Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Pros and Cons of Wonderville: A New Grade School Learning Platform

By Sean Scarpiello

Earlier last week, a new education platform called Wonderville started their first pilot program in over 50 schools reaching more than 1,000 students. This new platform is designed specifically for students from kindergarten to 5th grade as a way for students to utilize technology in the classroom. Mark Eastwood, the CEO and founder of Wonderville.com describes the goals of this new platform: to empower teachers with technology as a medium for class instruction; to better include parents into their children’s education; and to spark young students’ interest into new fields of study. Each of these aspects are important in an educational platform for students, but how well does this website carry out these claims?

When first looking at Wonderville’s ability to empower teachers with technology, we can see that the platform is completely free. All teachers need to join is a computer, and they're granted access to all of the different resources available on the site. Among these resources are core tracking standards for ensuring the class is keeping up with the curriculum, a classroom network online for each student, and the ability to upload pictures, videos, and class announcements on a site that resembles Facebook for school. Through all of this, teachers are able to track each student’s individual progress on quizzes and readings, as well as having the ability to connect to parents regarding any problems students may be having in class. Additionally, teachers have a lot of class material at their fingertips to share with their students. All of this material is designed to specifically keep students engaged while lining up with the required curriculum which teachers must strictly adhere to each year. One of the most beneficial components of Wonderville is that it provides a direct link from teachers to parents. Teachers now have the ability to give updates to parents concerning the expected homework assignments and what is happening in class each day.

This leads to the next main objective of Wonderville- to connect parents and teachers. This component is absolutely necessary in an online learning platform for grade-schoolers. Many psychological studies have shown that students with parents who place high importance on academics and parents that stay involved in student’s academics are more likely to succeed in school. Therefore, teachers can easily update parents who are now able to address any issues going on in school. It also gives parents insight on which subjects their children are struggling in, or if a child is struggling in other areas such as communication or teamwork skills. Parents and students also have the ability to request homework or other assignments if students plan on being absent or if they need to stay home sick for a day. This also gives the students an opportunity to stay involved in their studies in a manner that is not unlike working a job in the work force.

The last objective of Wonderville aims to spark the interest of students in new fields of study through all of the technology and involvement in education for the students. The site’s set up is very simple, colorful, and appears to be interesting to students. There are separate units called Smart Galleries where students can watch videos, look at pictures and diagrams, and then take a quiz to test them on the information. When students complete a quiz, they are then given a Smart Badge which they can collect. This too is a great feature as students will want to collect all of the badges, which means completing all of the Smart Galleries on their own. After seeing this, I decided I was going to try out a quiz to gain a Smart Badge and I was a bit surprised. I decided to take a 5th grade level test on a Smart Gallery on the Sun and our solar system. After taking the quiz, I found it was quite easy and not just for a college student, but this test would be extremely easy for a 5th grader. Many of the possible answer choices were blatantly incorrect or silly, which is not challenging students at all. One question asked students to identify from a list of planets which planet did not exist in our solar system, and one of the answer choices was a planet from Star Wars with a space ship next to it. This answer choice is going to be way too obvious for a 5th grader. In addition to this, one of the questions in the test was wrong. Part of a question asked if the sun was the center of the Milky Way Galaxy and the quiz deemed this to be true (the sun is the center of our solar system, but the center of the Milky Way Galaxy is around 28,000 light-years away from the sun). Overall, I was disappointed in what I had seen in the only quiz that I took at the end of the Smart Gallery.

In all, I feel that Wonderville is a great new platform for helping out teachers and parents to improve education both in and out of the classroom. The site was also interesting, colorful, and interactive for students. However, some of the material designed to challenge a student in 5th did not seem challenging for that grade level. On top of this, some of the information being taught on the site was incorrect. Therefore, the site has great intentions and is a great starting point as a platform. However, once some work is done on making the site more stimulating for the minds of students, Wonderville will surely be a huge success in the grade schools across the United States.

Sources: http://www.wonderville.com/


No comments: