Tech-Savvy Intervention Program Manager Harnesses Grapevine for Educator Buy-In

Reading Challenge: Promoting the use of MindPlay as a K-12 reading solution.

Houston Independent School District’s Intervention Program Manager, Mary Miner, says it was viral communication about MindPlay’s success that inspired more and more schools to adopt it as a reading solution. “We never mandated the use of MindPlay but allowed word of mouth to determine which schools would implement it, says Miner. “It was completely voluntary.”

Miner, who works with dyslexic, RTI, and literacy intervention teams at district campuses, is also a seasoned primary grade teacher, librarian, and early adopter of education technology. Having seen many tech-based literacy programs over the years, she is savvy about what works and what doesn’t with students. “MindPlay’s Universal Screener pinpoints each tiny, discriminate piece of a student’s basic reading needs, which the program then addresses,” says Miner. “It only gives kids what they don’t know and so cuts down on their level of frustration, which is really important when dealing with learners who have failed many times.”

Miner was convinced MindPlay would be an effective solution for her district when she saw it at a regional dyslexia conference. In January of 2016, she tested the program in 30 district schools, targeting English language learners, dyslexics and low-performers at all grade levels.

Acknowledging there is always the challenge of obtaining teacher buy-in when implementing new programs, Miner likens such resistance to an initial reluctance to integrate technology into instruction. “Some teachers are resistant because they are unsure something new can make a big impact. It’s only proof from their colleagues that will change their minds.”

Impact: And proof, is exactly what HISD educators got once the four-month MindPlay testing period was completed. Among the convincing examples reported by colleagues were classrooms of mostly Spanish- speaking ELL second-graders who had previously not moved off the bottom rung of learning English suddenly leaping up to advanced levels on the Texas test for ELL students. Middle school ELL teachers also reported leaps in skill and also confidence, with one class informing their teacher she need not read the final test questions aloud to them as they understood the English.

Other stories include an elementary school bilingual teacher saying his students were “more engaged and busy” with MindPlay than he’d seen them before and a Montessori teacher, with mostly English-speaking students, saying the kids were interacting with the online teacher as if she were an actual teacher. End of the year interviews revealed the impact MindPlay had when middle school students asked, “Are we going to get to work on MindPlay again next year?”

For dyslexic students, the truly adaptive design of the program is a huge strength, says Miner. “Dyslexic learners need lots of repetition and the ability to work on a single small skill from lessons offering many different points of view is very effective.”

Miner says she likes to use the metaphor of a five-star restaurant when explaining the program to her friends. MindPlay is the sous chef and the chef. The sous chef has all the ingredients a learner needs and then the chef screens for exactly which ingredients are right for each child. Then with the help of the teacher, they put together each learner’s “plate.” “The teacher and MindPlay work hand in hand to ensure each student is well-nurtured,” says Miner.