Technology-Enhanced Item (TEI) for Grade 1

When I was executive editor of Weekly Reader, I was often struck by how challenging it was to put together a weekly magazine for the lowest grades. Now, we faced similar challenges in developing a technology enhanced item (TEI) for first graders. They may be digital natives, but they are still 6 years old.

If you have been following our blog, you have seen our first two TEI prototypes. Our primary-grades team engaged in extensive discussions as they developed a technology enhanced item for Grade 1. Please watch this 4-minute video and use the Comments to give us feedback.

You may have noticed the TEI uses extremely simple navigational elements – right and left arrows, and one-word buttons in pop-ups. In every way, we minimized the text students have to read so they can focus on the content. There is some risk in using icons and one-word buttons, but we made a conscious decision not to use rollovers, in part because those won’t work on a tablet.

We used a simple typeface that uses the “ball-and-stick” forms of the letters a and g, which students first use in block printing. Font size, leading, line width, placement of clickable elements, and the overall look and feel of the TEI, including color choices, were all subjects of extensive discussion.

Next we needed to specify the range of functionality for the activities. The basic strategy of this TEI is to take students through four differentiated activities, each one increasing the challenge. At the fourth and highest level, students type in the word meanings they have read during the first three activities. The software has been programmed to accept a variety of answers as correct, but our team chose to require correct spelling.

At the start, the TEI automatically voices the text in which the key vocabulary words appear. The audio was carefully crafted to be automated, but we added the progress bar to allow self-paced progression. An image associated with each word pops up when that word is spoken. Students can click the eye icons to see a larger version of each image.

The direction lines on each screen read automatically, and the ear icon allows self-paced repetition. All of these techniques enhance the scaffolding, so students can understand their assigned tasks. Notice that these techniques result in a product that has some features of both instruction and assessment. Students can learn at least the narrow meanings of the three target words as they engage with the TEI. On the one hand, a TEI designed strictly for assessment, such as a high-stakes test, would not provide this much scaffolding. Contrast this with a full-blown vocabulary lesson developed in accordance with so-called robust-vocabulary practices – it would include several meanings for each word, would present the target words in a variety of contexts, and would be designed to achieve many such exposures to each word over the course of several days or even a few weeks.

We chose the middle road between these extremes. PLEASE GIVE US YOUR FEEDBACK. We’d love to hear your thoughts on developing technology enhanced items for the lower grades.

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4 thoughts on “Technology-Enhanced Item (TEI) for Grade 1

  1. Nice product!
    Three vocabulary words are underlined suggesting a link; none provided. It would be great to display meaning/definition of the words. Providing link back to story is a great feature. Displaying story on the question screen would be a great option. Activities 1 & 3 share similar concerns of not giving credit for correct answers. If student gets 1 of 3 or 2 or 3 correct, system doesn’t acknowledge answers. Audio feedback would be a great option. KAT

    1. Kent, thanks for you review — this really helps us see where we are on the right track, and where we may have misjudged. We had some software limitations in the scoring options; the best way to fix this would be to modify the software functionality, and we will look into that. The Parent/Teacher page does allow a review of the answers, and for Activity 3, it does show which were correct. So I think we can get the feedback to work better for this Activity. Stay tuned!

  2. This is an interesting concept and cleanly presented. I find, however that it is not entirely developmentally appropriate somewhat restrictive. College students do not always spell correctly – let alone first-grade students. This puts emphasis on form over meaning. The student may understand the concept but still get it wrong until the lower-level cognitive task of spelling a word correctly is completed. Also, the software is limited in its ability to understand variations of responses. Again, a student may understand the concept and is negatively reinforced because the computer didn’t understand his or her response. A great start – but keep on trying!

    1. Drew — excellent points, and clearly you took the time to review this TEI carefully. I understand your point about allowing mis-spelled correct answers. I think you are right — it’s essential to give students positive feedback if they understood the word meaning. We were dealing with a software restriction of 10 maximum answers allowed; other software we developed allows unlimited correct answers, so we’ll see if we can find a way to allow that here also.

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