The Science

7spell is scientifically designed, and utilizes principles based on decades of research in learning, retention, and psychology. Here is a summary of the theory and research behind 7spell's effectiveness.

Craik, F., and Tulving, E. "Depth of processing and the retention of words in episodic memory." Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol 104(3) (1975): 268-294. Print and PDF.

In this seminal study performed at the University of Toronto, Canada, the authors performed a series of tests in which they gave the study participants a sequence of words to learn, with information related to each word as it appeared in order. They discovered that when the information provided stimulated the participant's brain to process the word on a more involved level (referred to as "deep encoding" or "degree of elaboration" in the study), that word was more effectively learned and remembered. With 7spell, the user is given a wide range of additional information about each spelling word, including the word's definition - one of the key factors in enhanced memory, according to this study - as well as usage examples, synonyms, and antonyms.

Garcia, S.M., Tor, A., and Schiff, T.M. "The Psychology of Competition: A Social Comparison Perspective." Perspectives on Psychological Science, November 2013, 8(6):634-650. Print and web.

Each person is influenced by a unique set of factors related to their own status and progress towards goals, but is also affected to a greater or lesser degree by the achievements and perceived standards of the people around them. This analysis of past and current studies looks at the way people view and are motivated by individual goals as well as societal achievement (competition). The authors conclude that effective use of motivational strategies must take both into account. This is something that 7spell accomplishes by providing each user with the ability to set personal goals, earn reward points, and view their own progress tracking reports, and also to publish all of those results on public social media platforms.

Kivetz, R., Urminsky, O., and Zheng, Y. "The Goal-Gradient Hypothesis Resurrected: Purchase Acceleration, Illusionary Goal Progress, and Customer Retention." Journal of Marketing Research, February 2006, 43(1):39-58. Web.

In a study focusing on the influence of reward-scheme programs on behavior, the authors found that when people see visible progress towards their goals they are more likely to increase the activity required to reach those goals. The study also confirms that most people are also motivated by receiving rewards for completing specific activities, even if those rewards are not immediately transferable to actual material or monetary benefits. Status points, rewards, and real-time progress tracking are all methods used in 7spell to encourage frequent spelling practice by awarding points for the completion of exercises and activities. Because the user can access their progress charts at any time, they will always be able to see how close they are to achieving their personal spelling goals.

Buton, M., Winterbauer, N., and Todd, T. "Relapse processes after the extinction of instrumental learning: Renewal, resurgence, and reacquisition." Behavioural Processes, May 2012, 90(1): 130–141. Print and web.

Instrumental learning, also called "operant conditioning," is a method by which behaviors are learned in connection with a stimulus, a reward, or both. In this research done at the University of Vermont, the authors studied the ways in which the information connected to a specific behavior is retained when the stimulus is removed, and how subsequent repetition or reward reinforces information recall and a resumption of previously learned behaviors. They conclude that there are two primary methods of reinforcing active memory and behavior: by creating a different way to test the subject's memory, and by providing the opportunity for intensive focused repetition of that stimulus-behavior response. These two methods are widely used in the 7spell activities and games to create the link between instruction and memory that is so crucial in effective spelling learning on the student's part.

Xue, G., Mei, L., Chen, C., Lu, Z-L., Poldrack, R., Dong, Q. "Spaced Learning Enhances Subsequent Recognition Memory by Reducing Neural Repetition Suppression." Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 2011;23(7):1624-1633. Print and web. http://doi:10.1162/jocn.2010.21532

In this study comparing long-term and short-term memory, the study authors tested the neural activity of participants as they memorized a set of images. Half of the study participants used massed learning techniques, in which each new image was presented multiple times in a row; the other half were given the images in a spaced repetition mode, where the images were shown in alternating order. Although each participant saw each image the same number of times, the people in the spaced-repetition exercise were able to accurately remember more images, and for a longer period of time. Repetition is a key technique in learning spelling, and 7spell incorporates spaced repetition in two ways. First, the system uses randomized selection of spelling words from the user's current list to populate the activities and exercises, ensuring an interval between word reviews. Second, the system's Word Discover feature provides pop-up instant review of the words on that list, again in random order. By providing users with multiple opportunities throughout the day to read and review their words, 7spell provides all of the benefits of the spaced repetition methodology in its spelling instruction.

Blocki, J., Cranor, L., Datta, A., and Komanduri, S. "Spaced Repetition and Mnemonics Enable Recall of Multiple Strong Passwords." Cornell University Library, January 3, 2015. PDF.

Spaced repetition is a memory training tool that relies on frequent and consistent review of information; mnemonics is a memory technique that involves multiple ways of looking at that information, such as the incorporation of images or story lines. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University focused on the combination of spaced repetition and mnemonics in evaluating how best to train people to remember specific pieces of information: computer passwords. They found that by combining the two methodologies, the results in both ease of learning and retention were increased. 7spell uses each method separately and together to help users learn and remember new spelling words by using the same words in multiple exercises, presenting spelling words in a variety of formats, and encouraging users to add information related to each word to make a personal connection that helps them to remember that word and its correct spelling.


Kelly Walsh Brings 21st-Century Strategies to Teaching Spelling at

Categories: Spelling Resources |

The education provided to children helps them to grow up to be scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and philosophers. They dream up, invent, discover, and create the innovations in society and technology that are used to educate the next generation. Since the late 20th century more and more of those technologies have involved computers and the internet. We talked to Kelly Walsh about the convergence of technology and education, and ways that parents, teachers, and children can learn to profit from modern tools and methods.

US: You’ve got a strong background in information technology, and are comfortable with the “cybertools” that are becoming an increasingly bigger part of everyday life. However, not everyone has that advantage. What’s the first thing that parents and teachers – and even children – need to do to learn how to best use the 21st-century technology available to them?

KW: Well, obviously spending time with these tools is essential in order to become comfortable with them. Kids these days tend to be so connected with tech, it’s kind of hard to avoid. Social uses are often their first exposure, and it’s important to use that as an opportunity to start conversations about how these tools can be used to look up information and support learning, make it easier. Tutorials from the Khan Academy are a great example of the vast array of resources out there to help kids learn. This is a great way to put these tools to use constructively.

US: Not only are technology tools being used more in classroom settings, there’s also a need to have students graduate with the knowledge of how to use them in many employment sectors. How can schools address both sides of this issue?

KW: The exposure in the classroom raises the comfort level and familiarity and sets the stage for more in depth and career relevant learning. It is important that high schools and higher education courses discuss and focus on ways that businesses use these tools. At The College of Westchester (where I work as CIO), I just started teaching a section of one of our core courses, which focuses directly on this. By making this a required part of our first term curriculum, students are going to get this exposure early on and carry it with them throughout their degree program. We consistently build opportunities to use these tools in the ways that business uses them in our curricula – office productivity, presentations, product and service research, collaboration, and so on.

US: What is “flipped instruction,” and how does a “flipped classroom” work?

KW: Flipped instruction is the idea of changing how you use class time by pushing more of the routine teaching and learning outside of the classroom. By making learning content consumable in a digital format, students can consume it at their own pace and review they might struggle with, and also get reinforcement when they want it. Moreover, this allows teachers and students to use class time in more constructivist learning modes, getting hands on, interacting, and identifying and address learning gaps. There is more to it, but that’s the basic idea. Teachers should know that they can ease into this, and that the tools and techniques used are just that – tools to help them teach. It doesn’t require a radical change in the way they approach an entire course. My new Flipped Classroom Workshop in a Book and the online workshops I run help teachers get up to speed and build a plan to introduce flipped teaching techniques at a pace of their choosing.

US: Have you found resources and techniques that are particularly suited to helping students learn English skills like spelling?

KW: I’ve seen lots of resources – online sites and tools, plenty of apps, online services and so on. I am not immersed in this particular area, so I don’t have a lot of experience with it. I recall that we published this article not too long ago on EmergingEdTech, which shared 15 apps that can help with the teaching languages. The Internet and the phone and tablet app world offer so many good resources to help with language skills, many of which are free or very low cost.

US: What do you think is the future of technology in the classroom? And will there even be classrooms in the future?

KW: I believe there will always be classrooms, both physical and virtual. The interaction with passionate, inspired teachers is essential to rich learning and will always play a role in good quality education and in achieving the best learning outcomes. This can happen online and of course it has been happening face to face in physical classrooms for centuries, and I have no doubt that this will continue in various forms even as online learning becomes increasingly common.

The future of technology in the classroom is about a higher degree of embracing richer integration. As the evidence continues to come in showing that properly leveraged technologies can have a clear impact on engagement, grades, retention, degree completion, costs, and more, educational institutions will continue to improve on how they leverage the resources available through these emerging education technologies. It begins with awareness, robust planning and professional development, so that’s a good starting point for those wanting to get ahead of the curve. Of course, subscribing to articles from EmergingEdTech and other education technology blogs can go a long way to help!

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