Istation Success Story: Why a Florida Father Calls Himself an “Istation Champion”

Dad sees growth as daughter on the autism spectrum falls in love with IstationKAH_Istation_I

Khalila Halisi smiles a lot. She laughs even more than she smiles. She gives hugs and shares kisses. Affection is one of the main ways she communicates.

Khalila is on the autism spectrum. Doctors diagnosed her when she was not quite three years old. Now 12, Khalila remains non-verbal.

“It manifests itself with no speech,” her father Hakim Halisi says as he describes Khalila's autism. “But she does everything else. She’s a beautiful smiling girl.”

When teachers introduced Khalila to Istation, she was immediately hooked.  

“She’d come home, go right to the computer, go onto the internet, spell out Istation and try to get me to sign her on,” Halisi says. He became intrigued by the learning program that was so exciting for his daughter.

KAH_IstationBecause Khalila’s school had subscriptions to Istation Home, Khalila was able to work on Istation while sitting on the couch with her mom and dad. They were impressed by how engaged Khalila was. They also saw Khalila learning.

“As we read together, I could tell she benefited, especially with her sounding out of words and things like that. The more opportunity for her to work on language, the better,” Halisi says.

As Khalila moved to middle school, her parents worked with a campus specialist and the Istation sales team to ensure their daughter had continued access, because they knew Istation was making a difference.

“She just loves it,” says her father. “It feels like a game for her, but she’s really getting something out of it. Because the program is the way it is, she gets something appropriate for her. She’s not at grade level, and this gives us an opportunity to work with her.”

Halisi says he thinks Khalila responds to Istation because the graphics are rich and the animation is engaging. He’s thrilled to see her communication skills growing as she has fun.

“I think it’s a great program. I think it’s well done and I’m very happy,” Halisi says. “I’m an Istation champion.”

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Tags: Istation Home, Inside Istation, Testimonials and Success Stories

Every Question Counts!

There's more to literacy than just being able to read.CalvinPose_copy

A critical part of reading is learning how to think as you read.  The good news is, something as simple as asking your child questions can go a long way toward fueling this key literacy skill.

Before, during, or after your child reads a story, article or book, you can ask:

  • What was it about?
  • What do you think will happen next?
  • Does this make you wonder about other things?
  • What was your favorite part of the story?
  • What did you learn?
  • Did the characters change over time? If so, how?
  • What was the problem in the story?
  • What was the solution?

Summertime is a great time to position reading as a relaxed activity that can transform into fun for the whole family. Get more summer reading tips from Istation, including 4 things parents can do this summer to make teachers happy in the fall!

Remember to share your summer reading suggestions or ideas with us on Facebook or Twitter! 

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Tags: Stopping the Summer Slide

An Ed Tech Entrepreneur Success Story: Istation CEO Richard Collins

How do you increase a company's customer base by 886% in five years? How do you grow revenue by leaps and bounds, create more than 100 new jobs and do it all in the rapidly changing world of educational technology?  

Richard Collins knows how, and Istation's impressive recent growth is proof.

Collins is the Chairman and CEO of Istation. His leadership, vision, and perseverance is the driving force behind Istation's success. He was recently named a top Entrepreneur of the Year® in the southwest -- an accolade he richly deserves!  Take a look at what D CEO magazine had to say about him in the July/August issue:

Ed Tech Entrepreneur Istation Success Story 

Collins is not comfortable unless he shares the spotlight, and he gives a strong team credit for Istation's success. So several employees joined him at a black-tie gala honoring the Entrepreneurs of the Year

We'd like to offer sincere congratulations to our fearless leader! We are proud of what we've accomplished together and incredibly excited about the future. 





Tags: Inside Istation

Four Things Parents Can Do This Summer to Make Teachers Happy This Fall

How to be a Reading Role Model

School-to-home-connectionResearch shows that children who read fluently do better in school. It's not just teachers who make it happen, though. Parents play a key role, too.

All summer, we've been sharing suggestions about ways to prevent "The Summer Slide," which is the documented learning loss that occurs when students are out of school. Remember experts say reading just five books during the summer months can help.

Here are four new, easy-to-implement ideas for moms, dads, grandparents or guardians. Doing the following things this summer will make teachers quite happy in the fall!

  1. Be a reading role model. It doesn't matter what you read -- a book, a newspaper, online articles, magazines or industry publications. The material is up to you. Just let your children see you read!
  2. Have a family game night. Playing games like Scrabble, Boggle, Pictionary or Scattergories can teach spelling, vocabulary and communication.
  3. Eat dinner as a family, without TV or phones. (That's a tall order, we know!) With older kids, focus on a good conversation. Talk about what went on that day or about what's planned the rest of the week. For younger children, try to incorporate word games like, "I spy something that rhymes with..." or "Name a synonym for..." Make dinner fun and help your child become a conversationalist!
  4. Keep track of it all. Mark a calendar with the amount of time your child spends reading (and working on Istation of course) each day. At the end of the summer, add up the hours. When school begins again, encourage your child to tell his or her teachers how much time he or she spent reading over the summer. Teachers will be thrilled and your child will feel proud!

Read up on previous suggestions from Istation, or you can find additional tips from the US Department of Education. Happy Reading and Happy Summer! 



Tags: Stopping the Summer Slide

Istation Success Story: “I am hooked on Istation Home!”

Istation Home usage leads to big gains and stronger school-to-home connections

Denise R. is a kindergarten teacher with a new-found appreciation for Istation Home. She was so impressed with the impact it had on her class that she shared her story with us. Keep reading to see why we had to share it with you!


“My class was involved in a school-wide competition to track the home usage of Istation. Because I had seen a few of my children making steady gains on Istation due to additional practice at home, I decided to push this program. The biggest impact was with one of my Tier 2/Tier 3 students. He averaged four to five nights a week on Istation Home. He JUMPED up in his phonemic awareness and his reading improved more than I thought possible in just a few short weeks! The most compelling bit of data was the huge smile on his face when he talked about his reading and his hard work and fun on Istation. I am so impressed with the impact this made on my class that I would like to make [Istation Home] part of our homework next year. I am also looking into getting some grant money to purchase a few mobile devices for children to ‘check out’ if they don’t have access at home. As you can tell, I am hooked on Istation Home because I have witnessed the academic growth of my students, watched their confidence bloom, and have received tons of thanks and praise for Istation Home from parents.”

--Kindergarten Teacher Denise R.

Learn more about the critical support Istation Home provides to campuses trying to grow the school-to-home connection and extend learning beyond the classroom in this video. Students continue on the same learning paths, and parents can follow guided instructions. 

We love to share success stories, so use social media to let us know about yours!  

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Tags: Closing the Achievement Gap, Testimonials and Success Stories

621 Million Reading Lessons and Activities Delivered This Year!

Students are showing growth and so are we.

621 million. It’s about 100 times the population of Missouri, 16 times the population of California, and almost double the population of the United States. What could we possibly be counting to arrive at 621 million? It’s the number of reading lessons and activities delivered to students by Istation during the 2014 - 2015 school year.   

621 million averages out to about one lesson or activity completed by every student subscriber, every school day!

It’s incredibly gratifying because we know with every one of those lessons and activities, students’ literacy skills grow. And as a company, we are growing too.DigitalLessonsDelivered

  • In the past ten years, the number of lessons and activities delivered by Istation grew by 5,545%, from an estimated 11 million in the 2004 - 2005 school year to 621 million in 2014 - 2015. 
  • In the past five years, the number of campuses served by Istation grew by 412%, from about 16 hundred in the 2010 - 2011 school year to more than 82 hundred in 2014 - 2015. 
  • In the past five years, the number of students enrolled in Istation grew by 886%, from 415,643 in 2010 - 2011 to more than 4.1 million in 2014 - 2015. 

The numbers are fun, eye-opening and obviously a source of pride for us. But what matters most is the impact Istation has on students, schools and communities. Istation is growing because students are learning.

Thank you for the 621 million reading activities you completed last school year! Here’s to 621 million, and more, next year!


Tags: Inside Istation

What's Next? And Does the Achievement Gap Have to Be Part of It?

The questions on every educator’s mind

QuestionMark-100694-editedAdmit it. Even during the blissful days of summer, nagging questions clutter your head. What’s next in my classroom? What’s next on my campus? What’s next for my career?

The future is the focus of the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) Annual Conference June 30 - July 2 in Long Beach, CA. NAESP helps campus leaders stay alert about what’s happening today, and stay ahead of what’s happening tomorrow.

An unfortunate part of education’s past and present is the achievement gap - the persistent disparity in student outcomes between various groups. Is the achievement gap inevitable? Is it here to stay? At NAESP, attendees will learn how forward-thinking campuses are attacking this age-old problem. 

Teachers credit Istation with helping narrow the achievement gap in their classrooms. We’ll be at NAESP to explain how we do it. We’ll be giving away free copies of our brand new 8 Great Ways to Close the Achievement Gap”. This updated guide offers new tools and tips from Strategic Training Coordinator Sabrina Jones. She used her almost two decades of experience as a curriculum specialist, dyslexia specialist, classroom teacher and Istation trainer to co-author the book.

Get your free copy of 8 Great Ways to Close the Achievement Gap at Booth #1030 at NAESP. You can meet Sabrina and the rest of the Istation team and learn more about the critical support we provide to campuses in need of a fresh approach.

In the meantime, tell us what you think is next in the world of education.    Find us on Facebook  or follow @  on Twitter and join the conversation!


Click to watch teachers   explain how Istation helped  them close the achievement gap!  


Tags: Closing the Achievement Gap, Inside Istation

Too Much TV Time?

How to use your television as a summer teaching tool

Every parent knows how tough it is to tear kids away from the television, especially during the hot days of summer when it’s so much more comfortable to be inside. 


Instead of surrendering to the allure of mindless TV watching, you can make TV your “literacy partner”! Here area a few ideas: 

  • Look through the programming guide and have your child select the show (or shows) he or she wants to watch that day, and then have them make a persuasive “speech” as to why they should be permitted to watch.  
  • After the show (perhaps at mealtime), ask your child to give a report by recounting the plot, describing the characters, and explaining any “moral” or “lesson” contained in the story.
  • Ask what they liked or didn’t like about the program, and suggest they script their own alternate ending.
  • After watching a series of commercials, challenge your child to invent an even better product and write a commercial or a slogan for it.  

Who knows?  Your encouragement might inspire the development of the next great screenwriter or inventor! 

How do you use everyday tasks as opportunities to learn? Share your suggestions with us on Facebook or Twitter, using #Istationed. Read these other great summer literacy suggestions in previous Istation blog posts.

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Tags: Stopping the Summer Slide

"Your Friend, Marques Haynes"

Basketball legend remembered for contributions on the court and in the classroom

Even the most casual sports observer finds the NBA Finals compelling. Gifted athletes sink improbable shots and seem to jump higher than humanly possible. Rowdy fans fill massive arenas hanging on every basket made and every basket missed.

The games are intense. They are exhilarating. They are fun. But this season, we at Istation are watching it all with heavy hearts.


Harlem Globetrotter Marques Haynes, perhaps the most skilled ball handler to ever live, passed away May 22, 2015 at the age of 89. One of the greatest to grace the court was also one of Istation’s greatest friends. 

Haynes is the voice of the coach of Istation’s animated basketball team called The Oddballs. Using an interactive game-like environment, Haynes and The Oddballs help students master tricky vowel combinations and their sounds. 

When Haynes learned about Istation and the impact it has on students’ literacy skills, he wanted to help. So Istation’s Executive Vice President of Design and Animation Dan Kuenster immediately began dreaming up The Oddballs.

“Once we had Marques, we wanted to create a team just for him,” Kuenster recalls.

What came next was pure fun. Kuenster studied old film of Haynes’ games and exhibitions to ensure the animated version of Haynes would be authentic.

“We caricatured his signature moves and then pushed them further than reality,” Kuenster says. The result was an entertaining depiction of a highly skilled athlete who Kuenster says was also warm, kind and caring. 

Haynes had a passion for teaching children about hard work and perseverance, and during the voice recording session he spoke directly from the heart. Students still see this message at the end of every Oddballs lesson:

Click to Watch Marques Haynes and The Oddballs! His message says, “When I was with the Globetrotters and we beat the NBA champions, we had to be the best in the world. It took a lot of practice. So be sure you practice hard and learn to read. And by doing so, you can be the best that you can. Your friend, Marques Haynes.”

Marques will always have a friend and a fan in Istation -- not only for what he did on the court, but also for what he continues to do in the classroom. We miss you, Marques. 

Tags: Inside Istation

Don’t Fear Data!

How Campus Leaders Can Create a Data-Loving Culture

Data can be so misunderstood. There’s even disagreement over the word itself. Singular? Plural? Both?

It’s unfortunate that data often has a negative connotation on school campuses says Mona Savage, English Language Arts Elementary Coordinator for the McKinney Independent School District in McKinney, Texas.  MonaSavage-456661-edited

“The biggest misconception about data is that it is the hammer. It’s not the hammer,” she says. “It’s not supposed to point out inefficiencies, weaknesses, and a lack of knowledge. It does just the opposite. It finds areas to grow, areas to improve.”

Instead of looking at data as a hammer that crushes things, what if you could position data as a tool that helps build things?

That’s how Mona sees it -- as part of a blueprint.

“Data tells us where we’re going to go,” she says. “It puts what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it in focus. It guides instruction.”

Mona says teachers on campuses where data isn’t seen as a benefit instead think of data as something that shines a light on bad instruction.

“Campus leaders have to create a culture where data is seen as helpful, not hurtful,” she says. “What they feel and believe will trickle down.”

Mona has these suggestions for campus leaders:

  • Model how simple it is to interpret data.
  • Don't over analyze it. Look at it and move on.
  • Position data as a strategic way to provide targeted interventions.
Mona says Istation Reading has provided her district with critically important data. Using Istation reports, McKinney ISD quickly pinpoints specific literacy skills where students have room to grow. Then teachers intervene with targeted instruction. “We have seen drastic improvement in our reading success across the district,” she says.

Mona will be presenting a session entitled “Using Data to Drive Personalized Learning” at the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association conference in Austin, Texas on June 11. She will provide campus leaders with suggestions for establishing protocols that use data to guide instruction. She will share suggested coaching techniques, implementation strategies, and a few tips and tricks she’s picked up after more than two decades in education. Mona’s session is at 8:15 AM June 11 in the Guadalupe Room of the Austin Renaissance Hotel.

While you’re at the TEPSA Summer Conference, be sure to stop by and say hello! Come meet the Istation team at Booth 813 on June 10 or June 11 and register to win a FREE customized day of professional development for your campus! (Terms and Conditions Apply) 


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Follow Mona on Twitter, too! @mona_rsavage

Tags: Teacher to Teacher, Istation Training Topics