The new year always feels like it comes with endless possibilities… There's something about the changing of the calendar that often provides the impetus we need to become better versions of ourselves, whether that means altering our daily routines, pursuing new goals, or just getting serious about the things we’ve put on the back burner for too long.
The eSpark team is no different! We all have our individual resolutions, of course, but we have also rallied around the collective goal of making this a year to remember for eSparkers everywhere. Read on for the three resolutions guiding our work in 2023.
1. We will reimagine the student experience
The student experience has always been the heart and soul of eSpark, and we don’t expect that to ever change. In 2023, we will be doubling down on our efforts to make eSpark the program kids want to use to practice their math and reading skills. The first phase of this project is well underway and we've already begun testing some of the new elements in classrooms.
The first changes your students will see include new characters to choose from, new Quest island layouts, and personalization options to promote more agency within eSpark. We also want to provide more incentive for students to focus and perform to the best of their abilities while working on their lessons. This will be driven by a variety of custom student avatars and accessories that can be earned by demonstrating growth and mastery of skills.
These changes will initially be rolled out for grades 3+, but we will continue to monitor student sentiment in younger grades to make sure we are meeting their needs and interests as well.
Long-term, you can expect to see updated visuals within all areas of the student experience. We are also in the early stages of improving the wider “world of eSpark” and the framework within which students experience their Quests and assignments. Stay tuned for more updates on that front over the course of this year!
2. We will focus on high-quality, in-house instruction
When eSpark first started, our product was designed as a bridge between the highest quality digital math and reading resources on the internet and the booming demand for 1:1 initiatives and iPad-based learning. Now that we’ve evolved into a web-based resource for all kinds of classrooms and devices, we know we need to remove some obstacles posed by the third-party content we have so carefully curated over the years.
We’re happy to announce (for the first time, officially) that we are prioritizing the replacement of all third-party content in eSpark for which students are required to work in a new tab. We can’t promise that we’ll get to all of it this year, but you and your students will see a steady stream of new eSpark games, stories, and videos within our Quests and Small Group Skills lessons in 2023!
Here are just some examples of what’s coming this year:
More magical music videos
Nothing helps a concept stick in a student's mind quite like a catchy tune. Our content team will continue to churn out a variety of fun songs to supplement our standards-aligned Quests across the grade spectrum. Check out our newest release below (1st grade math, telling time to the nearest hour):
More and better reading options
From our new eReader and Capstone partnership to a redesigned template for all poetry activities, we are improving the reading experience in eSpark every day. This year, we resolve for all students to encounter more engaging, relevant, and effective content as they work through their reading Quests.
Take a look at some of our newest releases below:
- Suggested grade level: 5th
- Standard: Explain how a series of chapters, scenes, or stanzas fits together to provide the overall structure of a particular story, drama, or poem.
- Assign the Small Group Skill
- Suggested grade level: 1st
- Standard: Ask and answer questions about key details in a text.
- Assign the Small Group Skill
- Suggested grade level: 6th
- Standard: Explain how an author develops the point of view of the narrator or speaker in a text.
- Assign the Small Group Skill
New Instructional Videos
The framing/instructional video combo is what sets the tone for every Quest and Small Group Skill students encounter in eSpark. Throughout the year, we'll be replacing third-party videos with content created by the former teachers on our Learning Design team. We have a lot of fun with these and utilize a bunch of different approaches depending on grade level and subject matter. Check out our latest release below (3rd grade math, elapsed time on a number line):
3. We will incorporate your feedback wherever possible
Last year, we introduced a number of new channels and resources for two-way communication between eSpark and eSparkers everywhere. Some of the things you will likely notice in the year to come include:
- Fewer emails, with more information consolidated in a monthly newsletter format.
- More tips, announcements, and notifications within the teacher dashboard. This will help us provide information in context while reducing your inbox clutter. Look for suggested Small Group Skills and context-sensitive banners or tooltips depending on where you are in your eSpark journey.
- A new user feedback platform and workflow to help us log, prioritize, and follow up on your requests for new features and/or curriculum.
We are now better equipped than ever to make the entire eSpark community a crucial part of our development process. Whether that means getting a highly upvoted request into the engineering queue, identifying the best candidates for beta testing new enhancements, or updating you when a request you’ve submitted is in the works/complete, you can rest assured that your voice will be heard and we’ll return the favor by giving you the transparency you deserve. You can see some of the early returns in the upcoming improvements listed above, most of which were the direct result of accumulated teacher feedback.
You can submit feedback at any time by emailing us here, or by clicking the blue chat icon at the bottom of your screen.
Image: A screenshot from our user feedback platform at the time this article was published
New year, new eSpark
This year is already shaping up to be a memorable one for eSparkers. The three key ingredients of student ownership, better content, and a continuous feedback loop will result in something altogether new and magical. Let’s change the way we think about personalized learning together in 2023.