Improving Students’ Intrinsic Motivation

What if there was a way to not only improve fact fluency but to also change the way students feel about math?

At Sokikom, we’re pushing the boundaries of student learning to make math fun. Last month we held the first annual Soki Bowl to reward hard working students with the opportunity to play Sokikom’s multiplayer game against other California classrooms.

The 2017 Soki Bowl

The Soki Bowl, inspired by the Super Bowl, was held between January 17, 2017 and February 6, 2017. To be eligible to participate in the Soki Bowl, students had to master at least 15 new Sokikom lessons by January 1, 2017. We wanted students to master at least 15 new Sokikom lessons so that they would be over halfway to the goal of mastering 25 new lessons by the end of the year. Mastering 25 new Sokikom lessons has a strong correlation with SBAC and CAASPP improvement as is evidenced in the 2016 study performed by Dr. Gary Bitter from Arizona State University and JBS International.


Out of the 100 teachers that had all students in the class meeting or exceeding the 15 new lesson mastered threshold, 22 from varying school districts including: Franklin McKinley School District (FMSD), Rio School District (RSD), Evergreen Elementary School District (EESD), Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), and Moreno Valley Unified School District (MVUSD) signed up to participate in the Soki Bowl. We had students in grades 1-6 playing against one another vying for a spot in the Soki Bowl Championship Game.

The Results

On February 6th we held the Soki Bowl Championship Game between Ms. Olsen-Bryan’s 3rd graders from Rio Del Mar in the Rio School District and Ms. Smith’s 6th graders from Santee Elementary in the Franklin-McKinley School District. In the end, Ms. Olsen-Bryan’s 3rd graders were dubbed the champions and received Soki Bowl rings and a class-wide ice cream party sponsored by Sokikom.

Shifting Academic Standards

Throughout the tournament, numerous teachers from across the state of California shared photos and videos of their students getting excited about math. By building students’ intrinsic motivation by using strategies like Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports  (PBIS) we’re getting students excited about learning. These nonacademic factors are becoming increasingly important as the educational climate continues to shift away from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and move towards the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

As states begin shifting to align with ESSA, schools and school districts are beginning to not only look for research-based products but also products and tools that increase student engagement and improve student success.

Next Steps

Are you looking for a way to change the way students feel about math? Request a demo to see if Sokikom is a good fit for your district.

Repercussions of a Common Core Repeal

With the race to the White House heating up there has been a lot of talk about education policy including repealing Common Core. Many state and local legislators have been suggesting states repeal Common Core since it was first instated. We wondered, if politicians prevail and Common Core is repealed, what would be the repercussions?

Schools could lose funding

This may be one of the most substantial repercussions of repealing Common Core. Many states initially adopted the standards so that they would be eligible for additional federal funding and if states repeal Common Core but do not find what the federal government calls a “suitable replacement” they can expect to lose control over millions of dollars of federal funds. This is what Oklahoma faced when they repealed the standards in June 2014. To give you some background, federal funding that initially enticed states to adopt the standards has two parts:

Part 1: Schools wanted a waiver for some of the strictest No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements. Although adopting the standards was not a requirement for receiving this waiver, a majority of the states that have adopted the standards received one. Why do states want a waiver? With it states receive significant flexibility spending the Title 1 funds and without the waiver states could only use Title 1 funding for public school choice and after school tutoring.

Part 2: Schools wanted Race To The Top (RTTT) grants. To be eligible for RTTT funding, states had to vow to completely adopt college and career ready standards (similar to, if not, the Common Core standards). Not surprisingly, the easiest way for states to receive RTTT grants was to adopt Common Core standards.

When Oklahoma repealed the standards in June 2014, they did not have an alternative program prepared. Thus, they lost their No Child Left Behind waiver the next year because the federal government did not believe they had a suitable replacement.

Curriculum wouldn’t change…much

Indiana was the first state to repeal Common Core in April 2014. They were able to avoid losing their No Child Left Behind Waiver by making small changes to the curriculum. Instead of using Common Core curriculum they began to use College and Career Ready Standards which are strikingly similar to Common Core Standards. Because states have such little wiggle room when it comes to what the federal government considers a suitable replacement to Common Core, teachers often find themselves turning to Common Core material. Even Texas, a state that never adopted Common Core, uses Common Core aligned materials in classrooms.

Aside from the financial aspect, the second reason many states won’t see drastic curriculum changes is because the Common Core standards are just that, they are standards. They outline what a concepts a student should master, grade by grade. Across the country 3rd graders should have a strong understanding of multiplication. How it is taught may vary, but the fact that all 3rd graders are learning it at the same time won’t waver.

Having said this, don’t expect to throw out your Common Core textbooks anytime soon. Repealing Common Core standards is a slow, state by state process which ultimately results in a rebranding of standards. Your best bet is to relax, embrace Common Core, and participate in Professional Development to improve teaching the standards.

The Perks & Pitfalls of EdTech [A Student’s Perspective]

By: Mihir Trivedi

Growing up in the Silicon Valley, technology has always been a part of my life — inside the classroom and out. As a rising junior, I’ve seen technology used as a tool in the classroom over the years: sometimes effectively and sometimes ineffectively. The challenges and hurdles of technology have often caused debate in the technology and education communities. The problems and potential solutions can be observed in three different groups: students, administration, and teachers.


Students love technology. Technology (more specifically, the internet), gives students the ability to research information and learn beyond what is available in the classroom very quickly. The internet can also serve as a tool for distraction, in the form of non-educational games and websites. The term “Cyberslacking” has often been used to explain this use of technology for non-educational purposes. Overall, students know how to use technology — both effectively and ineffectively. It is important that students are taught and held accountable for appropriate use of technology.

School Administration and Infrastructure

Throughout both middle school and high school, I’ve seen different school administrations handle the issue (or solution) of technology in the classroom quite differently. In middle school, the idea of technology in the classroom was considered taboo — computers were to be used once a week during the programming class. However, I found a stark contrast and different set of challenges in high school. Our high school provided us with a 1-to-1 iPad program, in which each student received an iPad to facilitate their learning. Having 1600 students with Wi-Fi enabled Internet-hungry machines, however, means you need expensive Wi-Fi routers and lots of bandwidth. The administration and IT installed a new set of routers and on-campus servers to be able to handle the load of 1600+ students downloading, uploading, and streaming on a network. The key benefit of a 1:1 program, as a student, is that such a program creates a baseline level of technology for all students — making communication and collaboration more simple and standardized.


From the perspective of teachers at my high school, the reaction to iPads seem to be mixed. The science and math teachers seem to really enjoy their newfound, quick access to resources and information on the web. Language arts and social sciences teachers, on the other hand, appeared to struggle with the adoption of iPads in the classroom. The biggest problem for these teachers at my school was the students’ use of iPads for “Cyberslacking” — using iPads to play games, surf the web, or otherwise use them for non-classroom purposes.

From my experience, tablets (and other technology) are most effective in the classroom when a teacher sets specific guidelines on how technology should be used. One of the best uses I’ve seen was by my Biology teacher in 9th grade, He utilized an engagement tool that allowed students to interact and follow along with his presentation (on a projector) while the students were on their iPads. This kept students paying attention, because content they needed to learn was directly delivered to the tablets.

In the past two years, working with the administration and IT department at my school, it became clear that the solution to technology in the classroom was simple : training and education on technology use. Only when teachers and students are properly educated on the benefits and pitfalls of technology in the classroom can we expect to find a balance and maximize results of integrating technology in the classroom.

Whether it be in Silicon Valley or Death Valley, technology in the classroom clearly provides many benefits. My interest in education technology has led me to start multiple school organizations for the advancement of technology education, as well as pursue a position at Sokikom. One of my most exciting advancements was a presentation at CES (Consumer Electronics Show), on the integration of hardware engineering and the Internet of Things in middle and high school classrooms. My fellowship with Sokikom has allowed me to expand on my interests and further a field that will only continue to impact the lives of millions. A positive experience with technology as a student will encourage this generation to go into the educational technology field to grow and enhance the classroom for future generations.

Beyond Engagement: 5 things principals can do to lead technology integration in classrooms

School leaders have a challenging and important, but often overlooked, job in education. These talented individuals are charged with recruiting and hiring staff, designing professional development, communicating with parents and families, fundraising, conducting performance evaluations, setting the master schedule and maintaining the physical plant (to name a few of their responsibilities). On top of these duties, there is also pressure for  school leaders to stay on top of the latest educational research to provide 21st-century learning experiences for every student. Technology is one piece of a very complicated educational puzzle, and when it is used well, it can support meaningful learning experiences for all students. This post explores five ways in which principals can successfully integrate technology into every classroom in their schools.

Develop a vision and share with all your stakeholders

What do you want your students to be able to do at the end of the school year or the end of their time in your school? What are the skills and habits of mind you want students to demonstrate, and how can technology support these behaviors? The Common Core’s shifts require educators to rethink the tasks in which students engage, but they also open the door to students’ use of contemporary technology and media  in tasks high on Bloom’s taxonomy!

This requires leaders to be thoughtful and intentional about how technology can support student learning. The best way to do develop a comprehensive vision for student learning through technology may be to engage teachers, parents, students, and community members to discuss and plan what learners should be able to do. These individuals can also serve as your mouthpieces once the vision is created.

Develop a plan to test and evaluate products and technologies in the classroom

Many companies developing new technologies use the “build-measure-learn” cycle to create and revise products. Within schools, new initiatives should follow a similar pattern. Many schools already use inquiry cycles (examples here and here) to measure student performance, and adjust teaching practice as needed.

As you roll out and implement new technology and programs, you should engage teachers in a similar process. The first step is research, and product review sites like EdSurge, LearnTrials,, and many other provide a rigorous and/or crowdsourced approach to product evaluations. Teachers can be involved in this phase, and also should be involved in testing potential software and hardware solutions against each other in real situations. This can occur head-to-head in a classroom, or spread across classrooms. After a trial period, you might convene teachers and students to see how implementation is progressing (and compare it with your own data collected through #3 and #4 below). After developing an action plan, you can then make mid-course corrections and convene again later to re-assess progress. As you implement a new initiative, teachers should be your partners in the process, and they should feel some amount of ownership for the decision, so that there is buy-in and political support across the staff.

Get into classrooms everyday

As instructional leaders, a major goal is developing alignment and coherence across classrooms. Principals can use classroom visits and observations to measure the level of coherence in what teachers do every day. However, if classroom visits are not part of principals’ regular activities, they can startle teachers and make them fear taking chances. So make it clear to teachers that visits are are not punitive, but are for you to collect information about where they need additional support.  Kim Marshall is a huge proponent of “mini-observations” of 5-15 minutes, which allow you to get slices of your teachers instruction over the entire year, thus giving you a more robust view of their teaching.

By creating a culture that breaks down silos between classrooms, teachers can then become more comfortable in having other visitors – including their peer teachers. This gives teachers an opportunity to learn from each other, and develop new strategies for technology integration in their own classrooms.

Use a framework to assess how teachers integrate technology, then give them support

You won’t need to reinvent the wheel as you and your staff visit each other’s classrooms. Many organizations provide  tools to measure how teachers are using technology. The Technology Integration Matrix is a tool developed by the University of South Florida, and it describes the levels of technology integration in both the curriculum and the learning environment. Additionally, the ISTE offers a paid Classroom Observation Tool which can be used to better understand trends in devices, curriculum, and activities across each classrooms and the school. Once you identify a discrepancy between your goals and vision and what’s occurring in classrooms, it’s important to provide feedback to teachers, and even identify professional learning opportunities for teachers to develop skills as a team.

Look for use of technology authentically as a learning tool

Karen Cator, former Director of the Office of Educational Technology in the US Department of Education describes her visit to a school in North Carolina with classrooms in which she “couldn’t tell where the front of the classroom was” and “technology facilitated communication, engagement, interaction, and understanding.” These examples show the importance of not simply using technology for its own sake, but rather, making  sure technology is facilitating a deep learning experience. This also suggests that technology integration is more than giving students individual assignments on devices after a lecture. Classrooms with integrated technology should feel quite different than their traditional counterparts. Teachers may require additional training and support  to become more comfortable with these setups, so it principals should investigate professional development options for the staff that incorporate these strategies.

We hope these ideas help you lead technological change in your schools, and if we missed any ideas and strategies you’ve found successful, please send them our way to