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In EdSurge Case Studies, educators share their real-life experiences with edtech in their schools and classrooms.
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Gloria, @gcanalesmccabe
11th Grade Social Studies Teacher, Business of Sports School, New York
1:1 devices, Blended learning classroom, Special education students, High ELL population, and Low income population

At my school, many of my students struggle with reading grade level texts even when provided scaffolds designed to help break down the meaning of texts.
I was drawn to Zinc because instead of leveled texts, it focuses on helping make texts more accessible through online vocabulary games and reading comprehension questions.

Product Use: I used Zinc Reading Labs in class once a week and assigned students content area vocabulary to practice for homework daily.

What Worked and What Didn't: The vocabulary games were a great practice in productive struggle. When students made a mistake on one of the words during the vocabulary games then they were forced to practice all of the vocabulary words on the list from the beginning. As a teacher, I loved that repetition was built into the game practice.

Age Group: High school students

Feb 28, 2017 Provide Feedback
Susan, @SVDiz
English teacher grades 9-10 and AP Language, George Whittell High School, Nevada
1:1 devices and College prep classroom

For years as an English Language Arts teacher, I have struggled with two main differentiation concerns. First, how do I support all my students in acquiring the academic vocabulary that they will need to be college and career ready? Second, how do I provide my students with a variety of independent reading texts that appeal to their individual reading levels and interests? How can I meet each of my students at his or her level of readiness and monitor and support growth as each student learns and retains new vocabulary at the appropriate pace? And is there any possible way to connect that vocabulary instruction to their independent reading? I tried everything, but I was never able to resolve the dual needs of differentiation and accountability. And I never felt confident that my students were authentically acquiring vocabulary and reading skills that would transfer over and stay with them as they moved into other classes and eventual careers. These seemed like unsolvable problems before I discovered Zinc Learning Labs.

Product Use: With Zinc Learning Labs, I was able to assign vocabulary sets to entire classes, individuals, or groups of students. More importantly, they could choose their own vocabulary lists. Students could study lists of words for test prep, to prepare for a specific unit of study, or to acquire vocabulary while reading a novel or an individual article. Because of Zinc's spaced repetition, which forces students to relearn the words 6 times over a course of about 6 weeks, I felt confident that my students would retain the words they learned. With Zinc's library of diverse texts, I could find a variety of relevant and engaging readings with built in assessments, including both multiple choice questions and writing prompts. Whether I assigned a particular text, or allowed students to choose a text themselves, I could easily monitor and assess their progress. Students could choose texts based on length, reading level, genre, or subject. I could easily find texts related to any unit of study or subject area. Best of all, each article comes with a set of vocabulary games to help students learn the vocabulary they will need to understand the text. The entire program is gamefied, so students actually love learning vocabulary.

What Worked and What Didn't: One aspect of Zinc I really like is that I can plug virtually any text into the program and create my own vocabulary list to go with the article. I also really appreciate the test prep word lists that they created for AP Language. Many times I'll bring up a new concept in class and when I ask my students about their prior knowledge, they will tell me they know the term from Zinc. The gamefication of the program works well because students can earn points for growth, so an ELL student who is working on foundational sets can be competitive with a student who is working on SAT prep words. One thing that I tried that did not work was when I tried to use a word list of computer science terms. Zinc is great for both general academic language and for ELA terms, but you can't create games for vocabulary specific to other content areas (such as computer science or biology) as far as I can tell. Yet. Zinc has a great "feedback/suggestions" section for both teachers and students to tell them what modifications they would like to see.

Age Group: High school students

Feb 18, 2017 Provide Feedback
Kim, @YodaPond
10th-grade English Language Arts teacher, Durant High School, Florida
1:1 devices, Bring your own devices (BYOD), College prep classroom, Blended learning classroom, and Low income population

At the beginning of the school year, we learned that the lowest scoring category for our current 10th-graders (last year's 9th-graders) on the state's summative two-part English Language Arts exam was in the area of Language and Editing with a 50.4% achievement rate. Recognizing a need for more practice in this area, I made it a personal mission to offer my students consistent language acquisition and skills practice for 2016-2017.
As I was searching for an engaging method for my students to acquire and practice their language skills, I recalled that Zinc Learning Labs was going to be offered to us via our district's SpringBoard Digital platform and, after much research and trial on my end, I decided to implement the program because I wholeheartedly believed that Zinc Learning Labs would support my students' language acquisition skills in a unique manner: GAMIFICATION.

Product Use: There are two parts to Zinc: 1) Vocabulary; and, 2) Articles. With "Vocabulary," I assign my students vocabulary related to our SpringBoard units (created by Zinc) and my students complete as many decks as they can once a week for at least 5 weeks. Students are "locked out" for a set number of hours after completing decks which forces students to "step away" and come back to the words to truly assess their learning and acquisition of the words within those decks. Teachers may also create their own decks outside ones offered by Zinc which is a nice feature. The other feature is the "Articles" feature where students encounter articles that they can search for according to Common Core Reading Standards, difficulty levels (1-7: '4th-College Level'), and Zinc Skills (Big Idea, Words in Context, etc.). Each article has a quiz tied to it so that students are assessed on specific skills/standards.
An invaluable feature to Zinc Reading Labs are "Reports." Students, and teachers, are provided with personalized reports that provide a "Skills Overview," "Standards," "Words Learned," and "Articles Read with Quiz Percentages" breakdown. My students often use their reports to identify areas of focus and areas of strength.

What Worked and What Didn't: Worked: 1) Gamification. This is the biggest selling point to my students because they love that it is a true challenge and test of their skills. The decks (10 words per deck is a standard number) begin with a "Study Time," and then immediately moves into various types of challenge modes that are all timed. 2) Reports: the reports are invaluable because it is a personalized method of feedback that can be used to great effect. One simple way would be to identify differentiation needs and students enjoy the practice of self-analysis.
Did Not Work: I believe that everything Zinc Learning Labs set out to do works so this is more of a suggestion: 1) A built-in pre- and post-assessment tool for tracking growth with the "Vocabulary" function would be a valuable addition. A pre-assessment (for baseline) could be given at the beginning, another one given once a student reaches the middle of the iterations (maybe after the 3rd encounter), and a last one at the end once students have finished all of the iterations for the decks. Sometimes, the students "memorize" the words according to the pictures provided in the challenges and removing that help would truly test their skills and knowledge. Overall, I am very happy with Zinc!

Age Group: High school students

Feb 6, 2017 Provide Feedback
Anonymous
10th and 11th grade ELA teacher, Michigan
College prep classroom, Special education students, High ELL population, and Low income population

Differentiated vocabulary practice and additional informational reading selections

Product Use: Students practice their individually assigned vocabulary and use reading selections as quizzes.

What Worked and What Didn't: Some of the vocabulary lists are entirely too large for effective learning. Yes, students are only give 10 words in a group but some of the lists are 50 words.

Age Group: High school students

Feb 3, 2017 Provide Feedback
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