Sunday, December 4, 2016

12/4 Tech Review #3: NoRedInk

NoRedInk is an on-line, personalizable program that provides grammar lessons and encourages differentiation based on student readiness and skill. I have used it for several years, and my entire department piloted it last year with the idea of adopting its Premium package last semester.

Charge/free: free enrollment allows limited access to certain lessons, but in order to gain access to the entire suite and the complete, comprehensive lessons (ie., all lessons on apostrophe use from most basic right up to the advanced level, each building on the other), the district must buy a license for each student. Last year, the price of a license for 200 students was about $15/student.  Premium is *not* cheap! However, it does provide one of the best approaches to teaching sizeable groups of students grammar in a differentiated way that I’ve seen!

NoRedInk uses information that students enter to provide sentences that mix silly situations with students’ favorite musicians or characters. A teacher can set up an area of study--say, apostrophe use. Students take a pretest, and then will start doing activities keyed toward their current level of knowledge. As they complete quizzes, the difficulty of their lessons and quizzes will increase until they have mastered the subject as whole. I can check their progress easily, and they are aware of it as well.

Drawbacks: 1. Cost: if you don’t enroll your class and pay for Premium, only certain lessons are available, which leaves gaps in the spiral of skills.
2. The personalization is a bit rough (or was, last year!): students frequently got the same sentence, simply with different mistakes in it, so Justin Bieber’s appearance in that sentence became less interesting to them.
3. The “you got it wrong so here’s a lesson”  aspect is pretty cognitively demanding: wordy and quite detailed. Many of my students didn’t interact with the whole lesson and simply re-guessed on their retest. As usual, excellent teaching is required around this material to make it functional and valuable!

NoRedInk is a different kind of classroom tool from many of the others I’ve evaluated, and it will be interesting to see how my rubric deals with it. Like Google Classroom, it makes no pretensions to being a gradebook or to communicating  to an outside audience, but it does have value, and the staff was extremely interested in my questions and suggestions, offering an on-line training (which was great fun) and personal contact.

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