Amy Nicholson
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Amy Nicholson has over twelve years experience designing educational multimedia for the K-6 classroom. She is currently at Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL), serving as the senior instructional designer for JUMP Into Reading for Meaning, a vocabulary product for struggling fourth grader readers. Prior to JUMP, Amy was the instructional designer for NEARStar (also from PREL) and has design credits on over a dozen CDs from The Lightspan Partnership and Jostens Learning. Amy holds a M.A. in Educational Technology from San Diego State University.



Embracing Games in the Classroom: Allowing English Language Learners to Learn from Day One

General Description
This presentation explores the key components behind the Network for English Acquisition and Reading Star Schools project (NEARStar), which integrates instructional technology to develop reading and language skills of elementary English language learners (ELLs). NEARStar’s early development as research-based online program enabled it to make a successful transformation to a viable commercial product - Scholastic’s new multimedia educational software, Zip ZoomTM English.

As our schools continue to face increasing numbers of students whose first language is not English, they are confronted with instructional challenges compounded by NCLB requirements for quality instruction, higher expectations and accountability for student achievement. NEARStar, a 5-year US Department of Education research and development grant that ended in 2005, proposed to meet the language and reading needs of elementary English language learners (ELLs) and their teachers through a Web-based interactive program. It was part of Star School’s program of work to accomplish distance-learning objectives of providing traditionally underserved populations with high quality learning software and professional development. The project brought together a team of individuals representing diverse fields of expertise necessary to conceptualize and develop an effective Web-based program.

Content of Presentation
Presenters highlight the developmental process of NEARStar that was challenged by a research grant to integrate previously discrete domains of English acquisition, English literacy, and digital media to create a meaningful, fun and engaging learning environment for students who are acquiring English. They examine how the pedagogical underpinnings of the project drove the instructional design and trace the journey from a research and development grant to a commercial product. There is insight to some of the challenges faced during the development of an interactive software program as well as reflection on how attention to key educational issues such as alignment to standards is critical throughout the instructional design process if the program is to be embraced as an integral part of a school curriculum.

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