Amplify unveiled a comprehensive middle school ELA curriculum at #SXSWedu today–Larry Berger called it “a rigorous attempt to get kids reading & writing at a whole new level.”

There are 10 features you’ll want to experience in a demo:

  1. Sequenced curriculum for in and out of school use;
  2. Teacher controlled assignments and pacing with lots of lesson options;
  3. Multimedia games that reinforce learning;
  4. Smart system tailors the experience to individual students;
  5. Constant performance feedback to student;
  6. Huge library of content and a clean ereader experience;
  7. Built for Common Core State Standards;
  8. Top notch video of classic literature with top notch talent like Chadwick Boseman;
  9. Runs on iPad, Chromebook or Amplify tablet; and
  10. A multiplayer vocabulary game, Lexia, designed to provoke non-compulsory play.

Our favorite thing about the new curriculum is that it was designed to promote 3 times as much reading and writing as is typical in American middle schools–with more than 3 times as much feedback.

The announcement was focused on ELA curriculum but included a science game about the immune system designed as a quest.  The social game was built around interesting problems.  The only thing comparably ambitious to is Pearson’s Common Core courses.

Lexica, the vocab game, is designed around a huge e-reader library.  Students pick an avatar, interact with characters from literature and other students, and pick from multiple embedded games focused on specific skills.

Students receive feedback on words written per day.  Each student has an individual vocabulary plan that tracks words revealed and encourages exposure and usage. The new curriculum costs $45 per student.  It can be used on an iPad or Chromebook or the updated Amplify device (previewed in another announcement).

Berger, founder of Wireless Generation which was acquired by NewsCorp in 2012, is president of Amplify Learning. His enthusiasm for the new content was obvious when describing a mystery game about the death of Edgar Allan Poe’s death, “It not heads down in computer, it’s up and around, problem solving.”

Below is (a long) press release on the new curriculum.

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AMPLIFY ANNOUNCES GROUNDBREAKING DIGITAL CURRICULUM

Brings Together World-Class Academics, Engaging Digital Media, Data and Analytics

(AUSTIN, Texas March 3, 2014) Today at SXSWedu, Amplify unveiled its groundbreaking digital curriculum for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade English Language Arts (ELA). The curriculum for each grade combines a year’s worth of Common Core-aligned lessons, written in collaboration with some of the world’s leading experts and intellectuals, with rich digital media from Academy Award-winning studios and stars of both stage and screen.

The curriculum will be available in classrooms at the start of the Fall 2014 school year with pricing starting at $45 per student per year. It includes an e-library stocked with more than 300 books and digital games to help boost learning outside of class. The curriculum is built on top of an education-friendly analytics engine that is designed to help students read three times more and write three times more, as well as to help teachers provide students three times more meaningful feedback.

“This is not some old wine in a new bottle, like a digitized textbook with a few animations,” said Amplify CEO Joel Klein.  “We’ve brought together world-class instructional materials, rich multimedia and a powerful analytics engine that will transform the way teachers teach and student learn.”

“Our goal was to design the most effective and engaging digital curriculum for the classroom that support the kinds of rigorous learning goals that schools are ready for,” said Amplify Learning President Larry Berger. “I think we’ve done that.”

Today’s announcement is part of Amplify’s broader effort to produce K-12 curriculum for English, math and science. In addition to the digital ELA curriculum for sixth, seventh and eighth grades, the company will also offer a hybrid print and digital curriculum for K-5 ELA and supplemental digital curriculum in math and science in time for the start of the Fall 2014 school year.

About The Digital ELA Curriculum

Content

The curriculum contains academic lessons authored by world-class intellectuals like Benjamin Franklin biographer Walter Isaacson, Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel and MacArthur Genius Grant winner Danielle Allen. We’ve paired their knowledge with Common Core experts to develop a full-year’s worth of scoped and sequenced curriculum for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade ELA with lessons around personal narrative, fiction, informational texts, poetry and foundational documents. In addition to the books anchored in the lessons, each student has access to an e-library with more than 300 works of fiction and nonfiction.

Digital Media

Dramatic Readings. To help make difficult texts more interesting and accessible, Amplify has brought them to life with dramatic readings by stars of both stage and screen. Students can watch actors like Chadwick Boseman read from “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” or Elizabeth Olsen’s interpretation of “A Confederate Girl’s Diary.” School-based pilots have shown that when students watch a dramatic reading of the first chapter of a book, they’re more likely to go on and read the entire text.

Story Animations. Amplify has worked in collaboration with Academy Award-winning animators to produce visually rich, artistic renditions of some of the texts students encounter in the lessons. Captivating, high-quality depictions of works like “The Raven” and “The Cask of Amontillado.” The videos are tied to writing prompts and designed to help students grasp difficult literary concepts, perspectives and points of view, which are key to the Common Core.

Quests. Quests are experiential lessons that immerse students in a text through role-playing, close reading, evidence gathering, discussion and expressive writing. Students can solve Edgar Allan Poe’s murder, seek treasure as Tom Sawyer, or debate signing the Declaration of Independence as a member of the Second Continental Congress, among other interactive experiences. These adventures engage students in active learning and help them develop essential Common Core skills such as critical thinking and the use of primary resources.

Vocabulary Program. Our approach to learning vocabulary is centered hundreds of essential “reveal words” per grade. Students encounter these words in core texts and supplementary materials. Amplify’s Reveal Tool provides a contextual definition, designed to encourage students to learn a definition in context and then return to the text as seamlessly as possible. Amplify also provides ELL vocabulary activities, targeting key concrete nouns and verbs that are necessary for understanding the day’s lesson.

Teachers can use results from these diagnostic exercises to determine each student’s levels of comprehension, and assign activities to meet a student where he or she is. Students can track their own progress using the analytical vocabulary tool, which tells them how many words they’ve mastered and how often they’ve used the words in their writing, empowering them to self-direct their learning goals.

Upon conclusion of Amplify’s complete ELA curriculum for middle school, students will have been exposed to 4,500 reveal words and completed more than 1,500 vocabulary practice activities.

Games. Increased out-of-school learning is an important objective to have for all students, but particularly for those from low-income families. Decades of research has shown that learning loss during the summertime and other vacation periods significantly impacts the growing gap in test scores between children from families of high and low socioeconomic status.

In addition to extending learning time, educational games hold the potential to build “growth mindsets”—a set of beliefs and attitudes that are a key predictor of positive academic performance. Amplify Games seek to help students better understand the relationship between effort and success, to persist in the face of difficulty and to embrace (rather than fear) failure as a part of the learning process across ELA, math and science.

Lexica is an immersive world packed with characters from literature and nonfiction. The center of that virtual world is a beautiful library stocked with more than 300 classic and contemporary books catering to a broad cross section of reading interests and tastes.

The core educational goals of Lexica are to increase the amount of challenging reading that students do outside the classroom; bolster specific skills related to reading and writing; increase vocabulary; and to help students develop strong academic behaviors and habits.

Amplify’s premier English Language Arts game world brings together more than 14 embedded games, each with multiple levels and episodes.

Games embedded within Lexica include:

■      Mukashi Mukashi: A syntax and storytelling game based on Japanese folklore. The game mechanics “make failure fun” while driving students to engage in sustained exploration of the impact of word choices within longer narratives.

■      Story Cards: A collectible card game featuring authors and characters from classic and modern literature. Have C. Auguste Dupin match wits against Scheherazade!

■      W.E.L.D.E.R.: The educational version of a top-selling iOS word game. As one reviewer described it: “If Boggle, Scrabble and Hangman had a baby, the end result might come close to being as good as W.E.L.D.E.R., a word game lover’s delight…”

■      Tomes: A choose-your-own-adventure series with a focus on vocabulary, featuring characters from classic literature. Its evocative social dynamics are similar to those found in hit games such as Surviving High School.

■      Unearthed: A game teaching students the many complexities and irregularities of subject-verb agreement. Unearthed offers students an engaging way to master this usually tedious topic in an addictive arcade game format.

■      Sentence and Sensibility: An arcade-style word puzzle game that encourages students to use more varied and complex sentence structures in their own writing. It takes full advantage of the tactile game mechanics available on tablets and other mobile devices.

■      Venture!: A bundle of quick-play games focusing on spelling, conjugation of irregular verbs and overcoming homonym confusion.

■      Spelling Stone: A puzzle game that links spelling to morphology.

For the 2014-15 school year, Amplify will also have at least 15 science, math and engineering games (list available by request).

Analytics. The curriculum comes with a dashboard allowing teachers to track each student’s progress and the class as a whole. Student performance on vocabulary activities, core lessons and games used after school all filter back to teachers, allowing them to determine how students are mastering the material, who is ready for more advanced work and who needs individual help.

Amplify Digital Curriculum for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade ELA will be available on the Amplify Tablet as well as iPads, MacBooks and Chromebooks at the start of the Fall 2014 school year.

About Amplify

Amplify is reimagining the way teachers teach and students learn through data-driven instruction, one-to-one learning and next-generation digital curriculum. Our products and services are designed for tomorrow’s promise and today’s realities.

At Amplify, we’re creating exciting new approaches to teaching and learning that are: as immersive as the best films; as compelling as the best video games; as social as the best networking applications; as personal as the best tutors; and as analytically sophisticated as the best search engines.

We’ve helped more than 200,000 educators and 3 million students in all 50 states begin their digital transition through mobile assessment solutions, adaptive curricula and tools that harness the power of data for classroom teachers. And we’re just getting started.

Headquartered in New York City and with more than 1,000 employees across the country, Amplify is led by a team of digital education experts and has provided industry-leading instructional tools, data analytics and assessment solutions to the K-12 market for more than a decade as Wireless Generation.

Pearson is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner.

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