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Dec 292014

red question(This post is a continuation of our 12 Questions series.  The first three posts can be viewed here, here, and here.)

#10 Is there support for the content and are updates provided?
Content installations often don’t go as planned.  You will have questions as you begin to use new content, and there may be connectivity issues with web-based solutions.  At a minimum, you should expect a basic level of technical support via phone and email.  You should place even more value on content from companies that go beyond the basics to help you integrate the content into classroom instruction or to assist you in locating specific resources via phone, email, and newsletter support.

Updates are a known part of content development, so you should expect updates to your content at least once a year.  If the content is installed locally on your computer, find out if the company provides regular updates.  If so, how do you know when updates are available?  How are those updates delivered, and is there an additional charge?  If the content is web-based, will updates appear automatically?  How often are updates provided?  How will you know what has been updated?  Is there an additional charge?

#11 How is this content delivered, and what program does it require?
Content will be either web-based or installation-based.  Web-based content is delivered online.  This means content can be accessed on any computer with an internet connection via a web browser.  Some advantages include no installation, automatic updates, quick response to technical issues within the content, and easy student/teacher access from any computer anytime.  Installation-based options require installation on your school’s server or on individual computers where the content will be used.  Access to this type of locally hosted content is not dependent on an internet connection.

As with any type of software, basic computer operating requirements should be explored.  Many content providers offer a free trial which should be taken advantage of to test how the content performs on your specific hardware.  Beyond the basics, you should also consider whether the content requires a specific program to operate.  For example, if content is created in SMART Notebook software, that software must be installed on every computer on which you will want to access the content; and if you change IWB software or use multiple brands of IWB software within your building, the content will only be accessible by teachers with access to SMART Notebook.

#12 Is there added value or additional costs?
Choosing the right content is only the first step.  The quality of the professional development will determine the effectiveness of its use with your teachers.  Find out the professional development plans offered by the content provider.  Are there on-demand video and webinar options for teachers who want to get started right away?  Are there user guides for teachers who like a printed reference?  What is the cost for personalized professional development?  Is it conducted via webinar or in person?  Investigate the company’s ability to support your teachers after the initial professional development.  What additional training is available and at what cost?  Does the company have a newsletter or periodic emails to help teachers progress in their knowledge of the content and how to use it most effectively.

The type of professional development is also important.  A content company should offer not only initial professional development to help teachers learn to navigate the program and find appropriate content, but it should also provide training on how to integrate that content into classroom instruction.  Particularly as teachers make the shift to the Common Core, they will need to have professional development on how to integrate digital content into their instruction in ways that are supported by the Common Core.  

Keeping in mind that teachers are always pressed for time and that each teacher is as unique as each student in their technological skills, consider ease of use when choosing your content solution.  Professional development is always necessary to be sure you are getting the best return on your content investment.  However, if your teachers are spending days of valuable professional development time just trying to learn how to navigate a program, that leaves little time for learning how to use that content effectively.  Be sure to ask how much professional development is required to get teachers up and running with the content and how much is required to show them how to use that content effectively.

If your chosen content includes a classroom management system, find out if the company will create your teacher and student accounts so your teachers don’t have to spend their valuable time entering data.  And be sure to ask if the account creation service is free or at an additional cost.  And remember to ask whether there will be assistance with account creation every year or just the first year of purchase.  Always take advantage of free trials offered by content providers to facilitate your evaluation, yet keep in mind that the trial may only offer access to a portion of the available content.  Contact the content provider or attend an online demonstration for a more thorough evaluation of both the content and the company.

As schools increasingly invest in technology hardware, teachers will need content to use those technologies effectively.  All educators must be informed digital content advocates to help their schools select quality content that provides the most value.  Visit starrmatica.com/twelvequestions to download the 12 questions in an easy to use table format to assist with your personal content evaluations.

May 292014

core imageStarrMatica’s new magazine, Digital Content and the Core, has launched!

The creation of this magazine sprung from conversations with educators across the country faced with the challenge of implementing the Common Core.  Educators shared that they were overwhelmed by the largeness of the task of implementing the Core with fidelity and felt pressure to achieve immediate success.  Educators also shared the concern that they had a lack of knowledge about what role digital content should play in a Common Core classroom.

It is to address that concern and to provide a touchstone along each school’s digital content journey that our magazine was born.  The articles within are a culmination of 9 years of partnership with tens of thousands of educators we have worked alongside, extensive Common Core training, and targeted research.  It is our sincere hope that this information will help educators use digital content to assist in the success of their Common Core transition, and it will be a resource for years to come as they grow in their knowledge of effective digital content integration

Articles in the magazine include:

  • 5 Common Core Instructional Shifts to Master
  • Bloom’s Taxonomy for a Digital Age
  • Digital Content for STEM
  • The #1 Reason to Give Students Screen Time
  • 12 Must Ask Questions Before Investing in Digital Content
  • and much more..

You can access the online magazine by clicking the link below:


And for our Iowa members, here is the Iowa Core version:


And for our Virginia members, here is the SOL version:



Mar 152014

This month, we added to our growing collection of picture book guides.  50 new guides were added to StarrMatica this month for free online non-fiction texts.  With the Common Core’s heavy focus on non-fiction, these guides provide  treasure trove of resources to increase your students’ experience and confidence with non-fiction texts.

If you aren’t familiar, picture book guides help you to easily use our picture book resources by providing a ready to-go lesson plan developed by a fellow teacher. Content guides for picture books include digital connections, launching activities, example questions, enrichment ideas, answer keys, and standards correlations. You can check out one of our new non-fiction guides here: The First Airplane

All guides are included for free in StarrMatica’s Classroom Management system, or can be purchased individually by non-members in Emily Starr’s Teachers Pay Teachers store.  http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Emily-Starr


Mar 062014

This is the first in a series of posts dedicated to helping teachers understand specific changes the Common Core requires them to make in their instruction and sharing how StarrMatica’s content can help facilitate that transition.

One of the major shifts in ELA (and to some extent Math) is the requirement for students to write extended responses.  Rather than just answering multiple choice questions about a text, students will be asked to construct written responses so they can demonstrate not only a deeper understanding of a text but also their abilities to apply the higher order thinking skills of synthesizing, justifying, and evaluating when reading a text.

Here is an example of a typical standardized test question previously used:

Why were the Wright Brothers successful?

  • They didn’t go to school for airplanes or engineering.
  • They researched, made careful sketches, and learned from their mistakes.
  • They gave up when their first planes didn’t work.

Here is an example of a Common Core question:

Why do you think the Wright Brothers were successful even though they hadn’t gone to school for airplanes or engineering?  Use evidence from the story to support your answer.

Can you see the challenge for us as teachers?  The first question requires students to refer to the text to find an answer.  The second question requires students to refer to the text to construct an answer.

As teachers make the shift, it is important for them to have access to both fiction and non-fiction texts that allow them many opportunities to model constructing these types of responses and that allow their students to practice this important life skill.

In StarrMatica’s library, teachers have access to 150 fiction and non-fiction content guides to draw upon as they help their students learn to construct thoughtful responses that include evidence from the text.

Here is one example:


Sep 102013

Aunt Chip

Over the summer, we added to our growing collection of picture book guides.  The list now reaches over 40!  If you aren’t familiar, picture book guides help you to easily use our picture book resources by providing a ready to-go lesson plan developed by a fellow teacher. Content guides for picture books include digital connections, launching activities, example questions, enrichment ideas, answer keys, and standards correlations.  You can check out two of our guides here:


Stellaluna by Janell Cannon


Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair by Patricia Polacco


All guides are included for free in StarrMatica’s Classroom Management system, or can be purchased individually by non-members in Emily Starr’s Teachers Pay Teachers store.  http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Emily-Starr

Aug 062013

In a previous post, we shared a guide that describes our assistance for Virginia SOL Technology Enhanced Questions. In this companion video to the guide, we share specific examples of how StarrMatica’s content has been designed to help teachers prepare students to answer technology enhanced questions.  The video compares StarrMatica’s content to the practice technology enhanced questions found on the VA DOE website so teachers can see direct correlations between our content and specific test questions.


StarrMatica Monograph

 Posted by on May 14, 2013  Complementary Downloads  Comments Off
May 142013

Looking for yet another reason to justify the use of StarrMatica in your classroom?  Then check out our monograph:  Enriching Teaching and Learning in a New Age of Standards, Instruction, and Technology:  The Rationale for StarrMatica Learning Systems.

The monograph outlines how StarrMatica is a primary solution for comprehensive, integrated, online digital learning content that meets the challenges of rigorous standards; aligned curriculum, instruction and assessment; and expanding technology to increase academic achievement.

It is authored by noted education researcher Rick Noeth who has worked for the Educational Testing Service, National Center for Education Statistics/U.S. Department of Education, National Academy of Sciences, and ACT.  He is the author or co-author of over 120 books, reports, articles, chapters, guides, and papers in the areas of educational policy, teaching and learning, assessment, academic preparation and transitions, and program evaluation. His Ph.D. is from Purdue University where he was named the tenth Distinguished Alumnus in the College of Education.

You can view and download the monograph on our Research Page.

Nov 192012

Are you an educator in Virginia looking for technology enhanced items assistance?  You are in luck because StarrMatica’s is a library filled with technology enhanced items!  After analyzing the practice test items on the VA DOE website, we prepared a guide to illustrate the multiple ways in which StarrMatica can help with each of the five types of technology enhanced items.  Download your personal copy of StarrMatica’s Assistance for VA SOL Technology Enhanced Items by clicking the link below and leave a comment or send us an email for further information.


PS—If you are going to be at the VASCD Conference in Williamsburg, VA, November 29th and 30th, stop by Proven Learning’s booth to meet our CEO and see StarrMatica’s library in action!

StarrMatica and STEM

 Posted by on October 10, 2012  Complementary Downloads  Comments Off
Oct 102012

As schools increasingly implement STEM initiatives and focus on preparing students for futures in STEM careers, we have put together a complimentary guide to StarrMatica and STEM.  The guide describes how StarrMatica supports and encourages STEM critical thinking skills and gives specific examples of content in our library for each STEM area.  You can download a personal copy of StarrMatica and STEM:  An Introductory Guide by clicking the link below.  Enjoy!  www.starrmatica.com/siteresources/docs/StarrMaticaAndSTEM.pdf

Your Complimentary Content Evaluation Guide

 Posted by on September 18, 2012  Complementary Downloads  Comments Off
Sep 182012

With the growing amount of digital content available, we as educators have to be prepared to evaluate the quality of resources that we allow into our classrooms.  To assist with this evaluation, StarrMatica has created a content evaluation guide of the top ten questions you should ask before investing in digital content.  We even included a handy side-by-side checklist to assist with your evaluations.  You can download a personal copy by clicking the link below.  Enjoy!

Ten Questions Every Educator Should Ask Before Purchasing Digital Content