We love hearing from passionate educational technologists, and the team behind PowerMyLearning, a free online learning platform designed for K-12 students, parents, and teachers has given us some insight into their product, and how it’s being used for blended and flipped learning.
The idea behind PowerMyLearning, is to make it easier to find fun, high-quality educational activities online. A Google search may turn up tons of results, but it is difficult to know if the activities are trusted, effective, or age-appropriate. PowerMyLearning makes this decision process super simple by using expert educators to carefully curate thousands of free activities already on the web. They identify and tag the most engaging academic games, videos, and interactive simulations by subject, sub-topic, grade level and Common Core State Standards (and more). The subjects include Math, Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, Art, Music, Technology and World Languages.
As well as housing thousands of free educational resources, the platform has handy tools such as a Playlist creator, a reporting function, and student motivation features. We were particularly interested in the Playlist creator as it lets you mix and match activities (like you would songs on iTunes) and assign them to an individual student or group of students based on specific learning needs. For example, students might be assigned a Playlist for homework that involves watching an introductory video from Khan Academy, then moving on to an engaging strategy game, and then completing an interactive simulation. Teachers can then view reports for each student to understand how much time they spent with each activity in the Playlist.
The learning platform itself was developed by a national nonprofit, CFY, that has been incorporating digital learning into education since 1999. It is funded by some of the most prominent education foundations (e.g. the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Eli & Edythe Broad Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation).
We asked the team behind PowerMyLearning some practical questions on how their technology can impact and influence educators.
How can PowerMyLearning be practically used in the classroom?
One of the things that make PowerMyLearning such a fantastic resource is its flexibility and practicality. Some teachers just use PowerMyLearning as a free supplementary tool; another resource in their arsenal – maybe they simply want to pull up one of the activities on the whiteboard during class. Other teachers, schools, and education organizations, adopt PowerMyLearning in order to help them create effective blended learning environments in their classrooms or labs. In these cases, we’ve seen several different blended learning models take shape. For example:
- Station-rotation model: In this model, small groups of students rotate among classroom-based learning modalities. At least one station is reserved for online learning (via PowerMyLearning). Other stations might include activities such as small group instruction, project-based activities, and traditional books and papers practice. Groups of students can range in size from 3 – 15 students, alternating between two or more stations.
- Lab-rotation model: In this model, students alternate blocks of time at different locations at the school. One of the spaces is a computer lab that’s used for online learning (via PowerMyLearning). Other classrooms throughout the school are used for other learning modalities such as in-class teacher instruction.
- Flipped classroom model: In this model, students interact with academic online instruction and content (via PowerMyLearning) at home or from another remote location after school on their own. Then they apply what they’ve learned in the classroom with their teachers. The face-to-face time with the teacher is used for guided practice or projects.
*Blended learning models as defined by the Innosight Institute, Inc.
This overview video highlights one particular school that’s using PowerMyLearning. During the video, two teachers, as well as the school principal, are interviewed about their experience incorporating the platform into their instructional practices. You’ll also hear from a student (and her mother) who benefited from PowerMyLearning.http://vimeo.com/49477789
What are the most popular features that are used by teachers?
Teachers place a tremendous value on the fact that our Math and Language Arts activities are tied to the Common Core State Standards. Being able to easily find quality activities that facilitate the integration of the Common Core State Standards is a huge benefit for them.
Our Playlist feature is another tool that teachers absolutely love. Playlists let educators sequence activities (like songs in an iTunes Playlist) and assign them to an individual student or group of students to meet their unique learning needs. Teachers can choose from pre-created Playlists aligned to the Common Core State Standards or they can customize their own.
Teachers also find our reporting feature to be very useful. If a teacher assigns a Playlist to students, he or she can then use the PowerMyLearning reporting dashboard to see how long students are spending on different activities, and monitor student their usage patterns and preferences.
How are the resources selected for the site?
CFY does not develop the resources found on PowerMyLearning so we can truly take an unbiased perspective. All of the activities are publicly available on the web for free. It’s a matter of identifying which activities are high-quality, what skills they teach, what age-range they’re appropriate for, and so on.
All of the activities selected for PowerMyLearning are vetted by professional K-12 educators with experience using digital learning in their classrooms. Our content team has evaluated thousands of activities and identified the ones that are the most engaging and effective. Then we’ve tagged them by subject, sub-topic, grade level, the Common Core State Standards, and a number of other criteria.
While we don’t require that every activity on PowerMyLearning exhibit the criteria below, these are some of the things we consider as we evaluate activities for the site:
- Alignment to educational standards (e.g., Common Core State Standards in Math and Language Arts)
- Instructional Content (e.g., level of instruction and/or practice)
- Interactivity (e.g., the level of feedback available to students)
- Differentiation features (e.g., availability of difficulty levels)
- Design (e.g., appealing design, ease of use)
- Other Considerations (e.g., minimal to no advertising)
What we think
Having reviewed the content of PowerMyLearning, we have found a wealth of relevant, engaging and innovative free content. The platform is clear, straightforward and user-friendly. We particularly liked how its features, such as the Playlist, can be incorporated into the Blended Learning and Flexible Learning models. The reporting function is also highly important to be able to track student usage, and is a great tool for teachers to keep up with student output and development. We would recommend it for any teachers or parents looking for new free resources for their students.