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posted by Fnord666 on Saturday March 21 2020, @09:36PM   Printer-friendly
from the my-schoolboard-sucks... dept.

Some local schoolboards have already rolled out full remote learning curricula, starting Monday (seems to me there have been plans in the works for years to make something like this happen this fast.) Others appear flat-footed and clueless. We did some homeschooling with our kids a couple of years ago, and the one website that really clicked with us was (shameless plug) https://ixl.com .

I know we had a Soylent story just over a week ago asking for alternatives to the ubiquitous (and well deserved first place recommendation) Khan. Now that it's a little less abstract, and looking more certain that the kids won't be returning to physical school buildings until the fall... what do you look for in online learning services?

Our criteria were: easy for the kids to self-learn the material as presented, easy to track progress and identify areas where extra instruction might help, clear documentation of subjects covered and relative mastery of each, easy for kids to self-select appropriate subject areas to study, reasonable cost.

Khan certainly presents material clearly, and the cost can't be beat, but we found IXL to be superior in the other areas, and when you think about the tremendous number of hours invested by you and your kids in the learning system, the cost isn't really significant ($20/month for one, $24 for two).

Has anybody else taken a serious plunge into online learning and found something "better than Khan" for your purposes?

[Ed. addition follows. --martyb]

See our previous story: Student Privacy Laws Still Apply if Coronavirus Just Closed Your School and take a close look at future provider's security and privacy practices. From the article linked to in the previous story https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2020/03/watch-out-for-privacy-pitfalls-if-your-school-is-suddenly-online-only/:

Usually educational organizations—colleges, universities, or local K-12 districts—have agreements in place with certain dedicated educational software vendors such as Blackboard or Canvas to use their tools. Compliance with FERPA is ideally part of those agreements, although adherence can be somewhat hit and miss. But when everyone is suddenly scrambling for new tools as best they can in response to a pandemic, privacy considerations may fall by the wayside.

Software platforms allowing videoconferencing, recording, and screen sharing have all seen a massive spike in use in recent weeks. Microsoft, Google, Slack, and Zoom are all offering discounts or extra features to businesses, groups, and individuals to help with the everything from home era in which we (hopefully temporarily) find ourselves. Not all of those tools, many of which are designed for enterprise use, are necessarily going to be compliant with educational regulations.

Google, in particular, has been in hot water before. Neither schools nor individuals can sue for FERPA violations, as the Electronic Privacy Information Center explains, but both states and individuals have filed suit under different statutes alleging related violations.

In 2013, a group of students sued Google over its "creepy" data-mining from Google Apps for Education tools. Google ended the practice in 2014, only to be sued again in 2016 by a group of current and former university students alleging their data was collected and retained from their Google academic accounts in violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

Neither are all the lawsuits in the past. Just last month, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas filed suit against Google. That suit alleges the company's collection and use of data from schoolchildren in New Mexico violates both the federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and New Mexico's Unfair Practices Act.


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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by JoeMerchant on Sunday March 22 2020, @03:38PM

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Sunday March 22 2020, @03:38PM (#974150)

    What we've found with our kids is that any major (positive) shift in educational approach initially has a big ramp up of highly visible progress, but sooner or later it plateaus and you're back to the more usual slow progress. This happened when we shifted to home schooling, and again two years later when we shifted back from home schooling to regular school, and other times with major changes of in-classroom situations.

    Work-at-your-own-pace is almost always faster to cover material than the classroom of 30 kids moving at a pace ideally suited for the bottom quintile (and usually not that well tuned.) Kids that get it quickly are bored, kids that don't get it as quickly as presented are lost. If you can keep your kids motivated / interested and progressing through Khan, and other online resources, they'll learn more than any classroom could ever teach them.

    Our kids are "lexically challenged" - so while the Khan presentations are excellent, they tend to be really talky, which doesn't help our kids a lot. The IXL exercises do a ramp up of difficulty, if you really know the material you can get through an exercise with 25 short answers, if you have trouble you can repeat until you see the pattern for yourself (works best for our kids), or you can go to the "talky" explanation of what you did wrong and then try again. Getting to 100% in an exercise by guessing is virtually impossible (something like 10,000 guesses required due to they way a wrong answer makes you repeat multiple questions...) The great thing is after several months you can look back at hundreds of little mini-topics 100% achieved, which seems so much more satisfying than a slip of paper from the county with an 8 entirely arbitrary letters on it.

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