Dreambox Learning – A teaching assistant for every student in your math class.

DreamBox Learning is an intelligent, adaptive learning platform that sources data points to adjust instruction instantly and provide reports for teachers, parents, and administrators. Will this technology replace teachers or will it be adopted as a compliment or a tool to help teachers?

Dreambox Learning is a K-8 intelligent, adaptive math learning platform widely used in the USA and Canada. As of July 2018, Dreambox is used by nearly three million students and serving 120,000 teachers. The company has more than 350 million digital lessons for students. [1] Math is usually thought to be a procedural language, but in Dreambox, the lessons make use of inquiry-based teacher strategies that focus on conceptual understanding rather than on procedures. The fun and engaging software is designed to collect different data points, to personalize each student’s learning experiences continually. 

 

Adaptive Learning 

Having been a teacher myself, I struggled with differentiating instruction to meet the varying levels and unique needs of the seventy different students in my class. Due to lack of time, most teachers to teach at the average classroom level. Dreambox acts as a tool to assist the teacher in effectively personalizing the learning experience for each student in the class. DreamBox Learning CEO Jessie Woolley-Wilson has said, “As a company, we have been committed to unlocking the learning potential of every child regardless of what zip code they live in, what they look like, or what language they speak.” [2]

Adaptive is the new buzz word, with many people and companies talking about it. Numerous companies are working on developing more adaptive learning programs. Khan Academy, a globally known firm, is only minimally adaptive – it allows students to check their understanding after watching the video, followed by their engine recommending the next activities. On the other hand, Dreambox learning has managed to work to tailor the level of content to each student’s learning needs, while also providing students with a choice about which activity they wish to engage in next.

Loeffler, John. “Personalized Learning: Artificial Intelligence and Education in the Future.” Interesting Engineering, Interesting Engineering, 25 Dec. 2018, https://interestingengineering.com/personalized-learning-artificial-intelligence-and-education-in-the-future.

Dreambox’s program collects an average of 50,000 data points per hour. [3] Dreambox uses this data to adjust the lesson and level of difficulty, scaffolding provided, sequencing of topics, number of hints, and pacing, as appropriate—both within and between lessons—dynamically, instantaneously, and continuously. It also uses interactive virtual manipulatives, which can help identify the strategy used by the student to solve a problem, or why they reached the wrong answer.

Dreambox can also be used by teachers to:

  • Receive real-time data about student progress
  • Receive continuous feedback for teachers to inform future instructions. 
  • Provide time for targeted interaction with students who are struggling.
  • Provide stealth assessments embedded in the game

They have also developed Dreambox Learning FlexPD, which offers a range of courses – in person or online to help with teacher professional development on how to use the blended-learning model in their classroom. They use data to create customized plans aligned with the district/school goals. 

Dreambox was designed keeping the different state standards as a guideline. Thus data collected through it can be used to deliver insights on students’ proficiency to school leaders and district administrators, which can help them with teacher evaluation, planning for teacher development, and identifying best practices. 

Cost of model & Investment 

Dreambox operates on a pay-for-service model, selling to district-level decision-makers. Some large-scale deployments include the Rocketship Education charter organization and Los Angeles Unified School District. It charges an annual subscription on a per user ($25/user) and per site ($7,000/site) basis. It offers discounts based on the size of the deal. On top of annual fees, Dreambox also charges a fee for teacher professional development. [4] Their long-term success is tied to wide-scale adoptions in schools. 

In 2013, it raised $14.5 million from investors including then Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. Recently, it raised a $130 million investment from The Rise Fund, which will help DreamBox with creating more learning innovations, evolve their product and services offerings, and expand their reach on the global stage. [5]

Future & Challenges 

A recent study showed that 70% of the global investment in education technology takes place in just two markets – India and China. It will be interesting to see if Dreambox will look to expand to these markets. Will they try to scale a one-size-fits-all model or will they change the software to make it culturally-relevant to the countries it is being expanded to?

It will also be interesting to see how Dreambox gets creative with its pricing model to compete with Ed Tech companies like Khan Academy which are delivering content free of cost. The K-8 education space has many different stakeholders – teachers, parents, school leaders, district officials who play the role of a decision-maker in a student’s life. It is extremely important for Dreambox to receive buy-in from most of them in order to continue scaling quickly and widely. 

 

References:

[1] www.dreambox.com/blog/DreamBox-Learning-and-The-Rise-Fund-Join-Forces-to-Drive-Impact-and-Growth

[2] www.geekwire.com/2018/dreambox-learning-raises-130m-adds-former-u-s-education-secretary-board/

[3] https://interestingengineering.com/personalized-learning-artificial-intelligence-and-education-in-the-future

[4] Ibis

[5] https://www.dreambox.com/blog/DreamBox-Learning-and-The-Rise-Fund-Join-Forces-to-Drive-Impact-and-Growth

[6] https://www.holoniq.com/edtech/10-charts-that-explain-the-global-education-technology-market/

 

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2 thoughts on “Dreambox Learning – A teaching assistant for every student in your math class.

  1. Love this post! I hope we do discuss this tomorrow because its such an important topic and potential area for growth. I totally get how this can make the learning processing more efficient and personalized. That said I wonder if there is more to our learning in math class than just math. Are we not also learning how to learn and how to interact with others? The idea of gamifying math while fun seems to detract from the struggle of learning math, and maybe there is some value in that especially as we progress in our lives and no longer have games to fall back on? Do we want to encourage students on the computer with their headphones on – especially when so much of their time is already in front of computers – instead of interacting with each other in class? Just a couple of tradeoffs to think about, more broadly I think what’s in part at stake is the balance of the human and data-driven elements of learning.

  2. My first thought upon reading this post is that the $25/user subscription and $7,000 per site charge appears significantly cheaper than what I have paid for a class (or my education) in the United States. What I really like about this product, however, is that it is designed to combine online learning with in person teaching. In addition to using data to cater to the individual needs of students. it also uses data to make teachers more effective. As a result, it seems to be more of an additional tool than a substitute to in person teaching. Why isn’t the product used as a substitute to in person teaching? What is missing to make that possible?

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