Technology is rapidly transforming industries, and now it’s breaking into the classroom. Bellevue-based DreamBox Learning is helping lead the charge.
DreamBox Learning is a math-based program that presents challenging problem-solving, concept-teaching games to students. It uses its trademarked Intelligent Adaptive Learning technology to tailor lessons to each student as the student progresses in the program.
In other words, “learn the learner as the learner learns,” said DreamBox Learning president and CEO Jessie Woolley-Wilson.
The product started out as consumer-driven, but started marketing to schools in 2011. Woolley-Wilson said that when the software was consumer-driven, it was landing only in the laptops of wealthy or affluent students.
To level the playing field, DreamBox went to where it could do the most — to school districts. “Everybody has an individual learning path regardless of wealth,” said Woolley-Wilson.
DreamBox still is available to consumers for at-home use.
The program is very data-driven. DreamBox gathers 50,000 data points on a student per hour and adapts to how they learn — something difficult to do for a teacher managing a classroom of students.
However, DreamBox isn’t about replacing teachers or curriculum; it’s about enhancing both of them, said Woolley-Wilson.
She also makes the distinction that DreamBox is not a game system, nor is it “edu-tainment.”
“We’re not a gaming company,” she said. “We don’t try to hide the math in the game … We are unabashedly math-forward.”
The reason for putting the math in front of the student, without luring them in with flashy games, is that DreamBox wants students to know they’re accomplishing math learning.
“We want to get beyond getting the answer right to helping the student learn,” Woolley-Wilson said.
A 2016 study on DreamBox Learning by Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research, found DreamBox’s impact on student success was “encouraging, but mixed.” But among the most important findings was that students who spent more time on DreamBox saw gains in achievement, and positive gains on state tests and assessments.
The way DreamBox is used is up to what the company calls a “learning guardian” — a teacher, parent, or other adult helping the student learn.
DreamBox is being used in all 50 states; Washington, D.C.; and across Canada. Woolley-Wilson said there are 2 million students online using DreamBox. Locally, DreamBox is in all 16 Bellevue School District elementary schools.
“It’s been a wonderful resource,” said Sarah Brewer, the district’s K-5 math curriculum director.
DreamBox was adopted by Bellevue schools three years ago and is now in all preschool through fifth-grade classrooms. How teachers use the program varies, Brewer said. Most often, the model is teachers splitting classes into groups where the teacher can work closely with some students while others work independently — and one of those independent-working options is DreamBox.
“We do try to make sure that each student completes at least four (DreamBox) lessons during the week,” said Brewer.
Still, student gains are hard to measure, Brewer said, because, “There are so many factors in play in student success.”
That’s what the Harvard study found as well. The study pointed to a variation in how schools and parents used the software. Some schools use the software to target struggling students, and others do not.
For Woolley-Wilson, DreamBox is about more than just tech-advanced math lessons; it’s about getting students to believe in themselves as they grow to learn concepts. The model is “productive struggle,” she said, meaning DreamBox sets out to challenge and not discourage by going too high above a student’s skill level.
“We are in the business of belief … we want people to believe that everyone has brilliance.”