Common Sense Review
Updated November 2015


Well-paced, individualized instruction anchors vast literacy resource
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Common Sense Rating 4
Teacher Rating (1 Teacher Review) 4
  • Assessments are distinguished by the ISIP icon on the bottom and test a variety of reading skills.
  • Demonstrate what you know about synonyms through multiple-choice fill-in-the-blank questions.
  • Learning programs can be bought separately and span multiple topics.
  • Construct words phoneme by phoneme, then place them in a story in context.
  • Detailed progress reports help inform teachers' instruction.
  • Browse offscreen lesson plans that match the learning themes covered in Istation games.
This comprehensive resource spans both on- and offscreen learning.
It can be a challenge to orient yourself amid abundant reports and materials.
Bottom Line
If you have the time and the budget, this thorough, supplemental program has real potential to help you individualize instruction.
Mieke VanderBorght
Common Sense Reviewer
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

Many activities are presented as games, and there's lots of variety. The interface and design may feel somewhat outdated and institutional, which may turn off some users.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

Explicit verbal instructions and explanations introduce new concepts. Kids practice through quizzes, games, and interactive activities. Still, sometimes learning feels layered on top of the fun rather than integrated with it.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 4

An abundance of progress information is available for teachers, though kids don't get much of a sense of where they are in their learning journeys. Offscreen resources help teachers supplement learning and target problem areas.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

Istation presents itself as a supplemental curriculum, but it sure covers a lot of ground, making it relevant for teachers in lots of ways. It's relatively easy to create student accounts and set kids free to play. Instruction is explicit enough for kids to use the program on their own, and the adaptive nature helps meet kids right at their areas of need. This makes Istation a solid option for homework or review.

Alternatively, build in some regular class time for the program; use this time to conference with students individually. To take full advantage of the program, put in some time learning about the reporting options and additional resources. With tons of ways to view progress and organize results, you'll get valuable information about your students' learning needs; from there you'll be able to better tailor your subsequent classroom instruction.

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What's It Like?

Istation is a supplemental learning system that adapts and individualizes learning content for each student. The main focus is reading skills, but there are also units on math and writing; science and social studies receive tangential coverage within the reading program. Kids begin the reading program with an assessment, which automatically repeats monthly to monitor and record progress. Subsequent instruction is adapted based on kids' progress. Through a game-like setting, kids encounter lessons that address a variety of reading skills from phonemic awareness to vocabulary, spelling, and more. The reading unit is available in both English and Spanish.

It's important to note that Istation is a downloadable program only and not Web-based; students will sign in with a unique user ID and password before playing locally. Kids can also play, though not take assessments, on a tablet. However, no matter where kids play all data is shared through the local network, so teachers can see reports from any computer with Internet access, and kids can play on any device with Istation installed. Teachers can view detailed reports on kids' progress and organize data -- for individuals or classes -- in a number of ways. There's also a large database of lesson ideas that focus on specific learning goals, and the program's material easily corresponds with many Common Core State Standards.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Istation's teaching method, which bases itself on lots of verbal explanations, is slow, detailed, and very explicit. This makes Istation a solid choice for self-paced learning; kids get a lot of instruction and should be fine going through the program on their own. Kids who struggle with some of the concepts can also benefit from this kind of approach. The downside is that there's so much talking and explaining that kids are often relegated to being passive listeners. Some of the opportunities for interaction can start to feel like dressed-up standardized testing, particularly during the assessments. The program is best used strategically and judiciously as a supplement to your own instruction.

When using this as a teacher resource, keep in mind that there's a lot here, including a wealth of lesson materials. This means that Istation can easily remain a relevant and valid resource for classrooms with kids of varying abilities. The reports can give teachers valuable information about students' progress for both individuals and entire classes. However, with so much available, the interface can be clunky at times. Even with abundant help videos and regular webinars, learning to navigate the site could take a significant amount of time.

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