|Charlotte Fenton, product manager with Education City, left, points to one of the characters on the computer screen while asking Zaeda Newnum what she liked about it. Fenton and three others tested a new version of the software program at Coyote Springs Elementary School.|
Trib Photo/Sue Tone
Charlotte Fenton and Mikey Jones traveled from Great Britain to Coyote Springs Elementary School in November to ask students their opinion on an updated version of an educational computer software program.
Education City, a program that includes language arts and math activities for kindergarten through sixth-grade students, had its debut at Coyote Springs this past year, thanks to the Parent-Teacher organization that purchased it. However, the parent company, Edmentum, wanted to test the new version, which includes a science element for grades 3-6, at five school sites using the program - CSES, Yuma, and three schools in the Phoenix area.
The final product won't be available until 2014, said Vanessa Schlager, product manager from Dallas who also visited CSES.
"We're meeting with all grade levels and asking students what they enjoy about learning, what motivates them to get into the product and learn more," she said. "Ultimately they are our customer, so we want them to be happy."
The company reps observed whether kindergartners and first-graders could get started without assistance, and navigate from page to page. When students say they can't find what they are looking for, the reps document the page, then go back and review it to determine what, if any, changes they will make to improve the program.
Fenton said she watches as students go into an activity. Do the students follow through to the end and start fresh with a new activity, or do they stop in the middle? The older students will sample several, then go back to their favorite activity, she said. The younger students become engaged with the characters and stick with one activity before moving on to the next.
"What do you like about this monster? What would you name it?" Fenton asked of one young student.
Jennifer Williams, CSES computer lab aide, said the "Play Live" activity is a favorite because students can compete against each other - and her! They especially like the 60-second math addition drills, and building words from eight letters. They call it "Beat the Teacher," she said with a laugh.
Education City debuted 12 years ago in Great Britain, Schlager said. It was Americanized in 2008 and brought to the U.S. The program also has a module that teaches English and a special "Jaws Reader" that reads the text out loud for students with lower level reading skills.
In return for their research visit, Parent company Edmentum allowed CSES its choice of a new program for the school.