In my recent blog, What Teachers Want: 6 Revealing Truths About Teacher Technology Needs, I outlined the findings from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation survey that unveiled what 21st century teachers want from digital instructional tools. The findings revealed a need for better resources to meet rigorous state standards such as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and to accurately prepare students for 21st century college and career life. Six key areas were highlighted as priorities for educators using digital tools. The main challenge facing 21st century educators is finding digital instructional tools that will facilitate and meet these needs, without significantly adding to their workload in terms of up-skilling in technology and researching the right solutions.

Fishtree is an adaptive learning platform that offers a simple solution for teachers to meet every single one of these needs, without the necessity to up-skill in technology, or to search various different sites for all the answers.

1. Delivering instruction directly to students.

The survey’s findings indicate a need for teachers to better facilitate direct instruction to students, which incorporates digital tools with content that is aligned to college-and career-ready standards. Fishtree offers teachers a digital learning platform that facilitates this direct instruction, while ensuring alignment to state standards. The system provides teachers with a vast range of automatically standard-aligned content, ensuring every student receives the most effective resources that incorporate technology.

“As an Educator I was pretty confident that I understood the common core and how I needed to teach to it but Fishtree gives me the extra confidence that I am tightly aligning my  lessons to a standard. Over time I start to build up a portfolio of lessons that I have executed in my class which I can show have been aligned and taught to common core standards” – Elementary teacher.

2. Diagnosing student learning needs.

The study shows a need to facilitate better progress evaluation of every single student, to identify learning gaps, and to provide constructive feedback and remediation. Fishtree provides teachers with an incredible progress and performance tracking system, automatically storing content and assessments and building up individual student portfolios. These results are then outlined clearly through its interactive gradebook, providing informative diagrams with visible progress and performance mapped out for every single student. A teacher can then select a student for a more detailed analysis, or even remediate with one click.

“Historical Assessment data is not that easy to gather, pulling from one report or another for multiple students in order to support or change direction for a single student or a group of like-performing students. A system like Fishtree gives me real-time data on assessment  performance and I can remediate any individual easily where and when required” – Elementary teacher.

3. Varying the delivery method of instruction.

Teachers also expressed a need to vary the delivery method of instruction as a means of encouraging class-wide engagement, and to facilitate better understanding of concepts. Using Fishtree, a teacher is offered an extensive range of engaging resources including text, video, audio and real-time media, all available from one location. These resources are easily accessible as they are tailored to suit every lesson objective. The platform also integrates social media as a means of encouraging collaboration and allowing for further student engagement. Fishtree helps to facilitate blended, mobile or flipped learning environments through its unlimited accessibility, and adaptive structure.

“Fishtree makes the transition from introducing technology in the class to integrating it throughout all facets of learning in class easier by providing enriched content and creating a community within the class, engaged in sharing and higher learning… I  see Fishtree being a big help in the transformation of flipping a classroom and helping a school be able to reach their students in a way that relates to the students and gives them what they want and need for education” – Josh W Hammond, Elementary Teacher, Vermont.

4. Tailoring the learning experience to meet individual student needs.

Teachers identified a need for digital instructional tools that adapt the pace, style and content of instruction in order to meet students’ personalized learning needs. As an adaptive platform, Fishtree enables teachers to scale one-to-one instruction, personalizing every lesson, and all resources, to meet individual student needs. This is done through the system’s Learning DNA concept, in which each student’s specific learning profile is analyzed, thus allowing the system to tailor resources automatically to suit their needs. In this way, a student is given the ability to work at his/her own pace, in an independent, personalized learning environment. Teachers can then intervene and remediate students or offer instant feedback where necessary, maintaining teacher involvement in the students’ learning.

“We selected Fishtree for our personalized learning platform because we felt that it was personalized for students in a way that students could really be able to connect with the work that they’re doing, and take it home. Also, it allows students to interact in a way that is more student-centered and allows them to apply the learning that is happening in class with 21st century skills” – Dr. Oscar Santos, Headmaster of Cathedral High School, former School Superintendent, and Boston Teacher of the Year.

5. Supporting student collaboration and providing interactive experiences.

Teachers reported a need for interactive tools that can encourage, and provide an avenue for, student collaboration. Fishtree provides a solution through its built-in social media-based feature that promotes and facilitates peer-to-peer engagement. The ‘social stream’ application allows students to share and exchange material related to lessons and concepts discussed in class, in an open and safe environment. This feature is designed to engage students and to improve teacher/student interaction, providing teachers with complete access to all student activity and discussions.

“Is it poor to say that I don’t know how my students interact with each other out of class? Maybe that’s the point? With Fishtree, if one of my students comments on a content source whilst doing homework, that starts a discussion I can see that real-time, and jump in to collaborate and give support. That’s powerful stuff!” – Elementary teacher.

6. Fostering independent practice of specific skills.

Teachers revealed the desire for more student-centered education through which students can take charge of their own learning through independent practice. Fishtree offers students a platform through which independent and self-directed learning is unlimited. Students can access the system at any time, from any location due to its mobile capabilities. Thanks to its personalization feature, all resources a student generates are tailored to suit his/her specific needs, thus making this self-learning more productive.  The collaboration feature can then be used to share ideas, resources and material with teacher and peers, to encourage further creativity and critical thinking.

“The adaptive feature is what sets Fishtree apart from all the rest in that you are providing adaptive learning in an interface that is mobile, it’s content-driven, you can really drive instruction from it, it gives the possibility of going to a paperless, digital textbook.” – Robert Dickson, District CTO and National School Board Association’s “20 to Watch”.

Are you looking for a digital tool to help you overcome these challenges? Try Fishtree for FREE!

About the author:


Lorna Keane is a teacher of French, English and ESL. She specializes in language teaching and has taught in second and third-level institutions in several countries. She holds a B.A in languages and cultural studies and an M.A in French literature, theory and visual culture. Subscribe to her blog or follow her on Twitter.


Image credits: Veronique Debord-Lazaro / CC BY 2.0