ASU faculty spin-out company to enhance literacy instruction with national grant

October 3, 2014

Learning Ovations, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based education technology company, has received a $1.05 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to support the development of the company’s cloud-based tool for enhancing literacy instruction.

Learning Ovations is one of only two companies this year to win funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences’ Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The SBIR grants are provided to entrepreneurial companies that use cutting-edge research to develop commercially viable technologies to solve tough problems in education. Carol Connor Download Full Image

Called A2i, Learning Ovations’ tool helps teachers provide individualized reading instruction to students from kindergarten through third grade. A2i gives teachers the professional development, tools and resources they need to manage their classrooms based on each individual student’s language and reading skills. It is built on a foundation of eight years of rigorous research led by Carol Connor, a professor in Arizona State University’s Department of Psychology and a senior learning scientist in ASU’s Learning Sciences Institute.

Connor worked with researchers at Florida State University and the University of Michigan to develop and test A2i. Results from several efficacy trials demonstrated that in classrooms using A2i, 94 percent of students learned how to read by the end of third grade, as compared to the national average of 66 percent.

“Our research has shown that if we take into account children’s individual differences in their language and reading skills, we can develop more effective individualized instruction for them,” Connor said.

The SBIR grant will allow Learning Ovations to strengthen A2i and prepare it to be disseminated and implemented on a large-scale basis. In this 2.5-year project, Connor and her colleagues will preserve the essential functionality of A2i while modernizing and optimizing the underlying structure. Key components will include assessment and data-based decision tools for teachers, including algorithm-based recommended reading instruction; planning and organizing literacy instruction tools; planning tools to help teachers deliver instruction; and professional development tools.

"This award is very significant," said Jay Connor, founder and CEO of Learning Ovations. "These resources will allow us to have meaningful social impact. The single best inoculation against poverty is grade-level reading by the end of third grade, which Learning Ovations can now deliver in school districts across the country."

Learning Ovations is one of a number of faculty spin-outs at ASU that benefit from resources and services available to startup companies at SkySong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center.

ASU Cronkite School hosts alumni celebration during Homecoming

October 3, 2014

The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication is hosting Cronkite Day, an annual large-scale alumni celebration, on Oct. 31, as part of Arizona State University’s Homecoming 2014.

The third-annual event features social, career development and networking opportunities for alumni, students and friends of the Cronkite School, and is free to attend. Activities will take place on the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus from 1 to 5 p.m. To register, visit Cronkite Day Download Full Image

“Our alumni are leaders and innovators in journalism and communications,” said Christopher Callahan, Cronkite School dean and university vice provost. “Cronkite Day offers a wonderful opportunity for graduates to come home and reconnect with their school.”

The Cronkite School will announce the first recipients of the Knight-Cronkite Alumni Innovation Grant, which awards up to $15,000 to graduates who are professional journalists looking to pioneer cutting-edge technologies and practices in their newsrooms.

Cronkite Day will include three showcase panel discussions featuring alumni and media leaders from a variety of disciplines. Discussions will focus on the changing nature of sports journalism, the emergence of nonprofit journalism and public relation’s role in an increasingly complex society. Panelists include Los Angeles Times Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Julie Cart (’80), Arizona PBS General Manager Kelly McCullough (’82) and FOX Sports Arizona reporter Lisa Blanco (’12).

Craig A. Newman (’79), chair of the Cronkite National Board of Advisors, will lead a keynote discussion with former Cronkite School Director Doug Anderson, who returned to Cronkite as a senior research professor in August 2014 after retiring as dean of Penn State’s College of Communications.

“Beyond showcasing the Cronkite School and its proud accomplishments, Cronkite Day provides us with the opportunity to tap into our accomplished alumni and thought leaders to discuss and explore the ever-changing landscape and challenges facing the media business,” Newman said.

Leading up to this year’s event, the Cronkite School will kick off a monthlong initiative to raise scholarship funds. The #WeSupportCronkite campaign aims to generate 50 new gifts of all sizes that will be designated to support scholarships for deserving students in the coming academic year. Gifts can be made at

At Cronkite Day, students and faculty will be on hand to showcase Cronkite’s signature programs, such as Carnegie-Knight News21, the Public Relations Lab and the New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab. This year’s student panel lineup will feature some of the school’s new programs, including the Cronkite News – LA Sports Bureau and the Public Insight Network Bureau. Student media organizations such as The State Press and The Blaze will be available to share information and answer questions.

Alumni will have the opportunity to have their professional portfolios and resumes reviewed, and learn how to improve them. There will also be a station where alumni can update information and connect with classmates on, the school’s active online alumni network.

As in previous years, attendees can tour the Cronkite School’s state-of-the-art building and visit the Stanley and Erika Tobin Broadcast Center to record a greeting at the news anchor desk, read a news story or share a memory about ASU.

Cronkite Day is just one of many Homecoming events happening at ASU from Oct. 27 to Nov. 1. On Oct. 30, the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus will host an ASU-wide alumni reception at the AE England Building from 5-7 p.m. To register, visit

Reporter , ASU Now