The Old Knewton Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Adaptive Learning

Video games and failure-based learning

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I used to teach afterschool in City of New York/Parks & Recreation’s Computer Resource Center program. Kids in the program spent a lot of time playing educational games like Logical Journey Of The Zoombinis and The Incredible Machine.

The kids would literally fight with each other to get to be the first to play these games, with an intensity that surprised me. I mean, the games are fun and everything, but they were nonviolent, with less-than state of the art graphics and no recognizable characters from TV or movies. The educational content was rarely disguised as “fun,” and yet, kids who snoozed through math class were riveted by the exact same content when it was presented in the context of Treasure Mathstorm. Read the rest of this entry »


Reverse Engineering and Knewton

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When evolutionary biologists encounter a trait in nature, they perform a process known as reverse engineering to understand why that trait existed in the past and continues to exist in the present.

Take, for example, the peacock’s tail.

Evolutionary theory is based on the idea that every adaptation must increase the organism’s reproductive fitness or it would long ago have been bred out of existence. On the face of it, the peacock’s tail poses a problem to the theory. It’s big, heavy and impractical to the point of being downright counterfunctional. The recent theory is that the tail’s very cumbersomeness advertises the peacock’s high level of overall reproductive fitness. The tail announces to peahens, “look at me, I can schlep around all this excess plumage, I must be a pretty impressive peacock.”

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Written by Knewton

September 30, 2009 at 5:27 PM

Customize your LSAT practice with “Create a Quiz”

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There are many ways to prep for the LSAT, but all the experts agree on one piece of advice: practice, practice, practice.

The LSAT tests a lot of skills. How can you make sure your practice program is right for you? Knewton has a new solution: “Create a Quiz.”

Create a Quiz is an interactive study tool that lets you tailor your practice tests to fit your needs. Looking for extra Logic Games work? Design a quiz that tests your Selection and Absolute Ordering skills. Logical Reasoning section giving you trouble? Run through a quiz of Assumption, Parallel Reasoning, and Strengthen/Weaken questions.

You can make as many quizzes as you want, in as many combinations as you can imagine. The quiz tool draws on nearly 2,000 real LSAT questions, and it shows all your results so you can track your progress. Additionally, every question features a detailed explanation written by our team of experts.

Knewton’s Create a Quiz makes LSAT prep personal and adaptive. We give you all the LSAT sections, all the question types, all the explanations—you just decide how you want to use them.

Written by Knewton

August 6, 2009 at 7:17 PM

Posted in Adaptive Learning

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Response to WSJ piece on test prep

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David Kuntz, Vice President of Research at Knewton, sent a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal in response to this article. The article intimated that many prep companies purposely lower student scores on diagnostic exams in order to produce the appearance of greater subsequent improvement. His letter was published in the June 3 print edition of the paper.

He wrote:
“Having worked for 20 years in the testing industry, both at ETS and LSAC, I can attest to the difficulty of creating diagnostic tests that accurately assess student performance. I am currently the Vice President of Research at, where the original designers of adaptive testing work alongside veterans from ACT and other high-stakes testing organizations to mirror standardized tests like the GMAT and the LSAT. Even with the actual test-makers at our disposal, we still face challenges creating perfectly accurate diagnostic exams. Knewton uses its diagnostics as the starting point for the adaptive learning process; without accurate tests it would be impossible to tailor a specific course of study for an individual student. I like to give my colleagues in the test industry the benefit of the doubt; these tests are extremely difficult to replicate. Further, a diagnostic test that does not in fact diagnose has no pedagogical value.”

Written by Knewton

July 7, 2009 at 12:54 PM

Learning Adapted

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Branch_PB_04_stillThe word “adapt” has its roots in the Latin word aptare, meaning “to fit.” We think learning works best when it fits you specifically, the way shoes work best when they fit your feet. One on one, any competent teacher can customize the lesson to fit a student’s needs. But in groups, it can be difficult or impossible. Every classroom teacher faces the same challenge: Half the class is bored; the other half is struggling.

How do you pace a lesson so that everyone in the room is on the same page?

Technology can help. Computer programs can track your progress and serve up lesson plans or practice questions to suit your unique needs. Self-pacing helps to keep you in a state of fluid learning. When you’re working, you want to be challenged enough to stay engaged, without being so overwhelmed that you get frustrated. Software can fill the role of a personal tutor.

You’ve probably experienced adaptive learning without meaning to—in the context of video games. A well-designed game is first and foremost a self-paced learning tool. If you master the easier early levels, you move on to the harder ones. If not, you repeat the early ones. Not every game is well-balanced, but the best ones carefully balance challenges with rewards to maintain your personal flow.

At Knewton, we think adaptive learning is especially important because some of our students will face adaptive testing. The GMAT is administered as a Computer Adaptive Test. It starts with a question of medium difficulty. If you answer it correctly, you get a harder question next. If you answer incorrectly, you get an easier question. The computerized GMAT is unique to each test taker. We think the best way to practice for this kind of test is with computerized adaptive learning.

Written by Knewton

June 26, 2009 at 3:23 PM