Apps Create New Opportunities for Old Ideas


Remember Reading Rainbow? If you grew up in the 80s and 90s, you probably do. The beloved children’s television show encouraged boys and girls to read to increase literacy rates and educate youth. Famous Star Trek TV star, LeVar Burton, hosted the show on PBS until 2006—an impressive lifespan of 23 years.

Reading Rainbow was one of the first PBS shows to be broadcast in stereo. At the time, using television to educate kids and encourage reading was incredibly innovative and successful. At first, it was intended to be only broadcast during the summer months when many kids planted themselves in front of the TV screen. But its popularity soared and it became a long-standing and Emmy Award-Winning show.

“The conversation back in the day was, ‘Is television going to be the death knell for education?’” LeVar said. “I thought, ‘Wait a minute. Television offers us an amazing opportunity as a technology. Why? Because the engagement factor is solved. Kids have self-selected for us what they want the point-of-purchase to be.””

“Over time, it was proven that children who watched Reading Rainbow were entertained, yes, and inspired by the books that they saw on the show, the other children they saw who were viewing books on the show, and the video field trips that took them to places that they had no idea existed in reality,” he said. “Among those kids, their reading comprehension skills soared.”

Like LeVar says, some people push back against new technology in fears of it threatening educational efforts. But as in the case with Reading Rainbow, it is obvious that technology can be a powerful tool to educate society.

Today, youth still watch TV, but a large part of the information they consume comes from the computer, tablets, and video games. When Reading Rainbow went off the air in 2009, LeVar saw it not as the death of the movement, but an opportunity to take it further in a different medium.

Three years later, LeVar launched the Reading Rainbow App, and it became one of the most downloaded educational Apps in the iTunes Store. It allows children to read unlimited books, explore video field trips starring Burton, and earn rewards for reading.

In May of this year, Kickstarter launched a campaign for the Reading Rainbow App to make it available on the Web, smartphones, game consoles, and other streaming devices. Within 11 hours, they raised millions of dollars—making the App available to as many as 7,500 low-income classrooms.

The truth remains that technology provides endless opportunities for people to connect and learn. Students are no longer limited to using pen and paper in the classroom, or television for classroom resources. Tablets, smartphones, Apps, and cloud technology will revolutionize the way we learn. Reading Rainbow is an example of where technology can take us into the future.

AlvaEDU develops educational Apps and the CourseFlow learning development platform to enable educators to create and publish online learning.  To learn more about how AlvaEDU is transforming education, click here.

To read more about the Reading Rainbow App and their campaign, read the article by Education Dive or visit LeVar’s website and make a contribution to online education.






The Latest News in EdTech

ipad_studentAccording to new insights from a research report, “Online College Students 2014: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences,” about one-third of college students are getting their education online entirely. The rest of them are either taking classes completely on campus, or are in blended classrooms—doing part of their coursework online and other portions on campus.

Online education is no longer a novelty; it’s commonplace and increasing in every educational institution worldwide. As these opportunities increase, the marketplace evolves. We are in the midst of a transformation of the way people shop, choose, consume, and endorse education.

The news source Education DIVE recently did an article covering some of the key news in online education today, resulting from the recent research performed by The Learning House Inc.—which helps colleges create online degree programs.

Here are a few points on what the online education marketplace looks like this year.

Competition is rising

Since online education is no longer a new innovation, students have the opportunity to shop around for the right online degree—and they have a lot of options. More universities are offering programs that are done completely online. Students are looking for high job placement rates, affordable prices, and the ability to transfer credits to other schools. The Learning House reported that the majority of students cared most about the overall reputation of the college or university.

Cost is not the deciding factor

Students are considering a lot of factors when choosing to take an online course, and price is not the main one. Online degrees are not cheap, and in some cases even more expensive than a traditional education. Education DIVE reported: “Among students who had already enrolled in an online program, 66% of undergraduates and 79% of graduate students said they didn’t select the least expensive program. Financial aid is critical for about half of all online students, but only 20% say they would not attend an institution if their financial aid needs were not been met.” The study shows that men and women are willing to pay more money for a higher-quality program. Quality and reputation is key.

The motivation has changed

Due to a poor economy and the job crisis, more people are unemployed and looking for work. The amount of unemployed online students has risen from 16 percent in 2012 to 30 percent in 2014. A degree in a related field is more important than ever in acquiring a job, other than experience. Completing a bachelor’s or working on a master’s could be the deciding factor a person gets hired or not. So many are rushing to the computer to get a degree in hopes of getting employment or their dream job. Statistics in this report show that about 40 percent of online students reported improvement in their employment status after graduating.

To read the full reports and article, click on the links below:

Education DIVE Article

The Learning House Research Report



High School Student Thrives with Online Learning

Sophie GarrettMost high school kids start their morning rushing to the car to make it to class, but for 15-year-old Sophie Garrett, school starts in the comfort of her own room—online. On a typical Monday, Sophie begins her day at 10:30 a.m. when her dog Marty jumps on the bed and licks her face. She then walks down the stairs to get some breakfast, usually chocolate chip waffles with tea, and then returns to her bedroom for class. Since her professors and classmates will only see her from the waist up on camera, Sophie stays in her pajama pants, but puts on a presentable T-shirt.

The Stanford Online High School (OHS) is based in Stanford, California, so even though class officially starts at 8:30 a.m., around the world kids are following a different schedule. Sophie is on Eastern Standard Time, so her classes are pushed forward three hours—starting at 11:30 a.m. and ending at 10 at night.

“This is a teenager’s dream, staying up late and sleeping in,” Sophie’s mother Wendy says. “Eight o’ clock in the evening is kind of primetime for her, so it works with her biological clock.”

Sophie’s first class is Latin, one of her favorites. She logs onto the program Saba Centra and puts her headphones on to prevent hearing any reverberation or Marty barking. As students enter the virtual classroom, they chat using a text box at the bottom of the screen. This gives boys and girls the opportunity to socialize before and after class like they would in a typical high school.

As the professor begins the lecture, a video window pops up so everyone can see his or her face. On the computer screen, students watch the agenda slide, which is much like a PowerPoint presentation, to follow along with the content.

Sophie StudiesIf a student has a question, they can click the “hand-raise button” to get the professor’s attention. The teacher can also call on students in class and bring up their face on camera for everyone to see. Much like a blended classroom, these “classes” operate more like discussion times. Students do their homework, reading, and group projects in between them.

Classes are organized much like a college schedule; she doesn’t have them every day. On off days, Sophie does homework and participates in extracurricular activities, like exercising with the Wii Fit to get her PE credit or singing in the Girl Choir of South Florida. Maximizing her time by participating in these activities and working hard in her accelerated curriculum means less time wasted, which is exactly why Sophie started OHS in the first place.

“The reason I wanted to go online specifically, and not to a brick and mortar school, is that I went to a regular middle school and I always found myself bogged down by all the extra time that was being wasted,” Sophie said. “It was actually very difficult to sit down and do work or study at all because everyone was always talking around me and being noisy. And online you don’t have those distractions.” Continue reading

The Artists of Alva: Brian Tighe

Be True to Yourself


Brian Tighe believes in the familiar phrase, “When one door closes another door opens.” His experiences in life, both good and bad, drive him to be a better artist and a better person. Though his greatest passion is art, Brian’s ultimate goal is to bring a positive light into the world.

Like most budding artists, Brian started out doodling in his notebook during class. Unfortunately school was not a riveting experience for him. Not only was there a lack of art classes growing up, but also most of his general courses simply didn’t grab his attention.

“I really didn’t think school was my thing to begin with,” Brian said. “But I enjoyed it more towards the end when my degree got more specific.”

He grew up watching a lot of Disney animated movies and was intrigued by their productions. When Brian watched Finding Nemo for the first time in 2003, he was blown away by the incredible quality of the film and the 3D animations. He decided that was the direction he wanted to go in for his career—making animated art. Continue reading

Keeping The Balance That’s Right: Work Hard, Play Harder

There is a special smile that comes over Tim Loudermilk’s face when he looks at a tablet, or really any new gadget that he can get his hands on. You’ll see a Mac and a PC in his office at any given time, and an iPad by his side wherever he goes. Technology is his first love, but it wasn’t always that way. There was one other love in Tim’s life before his passion for technology began.

Tim Loudermilk was born in the small town of Norwood, Ohio, just outside of Cincinnati. His father worked in the auto manufacturing industry, like most people in the town since it was a prominent manufacturing location. Most kids who got out of high school either went to college or worked on Camaros. But Tim did neither; he just played ice hockey.

“I think I viewed education like most kids do–as an opportunity to play sports,” he said. “I was a big ice hockey player.” After high school, Tim took a year off and worked for the Boston Bruins as their equipment manager. The job gave him unlimited amounts of time on the ice. From there, he joined the hockey team at Ohio State University.

“I was a left wing at Ohio State University and just had an absolute blast playing hockey,” Tim said. “I enjoyed hockey, but finally realized that I was going to either play hockey or graduate. And since I didn’t really have a shot at the pros, I focused on my academics.”

At the time, Ohio State had one of the largest grants from NASA, providing enormous computer facilities and programs to its students. Tim took advantage of that and spent less time on the ice and more time in the computer lab.

After graduating college, Procter and Gamble recruited Tim to work in its management systems program. Out of the thirty-two selected, Tim was one of two who had a degree in computer science. Continue reading

The Biggest Trends in Education Technology Today

In this interview, President and CEO Tim Loudermilk discusses with AlvaEDU’s Editor, Michelle de Carion, the current trends in education technology and forecasts the future of online learning.

Tim LoudermilkWhat do you anticipate will be the biggest trend in education technology this year?

I think full immersion of tablets is really what’s happened. And it’s not something that’s been led by academia; it’s been led by students. If you think about 10 years ago, no one walked in with their own computer, or maybe they would have a heavy computer they would use. But whether or not we want to put education on tablets, every student is walking into class carrying one. So I think the popularity of the Nexus tablets from Google and the iPad is an enormous factor in education. But I don’t mean just using them as a browser. Sure, everybody can use them as a browser. That’s great. You can use your phone as a browser. We could do that 10 years ago.  But today, their walking in and really embedding content on the iPad and using it like no other device. I think five or six years ago, everyone thought that Internet growth was the most powerful thing that was ever going to happen. Well, I don’t think you find today’s youth sitting in front of a computer. You find them with their tablet or with their smartphone out. In the world, I think this is going to have the biggest impact. So getting ready for that and taking advantage of it is really the next “big thing” in my opinion; and it’s happening right now. Continue reading

The Artists of Alva: Jiemei Lin

 Art is a Lifestyle

Jiemei Lin

For Jiemei Lin, art is a way of life and an opportunity to create special connections with others. It’s not a job; it’s a lifestyle. From a very young age, Jiemei has been drawing pictures and ingesting ideas from all around her. She grew up in Hangzhou, China—one of the oldest cities in the world. Jiemei calls it an “old and weird town”, full of all kinds of interesting Asian architecture.

Since this young artist didn’t have any siblings, she spent her time reading, making drawings, and imagining odd and surreal scenes in her mind. Though she was alone most of the time, Jiemei says she wasn’t lonely. Her artistry and imagination kept her company.

Hello Ramen Girl“I have been making drawings since I was young,” Jiemei said. “Drawing has always been a very personal and important thing for my life, like a nature need. When I was young, I wrote stories with illustrations. My language teacher, cousins, and friends were my audience. They followed my updates of the story in a very serious way.”

Ironically enough, her parents discouraged her from fantastic ideas like Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and other “kid stuff”. They believed in science with all of their hearts and didn’t allow their daughter to watch TV.

In school, Jiemei was reassured of her talent in the arts. Unlike her mother who was a mathematician, Jiemei struggled in math and science but thrived in history, language, geography, and art.

“Fortunately, most of my schoolmates thought I was nerdy and creative at the same time,” Jiemei said. “I was a character with personality, not the boring one.” Continue reading

Guess the Desk

As you walk back to your desk from the water cooler, you observe the different desks around you. Your neighbor on the left has files and old take-out boxes piled up so high that you wonder if he’s building a fort, and your coworker on the right is so organized that you wonder if she is working for the CIA. Your work space, however, is more personalized and lightly decorated with pictures of family and friends, that mini Buddha you brought back from your last vacation, and a bowl of M&Ms to share with everyone.

Play the “Guess the Desk” game by looking through the desktop photos here and matching the desks to their owners (pictured below). Then follow us on Instagram to see the answers!

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So with all of these differences, what does your desk say about you? Believe it or not, a lot actually. Your desk habits are a small window into who you are—your personality, your style, and your background. Continue reading

The Artists of Alva: Heather Little

This is the first post in our new series of articles, “The Artists of Alva”. Each one will feature one of our talented staff and show not only some of their personal and professional artwork, but also what inspires them and drives them creatively. 


Creative Director Heather Little loves working on a blank canvas—starting from scratch and using that freedom to create anything imaginable. However, she has chosen the canvas of the computer as the backdrop for her art instead of the easel. She has been professionally creating digital art since she graduated with a BFA degree in graphic design in 1996.

“I pursued experimenting and creating art using a computer because the possibilities are endless; technology is always evolving,” she said. “Plus, I really don’t like getting dirty with chalk or paint all over myself.”

Heather’s first piece of digital art was done on the Commodore 64 computer when it first came out with paint programs in 1986. The picture was of a night cityscape of the riverfront in downtown Cincinnati, OH, where she grew up.

“That’s when I realized that I really loved technology,” she said, “…that there was this new drawing software program that you could use to make art. It wasn’t just about painting or drawing anymore; the computer was another tool. I saw it as the future of art.” Continue reading

3D Printing: Flashy or Functional?

bigstock-Electronic-D-Plastic-Printer--51976807Many articles and blogs have mentioned 3D printing when it comes to the future of education technology, but just how important will this device be and how beneficial is it in the classroom? Today I’m going to take a closer look at this device and see if it’s just a new and flashy gadget without real longevity and practicality, or if it really is going to make a large contribution to the world of education.

For those of you who have never heard of it, 3D printing is the process of making three-dimensional objects from a digital blueprint. The machine creates an object by putting down successive layers of material, such as plastic, bio-material, and food using digital codes that are scanned or designed.

3D printing seems like a new phenomenon, but it actually started in the mid-1980s as a way to make prototypes in industrial settings. Now this device has become commercially available, however it is still not easily affordable to the average American.

3D printing is mainly being used in four different areas: individual homes for pleasure or practical use, businesses for the design and production of new products, medical and mechanical institutions for research and development, and education for teaching students in the classroom.

For in-the-home use, a person can walk into the store “Maker Bot” in Manhattan and purchase a 3D printer for a price between $1,375-6,499. More than 15,000 have been sold since this company’s inception. Larger and more complex machines are far more pricy.

bigstock-Extraordinary-Geometric-Solid--51779587But there are other ways of making objects using one of these printers if you can’t afford one yourself. The company Shapeways offers a service where anyone can buy or create an object made by a 3D printer online. This past Christmas companies advertised “print your gift” on commercial websites.

To the average individual, 3D printing is an interesting and fascinating technology that kind of reminds you of Star Trek. Purchasing one for home use may be driven by curiosity and excitement, but not real necessity.

However, in business, 3D printing is becoming an incredibly useful aid for companies and is transforming the marketplace and the manufacturing industry. A young designer hoping to establish a brand can design and create products easily with a 3D printer without jumping through the hoops of finding a manufacturer. Aside from the individual, Maker Bot’s most common customers come from the aerospace, architecture, automotive, defense, entertainment, and medical industries. Continue reading