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New Year, New Team

Here at Boom Learning, we’ve had a shockingly busy Spring and Summer as schools have had to make tough decisions and get creative about how they handled teaching. Many adopted Boom Learning as they explored new techniques and tools for teaching students remotely as well as in classrooms. This has been both exciting and overwhelming at times for everyone involved – the teachers, their students, and the Boom Team.

Behind the scenes at Boom Learning, we’ve had to expand our team again and again this year in order to keep up with all the new accounts as well as the flood of questions and ideas coming our way daily. That new team has settled throughout the last half of 2020, and we thought now would be the perfect time to introduce the new faces on the other side of the screen.

In the beginning there was only Mary and Eric with Joe supporting them here and there as they tackled everything from setting up a company, creating the code that brings Boom Cards to life, and helping teachers both access and use Boom Cards and get the most from our platform.

Mary Heuett Oemig (pronouns: she/her) is Boom’s Co-Founder and President, and the one who makes it all happen; which makes her the big boss, “except I’m really petite” she admits. A small town girl, she started off in Potlatch, Idaho before living for a while in Phoenix, Arizona and then the Bay Area, and now she’s landed in Kirkland, Washington. She’s often heard advising the team to “go slow to go fast,” and has an incredible ability to just get stuff done. Before co-founding Boom Learning, “I was a serious copyright law junkie. Not merely an attorney, but someone who could cite obscure cases by title,” and when she was only a second-year attorney, she wrote the defense briefs for the first major case addressing the application of copyright law to peer-to-peer file-sharing (A&M Records v Napster), so it’s safe to say she knows her stuff when it comes to copyright laws. Mary is also “an unrepentant maker” who spends her time away from Boom sewing, knitting, crocheting, baking, cooking, dancing, and traveling when she’s not reading a good book.

Eric Oemig (pronouns: he prefers “lord” though most of us use he/him) is of course a Co-Founder of Boom, but it may be more accurate to refer to him as “Code Master.” Boom was born from a combination of dreams and engineering, and millions of Boom Cards keep playing thanks to his late nights tending that code. Eric believes that “how you do one thing is how you do everything,” and can often be heard advising the team to “do the right thing.” This guiding principle is behind the decisions he’s made on everything from customer care to coding. Eric’s roots are in small-town America – he made his way west from Wisconsin to Kirkland, Washington. Outside of keeping Boom working, he spends his time drumming and writing poetry. You probably wouldn’t guess it, but he’s a secular vegan who can walk on his hands (not while eating of course!).

Joe Coffey (pronouns: he/him or just “Joe” is acceptable) started supporting Mary and Eric in 2016; today he acts as Boom’s Chief Finance Officer primarily. Joe hails from Los Angeles, CA, but lives in Ballard, Washington now and believes that “seeing the humor in life is as important as any other skill,” which the team benefits from frequently as he brings life and laughter into any (digital) room. When he’s not wearing one of his many Boom Learning hats, you can find him out hiking, sailing, or generally exploring the world, and he dreams of living in another country for a few months. In his previous life, Joe was a test driver for BMW AG (R&D), and in this life, has the words “the end is nothing, the road is all” taped up on his wall.

In the Spring it became apparent that there were not enough hands on deck. Kyle, Zack, and Jasmine joined the team.

Jasmine Dinh (pronouns: she/her) started providing technical support to Boom’s customers on April 1st of this year and quickly became our top tech support expert – no fooling. If she can’t identify and resolve the issue, it’s a problem only Eric’s coding can resolve. Jasmine has moved around the world a bit, and her parents live in Tacoma WA, but she is from Vietnam originally and currently lives in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. Her motto, “carpe diem,” keeps her both dreaming and doing; one day she hopes to become a helicopter pilot. She’s got a good start on this goal too, because Jasmine has notable pen spinning skills. If you take the time to get to know her, you might notice that “I eat a lot,” she confesses, but you’ll also come to see the cheerful lady beneath the savvy technical support expert.

Kyle Savchuck (pronouns: he/him) came to the rescue in April of 2020 to help tackle customer questions and account setup and soon after was appointed a Customer Service Manager. Kyle started off in Wisconsin before moving to Seattle. He’s always been a good negotiator, which serves him well on the Boom Team, and is frequently heard exclaiming “Nice!” When he’s not on the clock, he’s probably deeply immersed in a Dungeons & Dragons game, but he also spends time at his desk writing or heads outside to do some hiking or gardening.

Zack Beyer (pronouns: he/him) started as a Software Wizard, assisting Eric, on May 18th, 2020, and can often be heard saying “Groovy” both on and off the job. A transplant, he started life off in Evansville and then Madison, Wisconsin, but today Zach lives in Seattle, Washington – where his skills at coding and diplomacy serve him and the Boom Team well, and one day will hopefully land him in Game Design. Now this isn’t common knowledge, but when pressed, Zach admits, “I don’t actually like the color orange….” Fun fact about Zach, this is his second tour of duty at Boom Learning – he worked with us in 2012-2013 on the prototype of what then became Boom Learning as well as the Mathtopia family of iOS games.

As more and more teachers heard about Boom, we continued to struggle, and it stung. We pride ourselves on collaborating with our users, and yet we could barely keep up with basic questions and new orders let alone improve the platform.

Over the summer we went looking for help as it became apparent that Boom was really exploding in popularity.

Tu Duong (pronouns: she/her) has been providing Customer Support and assisting with Sales since June 25th of 2020. Born in Saigon, she has lived in Minnesota, Texas, California, Germany, Oregon, Singapore, and now she’s landed in Seattle although “Portland will always be home.” Tu makes a mean Vietnamese spring roll, and loves traveling whenever she can. She’s even trekked to Everest Base Camp, though she says “once is good enough.” Beyond enjoying the exploration, Tu’s travels have inspired her. One day, she’d like to create a non-profit for children in Third World countries. “Throughout my travels, I saw myself in so many people I met. And I wonder what their lives would be like if they had the opportunities I did.” She dreams of giving them access to higher education one day, and she brings that passion for helping others access education to work every day at Boom Learning in the meantime. She believes that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks, and is constantly pushing herself and her team to learn and grow.

Hazel McNees (pronouns: she/her) joined the Boom team to provide Spanish Translation in July of 2020, and leads our new FAQ team to ensure customers have access to accurate and helpful information whenever they need it in both English and Spanish. She is originally from Costa Rica, but lived in Idaho as a certified structure and wildlife fire fighter (BTW she’s shorter than Mary) for several years and also lived in Indiana for some time. These days, Hazel lives in Florida – where she enjoys a beautiful view of the beach which inspires envy in during digital team meetings. She has an amazing ability to make healthy food taste great, and makes the best margaritas. When she’s not working, or mixing it up in the kitchen, you can find Hazel running, racing, hiking, or out enjoying that beach and generally living up to her motto: “Pura Vida” a Costa Rican motto which translates literally to “Pure Life” and with more context as “Life is Awesome.”

Brittany Burkhardt (pronouns: she/her) On July 27th of 2020, ***from Nordstrom (sp?) and brought her fashion. Brittany joined Boom Learning’s Customer Support team, but these days she’s also supporting the President with legal and other matters much of the time. She currently lives in Seattle and has an enviable view of the Space Needle, but she started off in Poulsbo, Washington. When she’s not hard at work, frequently putting in overtime into the evening, she’s likely settling down with a good book while one of her favorite jazz records plays. She’s a fantastic cook and has a talent for music. She used to play both the flute and the piano, and “in high school I was in all of the auditioned choir groups. One year, we went to NYC to sign at Carnegie Hall for Easter!” While she’s an undeniable go-getter, Brittany balances that fire out with a laid back “it is what it is” attitude and never misses a chance to laugh or share stories with the rest of the team.

Quinn Redfield (pronouns: they/he/them/him) started at Boom Learning on August 8th, 2020 ready to put their natural teaching skills to work providing customer support, but soon after began juggling HR, Marketing, and community engagement as well. Quinn admits, “I think best with a pen in my hand; if I’m not writing, I’m probably not paying attention,” and is often the designated note taker in meetings as a result. An Eastern Washington native, they were born in Chelan, grew up in Tonasket and the Spokane area, and then moved to the Seattle area “for the weather; I prefer it 52 degrees and grey or raining.” Most of his down time is spent writing fiction or with the small petting zoo they share their Everett home with, but he can also be found reading, playing Dungeons and Dragons, or out camping, road tripping, and traveling abroad whenever possible – all with a camera at the ready. A renaissance man of sorts, Quinn is also something of an amateur historian and theologian who strives to exercise both curiosity and empathy at all times.

Shortly after starting at Boom Learning, Quinn pulled together an onboarding program as the Boom Team strapped in for more expansion to tackle the flood of customer questions and the unexpected mass renewals by all those who had tried Boom Learning out using our COVID Promo. Meanwhile, new sales were mounting as the new school year started; we needed more help to give teachers and whole schools set up with the new accounts they wanted.

Erick Velasquez (pronouns: he/him) jumped into Sales and Customer Service on September 10th, 2020. A Californian, he was born in Burbank, Erick currently lives in Auburn, Washington and enjoys traveling specifically to soak up other cultures. “I am a Yes Man,” he admits and adds that when he travels “I will ALWAYS try something at least once.” It is, after all, “extremely rude to turn down food in most cultures.” Perhaps his favorite food though would be sushi. He also loves to make others laugh. “I am a slow burn, so I’ll eventually make you laugh.” He’s also inspirational, and lives by the words of Wilson Fisk (aka the Kingpin of NYC): “Problems. Just opportunities that haven’t presented themselves.” Erick will work out a way to tackle any problem, and he keeps the team cheerful in the process.

Jorge Riera (pronouns: he/him) joined Boom Learning’s Customer Wizards on September 24th, 2020 and has loved every day since. He was born and raised in beautiful Puerto Rico, but has lived all over (first as an Army Brat and now as an Army Reservist), and he has a special place in his heart for New York as well. You’d probably never guess it looking at him (he was a childhood model), but Jorge confesses: “I love crocs!” Between helping customers and assisting with marketing and technical projects, Jorge enjoys simply “making memories with friends and family.” His endearing charm, relaxed “if it happened, it had to happen” attitude, and easy humor has made him fast friends with the rest of the Boom Team. Jorge also genuinely connects with the customers he assists; no wonder he gets complimented on his interpersonal skills.

With all these wonderful new additions, we thought for a moment that we might finally have enough hands on deck to keep up with the incoming requests. Unfortunately, by the time this new group was up and running efficiently, we had a backlog of customer requests that seemed impossible to recover from. Since we were already all working overtime, we decided to keep hiring through the Autumn.

Christine Choate (pronouns: they/she/her/them). On October 15th of 2020, we welcomed Christine to Boom Learning. She hails from “the itty-bitty town of Kalispell, Montana,” but the whole family moved to Puyallup, Washington when Christine was just about five years old. These days, she lives with her partner in Tacoma, Washington. An “avid PC gamer,” Christine spends their free time gaming, streaming, or watching other streamers on Twitch, so it’s safe to say they are a bit of a tech nerd, but you might not guess that Christine is also “a HUGE theatre nerd. I love participating in shows both onstage and behind the scenes. Theatre is pretty much my life, and I’ll be doing it as long as I can!” When they want to take a break from the screens and can’t get on the stage, they also enjoy sewing and crocheting. One of their favorite podcasts (“Welcome to Night Vale”) gifted them this gem of a quote to live by: “Be proud of your place in the cosmos. It is small, and yet, it is.” She is also extremely skilled at selecting the perfect size of Tupperware container for leftovers. “I have no idea how I acquired this skill,” Christine admits, “but it’s quite useful when cleaning up after large meals!” Cleaning up at work also seems to be a skill, as Christine now tackles customer questions as they come in as well as before they’ve been asked: they’ve joined the FAQ team and turn out helpful and well written content regularly.

Elizabeth Yates (pronouns: she/her) came from Nevada originally, but has lived in Washington for most of her life, and joined the Boom Team on October 15th, 2020 to assist with customer care. She excelled, almost immediately, and diving into our backlog and connecting with customers who had been waiting for us to catch our breath or lost in the chaos. Truly living up to her own words, Elizabeth is “making things happen!” She’s always looking for new ways to tackle a problem and loves coming up with out of the box ideas she can then turn into real solutions. “I’m a jack of all trades, and I love learning new things.” She used to play the Trumpet and French Horn, and these days you can catch her dabbling with the Guitar and Piano or studying Portuguese – since she’s already got down some basic Spanish and French. Elizabeth also loves sewing and costuming. She also spends her free time playing board games with her family.

Justice Amsbury (pronouns: they/he/them/him) works their Customer Wizard magic from Spokane, Washington, but original comes from the lesser known eastern Washington town of Ephrata. He works with a quiet humility to sort out tough tech support questions and answer customer questions. Behind the soft spoken words, a determined, genius guides Justice from questions to answers and problems to solutions. Outside of work, music fills their time. “Growing up, I played the flute.” Justice explains, “I wasn’t very good at it.” The instrument was wrong, but music itself became a passion. Today, Justice plays the bass and guitar, and one day he’d like to form a band. Recently, they adopted an adorable kitten who spends her time warming Justice’s chair any time he leaves it empty for more than a second and making guest appearances in digital team meetings.

Within the month, these three were up and running strong. We knew even with their amazingly fast grasp of the task at hand that we’d need at least a few more folks to lighten the load though. The very next month, we added to the team once more.

Josiah Spray (pronouns: he/him) started supporting customers on November 17th, 2020. A Montana native, he lives in Seattle now and spends his free time playing Dungeons and Dragons and enjoying musical theatre such as Hamilton – which he has inadvertently learned nearly all the words to. In many ways he is a self-made man who lives by these words: “I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” He amuses the team with his vocal impressions, and can capture various Muppets and celebrities with amazing skill. He also has a talent for music and reveals that when he was younger, “I played the viola in the symphony.”

Yanichelle Rosado (pronouns: she/her; pronunciation: Jah-nee-chel) is a former teacher who used Boom Cards with her students before becoming a Customer Wizard on November 19th of 2020. Now, she helps teachers get the most out of Boom Learning, and her teacher’s perspective helps us better understand and improve the experience every day. Yanichelle believes that “everything in life has a purpose,” and relies on her can-do creativity and DIYing skills to create solutions from needs. She also has a knack for maps that makes her an excellent travel planner which will come in handy one day, because Yani dreams of living all over the world, “for at least one year.” New York is near the top of that list, but she calls Puerto Rico home. There, she enjoys spending quality time with her family and friends. She admits that despite her petite appearance, “I eat like an elephant,” but it’s easy to see how her big, beautiful smile and contagious cheer brightens every meeting.

We also brought on more help for some behind the scenes work in legal and development.

Lillith Leonard (pronouns: she/her) joined Boom as a paralegal on November 19th of 2020. She’s a Washington native from Walla Walla who moved to Sumner, Washington “to marry my lifelong love.” Her ultimate goal is to help human trafficking victims. Lillith is exceptionally good at taking apart information and explaining it so that a layperson can understand and learn from it, making her a natural teacher and thus a natural fit for our work supporting education. This combined with her ability to shrug off adversity and remember “I’ll live” in the face of stress keeps her tackling the tough, legal workload she tackles daily. She’s got a fun side too. “I once played a singing tree and the tornado in the Walla Walla Summer Theater production of the Wizard of Oz.” Her fondest memory from that production? “I got to throw apples at the Scarecrow.”

Zachary Foutz (pronouns: he/him) joined Boom Learning’s Dev Team as a Software Alchemist on November 19th, 2020, and has been working on improving the customer experience in small but impactful ways every day. “I love optimizing web apps and focusing on the tiniest of details,” he says. His coding has been complimented as “unparalleled,” and we’re thrilled to have him improving Boom Learning’s student sign-in and classroom functionality. You’ll have him to thank for the improved functionality some new features (including new student logins) as well as the new look on the invoices. An Iowa native and widowed father, Zachary lives in Bremerton Washington now where he is raising his charming 6 year old boy son. In his free time, Zachary is a gamer who sometimes creates text based games and one day hopes to break into game design. He takes inspiration from Nikola Tesla’s words: “The present is theirs; the future, for which I really worked, is mine.”

While we’re continuing to look at expanding, especially on the Dev Team, we are finally catching our breath after the immense growing pains of the Spring and Summer. Some of you have already noticed that our response times are back to where they should be, and we’ve managed to catch up with the bulk of those customers who slipped through the cracks during the heights of chaos.

This week and next, we will all be taking a much needed breather with a brief break, and in generally, we’re looking ahead to 2021 with a lot more confidence and excitement. We finally feel like we’ve got enough hands to cover our bases and get back to what we love: connecting with the Boom Community to provide not only support for teachers and schools using Boom daily, but also to collaborate with you all on ways to make Boom Cards better for the teachers and students who count on them.

Mastery for Monsters

“In kindergarten, our kids need a variety of practice with learning math skills. It may take multiple months for kids to become secure in their understanding of counting and cardinality. By using seasonal resources we can keep the lessons exciting and engaging. Although the skills remain the same, by using seasonal themes the lessons feel different. ” Della Larsen.

When a child is at standard a teacher’s work is done. Correct?

Nope.

The work is done when a student is proficient, you know, able to respond correctly, quickly and without hesitation. At that point, the concept has been so deeply ingrained that only a wee bit of brainpower is needed to retrieve the knowledge. That means more oomph to learn new things!

Proficiency training is for everyone. Seniors maintain or build connections. Career changers revive atrophied proficiencies or develop them for the first time. Middle school and high school students remove barriers to tackling advanced materials. Upper elementary students solidify math facts and word attack skills. Primary students need to learn, learn, learn!

Proficiency for the Win

Proficient learners have several advantages over non-proficient learners.

  1. Higher endurance.
  2. Less easily distracted.
  3. More brainpower to apply to new tasks.
  4. Improved retention.

These advantages are particularly apparent when students tackle tasks for which the proficient skill or knowledge is a component.

What are some examples of proficiency?

  • The ability to read aloud without conscious attention to adding expression.
  • The ability to recall and apply a math fact when performing advanced operations without hesitation.
  • The ability to drive from home to school without having to think about each turn and stop.

Overtraining without Injury

How do you get to proficiency? Overtraining.

What is the downside of overtraining? Boredom.

Sustained, ongoing practice of materials can get dull. Learners need to practice a skill when it is taught, and at regular intervals. Research shows that materials must be studied for three to four years to get 50 years of retention. Otherwise, the skill is lost within three to four years. Yipes!

Variation for the Win

Offering the same lesson in novel variations, ranging from theme to answer types, builds proficiency without turning students away from learning. With Boom Cards decks, you can find resources ranging in skill level from simple single answer multiple choice, to drag and drop, to multiple response, to fill in, allowing you to gradually increase the challenge and vary the presentation.

At this time of year, there are an abundance of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and fall-themed Boom Cards resources available. “My students always get so excited when October comes in anticipation of Halloween!  I like to direct that enthusiasm by creating Halloween themed activities for them,” says Boom Cards author and teacher Linda Post.

Sheila Cantonwine finds that students can be excited and distracted during the holiday season. She uses themed resources to keep them on track academically while spiraling math topics and providing more practice where needed. With Boom Learning’s reporting tools, teachers can see if the students are gaining proficiency.


Shop our store for current seasonal items. 

FIND FREE FOR PRIMARY


References

Kathleen M. Doughterty and James M. Johnston, Overlearning, Fluency, and Automaticity, The Behavior Analyst, 1996, 19, 289-292.

Daniel T. Willingham, Practice Makes Perefect-but Only If You Practice Beyond the Point of Perfection, Ask the Cognitive Scientist, American Federation of Teachers, Spring 2004.

How to choose the right format for your teaching resource

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If you are creating for your own students, following this guide will help you choose the right tool for the task. If you are creating for others, this will help you decide what tools to use for each piece of your overall project. It will also help you develop your Blue Ocean Strategy for your online store.


Step One Table of Contents

  1. Teaching Model/Resource Fit
  2. Choosing the Formats

First, Find the Format that Fits the Role in the Teaching Model

So many digital tools, so little time. You can port your resources to a variety of different formats, but before rushing to do so, ask yourself:

Where in a model of Effective Teaching does each piece I am creating belong?

This will help you determine if you have all the right pieces or whether something is missing from your project concept.

Screenshot 2018-07-16 10.07.37

Let’s say Secanda is creating materials to teach homonyms to second graders. She has made a funny video about homonym confusion, a series of worksheets for students to draw and write each homonym and its concept, and plans to add task cards for matching spelling to concept, and an assessment. Before she sits down to create, she maps them to the Effective Teaching Model.

Slide1

After pondering the model, Secanda decides to add a Teacher’s Guide for the novice teacher, and to create two additional deck of task cards: (1) to review first-grade homonyms and (2) to look ahead to higher level homonyms for the early finishers. Now she has addressed review and added cards to increase complexity. In her Teacher’s Guide she recommends her Greek and Latin root words resources for students who are ready for more.


Choosing Your Formats

After thinking about where what you plan to create fits in a model of effective teaching, you need to think about outside constraints. What resources and tools are available to you to make your resources? We’ll talk about video and sound in future installments. For today, we’ll discuss:

Is the format permitted with the clip art I want to use?

If you plan to share or sell your resources and you will be including purchased clip art, you have to choose a format that will meet the conditions of the license you purchased. For most formats (but not all), you will have to take steps to protect images you include from being easily copied or pay extra for a digital license.

Let’s say Secanda loves Melonheadz clip art. She reviews Melonheadz terms of use and discovers that

  • She needs to provide credit
  • Boom Cards usage is allowed with no additional steps or license
  • Downloadables for printing must have the content flattened and be in a locked pdf
  • PowerPoint and Smart Board usage requires that images be flattened as part of a background
  • Can’t be used in App Store apps, Facebook apps, or Tiny Tap apps

She’s not worried about the last item. But she realizes she needs to do some research about flattening and locking. She decides to investigate Boom Cards as an option.

Secanda also likes Glitter Meets Glue’s License. That license says

  • She needs to provide credit
  • Boom Cards usage is allowed (both moveable pieces and background)
  • Distribution in PowerPoint, Google Slides, and other files types requires that the image be inserted into the background so they cannot be lifted
  • Google Drive™ and Microsoft OneDrive™ moveable pieces usage is not allowed

She’s been learning about moveable pieces and is excited to create with them. She loves PowerPoint so plans to do more research on inserting images into the background. She knows some people are converting PowerPoints to Google Slides, but since she has elected to use Glitter Meets Glue images for this project, she decides to try that another day.

Before she moves on, she bookmarks several resources for future reference:

  1. How to export PowerPoint images to Boom Cards
  2. Creative Cloud at Adobe so she can purchase Adobe Acrobat as needed to flatten and secure images into the background
  3. Teaching in the Tongass’ instructions on how to use Adobe Acrobat Pro to flatten and secure the images
  4. Flat Pack for PowerPoint for when she wants to selectively flatten images in a PowerPoint
  5. Study All Knight’s Digital Express App for flattening her PowerPoints to import into Google Slides

Will the format work for my teacher user’s classroom?

After considering your resource constraints, you need to consider your teacher users tool limitations (remember your blue ocean strategy—serve your niche; not every niche). How do you expect your teacher users will use the materials?

  • Projected presentation?
  • Interactive whiteboard presentation?
  • Printed?
  • Print, copy, laminate?
  • Shared tablets?
  • Shared computers?
  • 1:1 computers?
  • Take home/at home devices?
  • Distance education via browser?

Secanda knows her customers are using interactive whiteboards and shared tablets. They are trying to reduce paper use.

Her friend Elem creates for upper elementary. His customers are using Windows netbooks shared with a second classroom. They are 1:1 for part of the day, but no take home use. They also have interactive whiteboards.

Elem’s wife Maddy creates for middle school. Her customers have 1:1 Chromebooks that they take home at night and over the weekend.

Pulling it all together for your project

Let’s look at each of our example teachers and how each might proceed:

Secanda decides to design in PowerPoint to have a consistent look between her task cards and her presentations. She does just the backgrounds for her task cards in PowerPoint and exports them as images to Boom Learning where she imports her moveable pieces and adds drop zones to create drag and drop tasks. She is so taken with making Boom Cards, that at the end creates a Boom Learning “teaching” deck that contains her funny video, an everyday language statement of the learning objective, a few cards to aid the teacher in presenting the material, along with a wrap-up card on meta-cognition skills for homonyms (how to use a dictionary).

Elem also likes Glitter Meets Glue. Some of his customers are die-hard fans of his PowerPoint games so he also plans to create in PowerPoint. After creating, he selectively flattens the clip art, leaving live the items that should be clickable and playable. Elem wants to reach new buyers looking for self-grading features and student reports. So after chatting with Secanda, he also exports his PowerPoints as images and creates Boom Cards versions of his resources. He knows his resources will be used for test prep. So he also prepares a teachers’ guide to explain how to use his decks with reports to selectively intervene using greek and latin root resources he created to correct homonym errors.

Maddy is all about open resources and DIY. She only uses free curriculum, images, free fonts, and prefers to create in Google Docs, using Slides, Docs, and Forms. Unfortunately, class sizes are growing at her school and performance is declining and she needs better information about where her students are struggling. Elem convinces her to give Boom Cards a try. She converts a Google Slides deck to Boom Cards. After importing, she adds text boxes, buttons and fill-in the blanks to enable self-grading. She assigns the deck to the whole class, having them screenshot the final screen. She takes the 5 worst performers and has them play the deck again as logged in students. She learns that three need practice with a few specific greek and latin roots, and assigns those materials improving their performance. Two others have challenges specifically with homophones. After further assessment, she recommends referral for evaluation of possible dyslexia.

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Human Judgment is the Key to Personalized Learning

This week, we want to talk about why teaching is a field that won’t be replaced by artificial intelligence (AI) or robots.

Teaching requires core skills such as empathy, generosity, and curiosity, that will likely prove challenging for AI/robots to master.

There is an additional advantage humans have over AI/robots when it comes to teaching: the ability to spot half-hidden objects. Self-driving car accidents are one example of how terribly wrong things can go when humans place undue trust in the ability of AI to spot half-hidden objects. This skill does not end with noticing a pedestrian in dark clothing on at night, it extends to a generalized ability to identify what is hidden in a set of facts and make sense of it.

Find Objects Visual Game. Solution in hidden layer!

Personalized and adaptive learning have been buzzwords for years, with a heavy focus on the power of algorithms to teach. The problem with the conversation has been that, all too often, teachers are not included as part of the solution. Too many pitches contend that with just-right technology, AI can take over the bulk of teaching.

Personalized learning is meeting a student where he or she is at. It is not a product, it is not a curriculum, it is a set of strategies and tactics. Data can help teachers find nuggets they might not have spotted and interventions they may not have known about, but only a teacher has the judgment and experience to decided how to intervene, and if an intervention is even needed.

Reading one of EdSurge’s newsletters this year, I was heartened to see they are predicting that the conversation in 2018 will be more about “ed” and less about “tech.” We hope more EdTech companies will realize their job is to empower teachers, not replace them.

A good EdTech tool provides a teacher data, from which the teacher can spot half-hidden objects of interest, be they a weakness in fluency, visual discrimination challenges, slow processing speed, advanced learning, dyslexia or more. Applying human judgment, a teacher can then calibrate personalized learning plans to address student needs.

The best EdTech tools enable teachers to extract information to provide an intervention.

The mainstays of the classroom of the future will be flexible EdTech tools that empower teachers, such as Learning Mangement Systems/Classroom Management systems like Google Classroom, PowerSchool, and SeeSaw, flexible creation and progress reporting platforms like Boom Learning, and flexible curriculum nuggets such as those found in the Boom Learning store and on Teachers Pay Teachers. These are the tools that allow teachers to find half-hidden nuggets and transform them into actionable, personalized learning plans.

How can Boom Learning help? With Boom Learning reports you can always see how long a student took to answer a question, which enables you to spot students who may have fluency, processing speed, or visual processing challenges before they fall behind. The data can’t tell you the source of the problem, but by assigning a variety of decks, they help you narrow down where a student needs more repetitions.

When you combine Boom Learning task cards with Google Classroom or similar management systems, you can create customized playlists that students work through. (Hyperplay links are helpful—available in the Library.) Match those up to your in-class differentiation groups, or where needed, use them to keep tabs on the progress of a student working on out-of-level curriculum. Althought this video is about Google Classroom, you can apply these same concepts to any Learning Mangement System: Canvas, Moodle, Blackboard, Powerschool, and more.

Watch the video.

There is no need to wonder if an advanced student is getting it. If you can’t find a deck that aligns with the out-of-level curriculum, whip up exit ticket decks in the Studio to check progress and catch gaps before they become a problem. Enjoy TedTalk length demo will get you up and running. Visit our YouTube Channel for more instructional videos.

Teaching is a field that will not be replaced by AI/robots. Let’s hope that 2018 is the year that more and more EdTech innovators start thinking about how to support, rather than supplant, teachers.

Putting the BOOM into Differentiation

reprinted with permission from Minds in Bloom (first published Feb. 18, 2018)

by Belinda Givens of BVG SLP

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We’ve all been there: small group intensive instruction and every student in the group is on a different level. You have a student who is answering all the questions, eager to participate and excited about learning. Then, there is the student who gets it but doesn’t really feel confident participating because they are not quite sure of their responses. And, of course, there’s a student (or two) who is completely lost and, instead of asking for clarification, tries to defer the attention away from themselves by exhibiting distracting behaviors to interfere with others. This is the challenge that we frequently face, and our mission is to differentiate or modify our lessons in such a way that we capture and motivate every student in the group. We want to provide a level of rigor that challenges our highest scholar while still presenting the material in a manner that intrigues, motivates, and encourages our lowest level scholar to begin to connect the dots.

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From my personal experience, I have come to realize that I get the best outcomes from my students when they are having fun and actively interacting with the content. Kids today love technology, and by incorporating it into my lessons, my students come alive and get excited about learning. I strongly feel that learning should be fun in order to keep students motivated and to ultimately foster a long love of learning. When I think back to my school-age years, the teachers that I remember most are the ones who were creative and who put forth their best efforts to offer a learning environment that was full of fun and engaging resources. Fast forward to the 21st-century classroom, and it is absolutely imperative to stay on the cutting edge of technology – from digital interactive notebooks to digital self-grading task cards, there are infinite possibilities to differentiate your instruction digitally, while captivating and motivating your students.

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The discovery of Boom Cards™ has really been a game changer for me and my small group sessions. If you haven’t heard of Boom Cards yet, then trust me when I tell you that they are exploding into the world of education! My students are so eager and excited by them that they have even started to request them for homework. When we as educators can excite our students to a level that they are enthusiastic about learning, we have hit the jackpot, and that’s the way I feel when my students begin to request homework. Boom Cards are digital interactive task cards that display on SMARTboards for whole group instruction, on computers, tablets, and iPads for small group lessons, and on smartphones for independent reinforcement. I have been busy creating Boom Cards to address a wide range of language and literacy concepts in a fun and interactive way. Below is a quick peek at one of my decks:

What I really appreciate most about Boom Cards is the fact that they are presented to my students in small, digestible bites, they have visual cues built in to aid in comprehension, and they incorporate technology, which is very motivating. They also can be read aloud to students who need extra support, or you can challenge your students to demonstrate their ability to read, comprehend, and independently complete the task on each card. I also love the fact that my students receive immediate feedback, and the cards are self-grading! This saves me a tremendous amount of time with progress monitoring and allows me to easily pinpoint the areas that my students are struggling with most so I can offer increased repetitions and opportunities to master specific skills.

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Within small groups, I facilitate my Boom Cards™ lessons in such a way that every student is challenged regardless of their skill level. The interactive nature of the cards (point and click, drag and drop, and fill-in-the-blanks) naturally reinforce learning in a way that keeps my students motivated, and I spend the entire session focused on targeting important concepts and don’t have to devote time to external reward systems.  When my students are excited, it certainly shows in the area that matters most, and that is better measurable outcomes.  The increased attention level demonstrated by my students when using Boom Cards results in improved carryover from one session to the next, and therefore, we spend less time reviewing and more time on compounded growth.

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Whether you are a classroom teacher, an ESE teacher, or a Speech-Language Pathologist, we all share a common thread – we want to see growth and progress in all of our students. As a reading-endorsed Speech-Language Pathologist, my passion is language and literacy.  I make a conscious effort to incorporate literacy into every session to maximize the time I have with my students.  With the level of rigor that is expected from them in today’s classroom, I want to ensure that they thoroughly understand that what we do in our small group sessions is to better equip them with the tools they need to be successful in the classroom and beyond. For this reason, I have started a complete series of Boom Cards that target a wide variety of language and literacy concepts in each deck.  My Sequencing and Story Retell Boom Cards series is designed to address sequencing, identification of story elements, answering wh- questions, auditory comprehension, reading comprehension, vocabulary, use of context clues, and story retell. They are differentiated to encourage active participation from all students in a fun and engaging way.

To help build the foundation for strong readers, I also have several Boom Cards™ decks that address important introductory skills, including rhyming words, phonemic awareness, sight words, synonyms, antonyms, and much more!  Every deck that I create is designed with a focus on differentiation and can be used during whole group lessons, small group intensive instruction, 1:1 sessions, or independent assessment. To find more of my digital interactive lessons, please visit my Boom Learning store HERE.

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Belinda Vickers Givens, MA, CCC-SLP has been an American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA) Certified Speech-Language Pathologist for 11 years.  She is licensed in FL, CA, WA, and VT and is a member of ASHA’s Special Interest Group 18 for Telepractice.  She currently works as a teletherapist serving PreK-12th grade students.  She holds her B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Education from Florida State University and her M.A. in Communicative Sciences and Disorders from the University of Central Florida.  While pursuing her Master’s degree, she also earned an endorsement in Reading from UCF.

She is the co-owner of Infinity Rehabilitation, LLC with her husband, who is an Occupational Therapist.  She is the creator and owner of BVG SLP, which specializes in creating no-prep, no-print digital materials that are great for use in whole group, in small groups, within teletherapy platforms, or in face-to-face therapy.  She is passionate about literacy and has written a children’s book (The Adventures of DemDem the Garbage Truck: Watch Out for the Bumps).  She tries to incorporate literacy into the majority of her therapy sessions. She also sells resources in her Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Belinda is the mother to three amazing young boys and enjoys taking road trips, reading, crafting, and exploring.  She has been married for 15 years and resides with her family in Central Florida. You can keep up with Belinda at her website, on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Pinterest.

Algebraic Thinking with Boom Cards

Teaching Algebraic thinking early and often is a core feature of the Common Core math standards (and standards with similar underlying foundations such as TEKS). Algebraic thinking is the ability to recognize and analyze patterns and relationships in a mathematical context. The Common Core/TEKS approach replaces an elementary curriculum focused primarily on calculation with a model more like that used elsewhere in the world (yes Canada you beat us too it!). We still have some time in the U.S. before we’ll see the adoption of the Common Core methodology influencing high school math scores: the first cohort to have Common Core standards from Kindergarten is just now entering 5th grade.

Newer research casts significant doubt on earlier findings that students are not developmentally ready for algebra until a certain age, suggesting that those finding were are a function of instructional shortcomings, not neurological limitations. Neuroscience has shown that introducing concepts such as variable notation (representing numbers with letters or shapes) is within the reach of even lower primary-grade students.

Did you know?

When performing mathematical thinking, our brains activate the occpital lobes, the frontal cortex, and our parietal lobes. The parietal lobes help us find our way home. They combine mental maps with proprioceptive feedback to perform real world geometry and trigonometry. In the educational context, the parietal system helps us transform sequential information into quasi-spatial information, transcending order to find meaning. It is used to comprehend spoken language, perceive melody, and perform mathematical reasoning. If your students have basic navigational skills or can hold a melody, they have the baseline for algebraic thinking.

Introducing Algebraic Thinking, a pathway to success

Students begin developing algebraic thinking when they learn to decompose numbers in kindergarten. By first grade, they are ready to begin working with variable notation when solving basic addition and subtraction problems. They are also introduced to the first set of abstract rules that help them decipher relationships: the commutative and associative properties of addition. They also explore the relationships between addition and subtraction and the meaning of the equal sign. Patterns of equal groups of objects are then introduced to lay the foundation for reasoning about multiplication.

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The foundations laid with patterns of repeated addition in second grade, expand in upper elementary into manipulations with multiplication and division. The commutative, associative and identity properties of multiplication are introduced. Prior work with variable notation sets students up for success in understanding division as an unknown-factor problem. Complexity accelerates into fourth and fifth grade, adding fractions and decimals into the mix. Students use algebraic thinking to explore comparative relationships and practice writing equations using variable notation. Pattern and relationship work continues, with a focus on the patterns of factors.

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With these solid foundations, students are ready to continue developing their skills into middle school, high school and beyond, working with expressions, equation, inequalities, and when ready, working with polynomials, rational functions, and more.

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Resources for Deeper Investigation

Bárbara M. Brizuela, Maria Blanton, Katharine Sawrey, Ashley Newman-Owens & Angela Murphy Gardiner, Children’s Use of Variables and Variable Notation to Represent Their Algebraic Ideas, Mathematical Thinking and Learning, Vol. 17, Iss. 1, 2015.

Carolyn Kieran (Editor), Teaching and Learning Algebraic Thinking with 5-to 12-Year-Olds: The Global Evolution of an Emerging Field of Resarch and Practice, Springer International Publishing AG 2018.

Cathy Seely, A Journey in Algebraic Thinking, NCTM News Bulletin, Sept. 2004.

Teachers ❤️ Boom Cards

Today, we are sharing some of our favorite love notes you’ve sent about Boom Cards. For your shopping pleasure, this week only, the featured section of the store is all Valentine’s themed items! With only 7 school days until Valentine’s, shop now.

The Boom Team loves you back. You inspire us with your creativity. We are grateful for your feedback. Thank you for welcoming us into your hearts and your classrooms.

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Boom! Glorious Chaos Tamed

by Elizabeth Clarke, Poplin Elementary

The Differentiated Classroom

Highly Gifted Girl in SchoolA differentiated classroom is a remarkably busy place. Children can be seen working several different objectives and doing any number of activities: games, small groups, online activities; it runs the gamut. Somehow, a teacher keeps her thumb on all of it, keeping the work at a steady hum.

In addition to being a differentiated classroom, mine is also the gifted education room. I teach compacted math and above-grade level reading to identified-gifted fourth and fifth graders. All of my students have aptitude scores at or above the 90th percentile and achievement scores (generally on state tests) at or above the 93rd percentile in their area(s) of service.

So, yeah, in some ways my job is easier. My kids pick up concepts pretty quickly. Most of them like school because they’ve been successful with it. On the other hand, I’ve got a challenge because my standards reach across three grade levels and, like any other teacher’s class, I still have a range of learning speeds with a variety of kids’ issues. I differentiate because, my kids, despite being gifted, are still different from one another (… and what’s the point of having pull-out instruction if some are still sitting in class, bored because they’re waiting on others to get it?).

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Student playing Order of Operations-No Exponents by The Big Kids’ Hall

Teaching my math standards in a way that allows my sharpest kids to continue moving forward while not rushing my thoughtful-and-methodical (and quick to stress themselves out, because AIG kids have a real knack for that) students has been my biggest obstacle. I also need to know that the practice is appropriate for each child and whether he or she is actually succeeding with it. My highest fliers often feel pressure to keep up the appearance of knowing everything, and would rather do just about anything than ask for help, including being less than honest about their progress, looking for a way to cheat, or avoiding the work altogether.

Enter Boom Cards

As a 1:1 district, my students come to class equipped with Chromebooks. When my students finish a ‘level’ or grouped set of objectives, they complete a sheet that asks them to consider which of the activities they did during the level helped them best learn the content. Boom Cards regularly appears on those lists. I think they’re a game-changer.

Here’s why:

They can be assigned individually.

The obvious plus here is that I can assign different decks to different groups, but this feature also allows me to set practice for an individual who is missing a requisite skill or re-assign one that isn’t yet grasped on the down-low. A chunk of my kids, despite lots of talk about growth mindset and ‘my size fits me’ education, fear the perception of failure. I can set up a video lesson and a Boom Cards session for a kid and allow him or her to get caught up without drawing unwanted attention. Paper task cards mean I have to sit just with that child at my table and everyone can hear the conversation. Not cool.

They give my students – and me – instant feedback.

Self-grading Boom Cards let the kids know right away if they’re right or wrong. I can access a report showing progress, accuracy, and fluency with each skill for each child. Mine is a data-driven district, so this is a must for me.

Boom Cards are inexpensive.

Again, I teach across grade levels, so I’ve got a lot of standards. I can typically buy a set of Boom Cards for half of what a similar set of paper cards would cost, and that’s before I print and laminate. The wide variety of sellers offering Boom Cards means I can find quality resources whether I’m working with an elementary or a middle school objective.

I can make my own.

My district uses Singapore Math as its base curricula for AIG students. Singapore works with numbers and asks questions in a unique way, and it’s not easy to find supplemental work for that. Boom Cards’ studio lets me create decks that better prepare the kids for Singapore assessments. The process for building a deck is reasonably intuitive and well-explained through video tutorials.

The kids think they’re fun.

Okay, this one I don’t get, since they really are task cards, which aren’t my students’ favorite activity. Somehow, though, the little ‘you got it right’ bell and watching their progress through the set turns it into something else.

They can be done from home.

Yes, ‘the gifted kid is an allergic wreck’ idea is a stereotype, but it may be a true one.* Fall and spring allergy seasons seem to hit my class harder than others’, and my parents are pleased that this is one way they can keep their children on track.

Adding Boom Cards to my classroom routine has allowed easier, more effective differentiation for my students. Better yet, they have made it simple to meet the quirky nature of my students without sending me to the poor(er) house. My classroom hums along nicely, which means I can too.


*Karpinski, Ruth I., et al. “High Intelligence: A Risk Factor for Psychological and Physiological Overexcitabilities.” Intelligence, 2017, doi:http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160289616303324.


 

Tips and Treats for Boomers

“I think autumn is such a wonderful time of year! It is so easy to find ways to make learning fun for our students. The changing leaves and shorter days provide the perfect opportunity for science discussions. Candy collected on Halloween can be used for graphing activities, and the vibrant hues of autumn are the perfect inspiration for artistic creations. Halloween-themed task cards on Boom Learning are also sure to motivate students to engage in learning and practice!”

-Shelly Rees

The ghouls have been working hard in the pits of code. They’ve put together tricks and treats for your Booming pleasure.

New in the Store

New For Fall

Our authors have been busy too.

Look for new items and last minute Halloween.

If you like to plan ahead, we have seasonal materials for

Holidays

Winter for the Northern Hemisphere

And don’t forget to look for value bundles.

 

More Deck Options in the Library

In the Library view for a deck, you have new options now. You can take a number of actions, including contacting an author with general feedback.

Screenshot 2017-10-29 07.19.33Don’t forget to take some time and “Rate” products you use. “Contact Author” is a private conversation between you and the deck author. “Rate” is a public review of the product. The “Feedback” option in deck play is also private. Use it to comment on a particular card.

“Delete” will remove a product entirely. Choose wisely as you will need to repurchase any product you delete.

 

Report Sorting and Data Resets

In the Reports view accessible from the Library you can now sort using the header fields. Below I’ve sorted by the number incorrect, but you can sort by any of the bolded title fields.

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“Reset All Data” does just that. It wipes out all student data recorded to date and resets the deck as if students had never taken it. Choose wisely, you can’t recover the data once deleted.

Studio Widgets

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The “Caption Pic” widget in the studio is the one to use when you want to have a specific word stay with a specific picture when randomizing.

The Fractions widget gives you a jump start on formatting fractions. Both are “container” widgets that combine elements of other widgets.

Be sure to watch our video on working with Complex and Multi Containers to make the most of widgets.

Boom.Cards

You can direct your students to Boom.Cards for simplified login. You can also post Fast Pin or Hyperplay links (available in the Library) in your LMS to take your students directly to their assignments. Although the video is titled Boom Cards + Google Classroom, you can use the tips in it about Fast Pins and Hyperplay links in any LMS.

Hipster Avatars

Your students probably already know about this, but in case you don’t: students can now choose from a selection of avatars that includes some … hipper versions.

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Happy Halloween!

The Boom Team

Mastery for Monsters

“In kindergarten, our kids need a variety of practice with learning math skills. It may take multiple months for kids to become secure in their understanding of counting and cardinality. By using seasonal resources we can keep the lessons exciting and engaging. Although the skills remain the same, by using seasonal themes the lessons feel different. ” Della Larsen.

When a child is at standard a teacher’s work is done. Correct?

Nope.

The work is done when a student is proficient, you know, able to respond correctly, quickly and without hesitation. At that point, the concept has been so deeply ingrained that only a wee bit of brainpower is needed to retrieve the knowledge. That means more oomph to learn new things!

Proficiency training is for everyone. Seniors maintain or build connections. Career changers revive atrophied proficiencies or develop them for the first time. Middle school and high school students remove barriers to tackling advanced materials. Upper elementary students solidify math facts and word attack skills. Primary students need to learn, learn, learn!

Proficiency for the Win

Proficient learners have several advantages over non-proficient learners.

  1. Higher endurance.
  2. Less easily distracted.
  3. More brainpower to apply to new tasks.
  4. Improved retention.

These advantages are particularly apparent when students tackle tasks for which the proficient skill or knowledge is a component.

What are some examples of proficiency?

  • The ability to read aloud without conscious attention to adding expression.
  • The ability to recall and apply a math fact when performing advanced operations without hesitation.
  • The ability to drive from home to school without having to think about each turn and stop.

Overtraining without Injury

How do you get to proficiency? Overtraining.

What is the downside of overtraining? Boredom.

Sustained, ongoing practice of materials can get dull. Learners need to practice a skill when it is taught, and at regular intervals. Research shows that materials must be studied for three to four years to get 50 years of retention. Otherwise, the skill is lost within three to four years. Yipes!

Variation for the Win

Offering the same lesson in novel variations, ranging from theme to answer types, builds proficiency without turning students away from learning. With Boom Cards decks, you can find resources ranging in skill level from simple single answer multiple choice, to drag and drop, to multiple response, to fill in, allowing you to gradually increase the challenge and vary the presentation.

At this time of year, there are an abundance of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and fall-themed Boom Cards resources available. “My students always get so excited when October comes in anticipation of Halloween!  I like to direct that enthusiasm by creating Halloween themed activities for them,” says Boom Cards author and teacher Linda Post.

Sheila Cantonwine finds that students can be excited and distracted during the holiday season. She uses themed resources to keep them on track academically while spiraling math topics and providing more practice where needed. With Boom Learning’s reporting tools, teachers can see if the students are gaining proficiency.

Read about resources for K-Middle School in our newsletter or shop our store for current seasonal items.

 

 

 

 

References

Kathleen M. Doughterty and James M. Johnston, Overlearning, Fluency, and Automaticity, The Behavior Analyst, 1996, 19, 289-292.

Daniel T. Willingham, Practice Makes Perefect-but Only If You Practice Beyond the Point of Perfection, Ask the Cognitive Scientist, American Federation of Teachers, Spring 2004.