Dallas-based Istation Turns Classwork Into Child’s Play

If you travel along North Central Expressway and Northwest Highway, you’ve undoubtedly noticed the Istation sign atop one of Campbell Centre’s gold-glass office towers.And unless you’re an elementary or middle-school educator, you’ve probably wondered what that stood for.No, it’s not part of a media corporation.Istation is a $100 million enterprise devoted to making education as captivating as playing video games.If you’re old enough, you might remember Schoolhouse Rock! — you know, “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here,” “Conjunction Junction [What’s Your Function]” and other songs that stuck like glue while mindlessly teaching you grammar, math, science, history and civics.I know the words to the preamble to the U.S. Constitution by heart thanks to these Saturday morning TV cartoons. But I have to sing to remember them.Istation is taking this education-as-entertainment concept to digital heights with animation, music, storytelling and video games while teaching reading, math and Spanish to kids in pre-K through the eighth grade.On the other side of the equation, Istation programs enable teachers, principals and superintendents to track progress for every student, classroom or school under their purview.In 20 minutes, they can tell which kids are at risk and which are ready for advancement ahead of the class.Derek Little, Dallas ISD’s assistant superintendent for early learning, uses Istation three times each school year to assess the reading levels of kindergartners through second-graders.“We approach Istation through the lens of, ‘How do we provide information to teachers that tells them where every student is in their learning trajectory in the classroom?’ and provide the teacher with direction on what should happen next with that student,” Little says.Tia Maddox, a retired kindergarten teacher at Colleyville Elementary, was a beta tester for Istation’s data analytics and is sold on the program.“They check for everything: comprehension, vocabulary, the smallest details,” Maddox says. “The same thing with math. ‘OK, this kid doesn’t know how to skip-count by twos.' I could group my kids according how their assessments were.”Man in the red capeIstation’s guiding force is 70-year-old Dallas billionaire Dick Collins, who built his fortune in banking, real estate, wildcatting and media investments.But education is the soul of his entrepreneurship.  Continue reading...

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