Review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated March 2017

iStation

Vast supplemental resource has individualized instruction, dated design

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Teachers say (2 Reviews)
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Grades
Pre-K-8 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: This comprehensive resource spans both on- and offscreen learning.

Cons: It can challenging to orient yourself to all the reports and materials, and the interface could use a web-based refresh.

Bottom Line: This thorough supplemental program can come in handy for students who need the individualized practice, but kids will likely find it rote.

Istation presents itself as a supplemental curriculum, but it covers a lot of ground. It's relatively easy to create student accounts and set students free to play. Instruction is explicit enough for students to use the program on their own, and the adaptive nature is intended to meet students 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. In fact, Istation could be used as an initial baseline at the beginning of a year to determine your students' skill levels, and to help shape your plans for that year.

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Istation is a supplemental learning system that adapts and individualizes learning content for each student. Reading and writing topics cover the most ground, with material for grades K-12. There are also units on math for K-5, and some coverage of science and social studies topics. A third program is geared towards Spanish bilingual learners and presents all material, with an emphasis on reading, in Spanish. Students begin with an assessment, which automatically repeats monthly to monitor and record progress. Subsequent instruction is adapted based on students' progress. Through a game-like setting, students encounter lessons that address a variety of skills from phonemic awareness to vocabulary, spelling, and more for reading, and number, place value, addition, and more for math.

It's important to note that Istation is a downloadable program only and not web-based (except through the Chrome app); students will sign in with a unique user ID and password before playing locally. Students can also play on a tablet. However, no matter where students play all data is shared through the local network, so teachers can see reports from any computer with Internet access, and students can play on any device with Istation installed.  Teachers can view detailed reports on students' 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, an extensive and thorough technical and user support system, and the program's material easily corresponds with many Common Core State Standards.

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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; students get a lot of instruction and should be fine going through the program on their own. Students 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 students 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, and students could find this frustrating. Students have the option to freely explore learning games and activities where they have more autonomy and more interaction; however, even these games aren't quite in line with more contemporary learning design. 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 students 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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Overall Rating
3

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
3

Activities are presented as games, and there's lots of variety. Load times are sometimes long, and the interface and design can feel awkward and dated.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
3

Explicit verbal instructions and explanations introduce new concepts. Students practice a wide swatch of content through quizzes, games, and activities. Still, the fun feels more layered on top of, instead of integrated with, the learning.

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.


Teacher Reviews

4
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Featured review by
Tay-Vaughn M. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Glenridge Elementary School
Landover Hills, MD
4
Great way for struggling readers and mathematicians to get some extra help!

My overall opinion is that I-Station is a great tool to have in the classroom. Anything that allows for extra assistance, especially with struggling readers is helpful. I like that I can see student progress monthly and their "trend" by viewing the reports. If I feel that a student has improved in a certain area, I can start an ISIP assessment myself. I don't have to for the 1st of the month. I like how it gives the student a graphical score after each ISIP assessment so they can see immediately if they improved on their score since the last test. This gives students a bit more ownership. The program is engaging for most students. Though after some time, in my experience, students tend to not want to use I-Station. Luckily, this doesn't happen until near the end of the school year. If that happens, there is another reading intervention program I use. similar to I-Station.

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