade at Zion Chapel School.
*Data from Stride Student Progress Report, 7/31/18.