Thursday, August 22, 2013

Help for the Summer Slide: #sponsored

I was invited to check out the PowerMyLearning website to check out the online math games with my daughter and share my feedback with you.  I was compensated for my time.  All opinions are my own.

Summer Slide? I had never heard that term before, but I easily figured out what it meant. But it turns out there is some research to support this theory. The National Summer Learning Association cite a study that indicates "Most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months." Cooper found that there was a larger overall negative effect on math skills than reading skills.  In a brief reflecting on his study, he speculates that this is caused because "reading practice is more naturally embedded in a child’s environment, and parents know how to pay attention to keeping kids reading over the summer.  They’re less likely to pay attention to math."

As a working Mom, my daughter attended a camp this summer that offers great activities each day, but basically allows kids to be kids.  We tried to keep up with the reading log that her teacher sent home with her for the summer.  As the disciplined nighttime schedule went out the window, so did daily reading time.  My daughter is a rising first grader and an early reader; and yeah, her reading skills likely slipped this summer. 

We were excited to check out the website.   I learned that the site is a project of a national non-profit which was originally founded as Computers for Youth, now known simply as CFY with the tagline, Powering a New Generation of Learning. The website is a free learning platform for K-12 students. To use the site, you must complete a simple registration process which takes all of 2 seconds, then you're in. You're then presented with a nice visual organization of videos, games and digital learning activities organized by grade level and subject. The subject areas include match, language arts, science, social studies, art and music, technology, world languages, and your life.

My daughter first wanted to do science. She selected Gases Around Us (BBC), then Change It! (FOSS). Both activities were in the Chemistry category dealing with the states of matter. One was an interactive game and the other was a short animated video on solids, liquids and gases.  One activity then transitioned to a quiz, which she interpreted as a game, testing her comprehension of the material presented. She enjoyed it and wanted to continue with the quiz, but I encouraged her to try another activity.  

She then selected the category of Art,  of course. What little girl her age doesn't love arts and crafts? I read her the choices of 1) color, 2 drawing, 3) graphic design or 4) music.  She plays drawing and coloring games on the iPad often, and since she has no idea what graphic design is, that's what she selected.  In that category, we were presented with a game called the Virtual Kaleidoscope. When it opened, it reminded me of graphic design software with buttons for line thickness, color palettes, shapes, transparency.  It looked WAY too complicated for her.  Yeah, she's a smart kid and yes, she's a digital native, but her ability to use a laptop with a mouse is limited.  I had to show her how you sometimes have to pick up the mouse and move it to a different position on the mouse pad to move the cursor where you want it to go.  However, she surprised me.  She was fascinated by this activity and I couldn't' distract her from it.  So I let it be and I allowed her to play while I cooked dinner.  I could hear her ooh'ing an ahh'ing as she played very patiently with the software.  She excitedly called me over several times to show me her progress. I have to admit, I was amazed at the detail of the Kaleidoscope creation she had created.

On another occasion, I told her it was time to play games on the laptop and again she was excited. I had a hard time getting her excited about playing math and reading games because she wanted to explore the other subject areas. I've since spent some additional time exploring the site on my own.  I learned that some schools and teachers are using the site and the carefully selected activities to reinforce their lesson plans around the Common Code Standards. 

Overall, I view this site as safe and truly educational. Like all families, we struggle with how much "screen time" to allow.  I would much rather have her playing games and engaged in activities on this site than watching any kid's TV show.  My only criticism of the site is related to site navigation.  Finding age appropriate activities was easy, but navigating between them wasn't.  I believe the folks that manage are already well aware of this feedback.  In fact, they are advertising a site redesign that will launch on September 3rd.  I look forward to visiting the site again after the redesign when we return from our summer vacation and school begins again.  I will encourage her to play the reading and math games to help her catch up from her summer slide. 

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