Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cyber learning galore

School just started and it's a good time to honestly assess your child's work load. Will your child need academic support, or just a little inspiration? If so, tutors, test prep, instructional videos, and learning communities are just a click away – some are even free!

Below is an handy list of online "virtual" tutors you can access for your child - From Great Schools.

Tutor in the computer
Have you tried to help your child with homework — only to discover that middle school math is now beyond you, or that science is very different than it was when you went to school?

You can hire a tutor to help your child, but if you don’t have one handy, check out This site provides on-the-spot tutoring in a variety of subjects, using live tutors who use online tools to help kids work through problems on screen.

Without leaving your home, you can find a tutor who can step in and help right away — even if your student procrastinated until bedtime on the night before a major test. In fact, your child doesn’t even have to admit her blunder, since she can find help without your involvement, once you set her up on the site.

Bottom line: Why drive all over town when there's a tutor eager to help right in your computer?
Ages: Fourth grade through first year of college
Cost: Starts at $34.99 a month, which includes one hour of tutoring

Inspiring learning
If your student’s interest and comprehension seems to be lagging, turn him on to the Khan Academy. [One of our favorites here at DSW blog.] This website was created by Sal Khan, who has recorded his own short (10 to 20 minutes each) lectures on math, science, history — you name it. (There are over 2,400 videos.)

"I teach the way that I wish I was taught,” Khan explains on the site. “The lectures are coming from me, an actual human being who is fascinated by the world around him.”

Kahn manages to make lessons on algebra, calculus, and even organic chemistry seem like fun, enlightening chats — with visual aids. He conveys the finer points of everything from averages to the French Revolution with an ease and enthusiasm that will draw you in along with your child.

The lectures are free and organized so you can easily find the topic you need. There are also some nifty tools for practicing online. Register yourself as a coach to help your child navigate the lessons and to get feedback on how he’s doing.

Bottom Line: We wish this guy was our kids' teacher. (Thanks to the Internet, he can be).
Grades: Kindergarten and up
Cost: Free

Cyber school
If the school your child attends isn’t cutting it academically in a subject or two, making him start over at a new school is not your only option. is a online school with real world credibility: A number of states offer it as a virtual school alternative.

You can purchase a single class or a full-time course load, and supplementing your child's schooling is possible for the cost of a few restaurant lunches. A single class will set you back less than $30 a month plus materials, if you're willing to be your child’s teaching coach. Instructor-led classes are available for high school students. Perhaps most important, kids seem to find the curriculum engaging and fun.

Bottom line: A virtual school your kids can attend no matter where you live — without a private school price tag.
Grades: Kindergarten through 12
Price: One course is $29.95 a month. [This is the virtual school used by the state of Georgia - check with your counselor to see how to access it possibly for free.]

Not lost in translation
Language instruction is being cut from the budgets of schools all over the country, despite evidence that learning a foreign language has numerous brain benefits. (Research has found that picking up a second language improves brain function well into old age).

If your school doesn’t offer language instruction, park your kids (and yourself) in front of LiveMocha and start learning the language of your choice. Spanish? Urdu? Icelandic? There are 35 languages to choose from. Even if your student is learning a language at school, the site can help him sharpen his skills.

Self-paced classes are free and include feedback from native speakers from the massive LiveMocha volunteer community. Or sign up for a course (starting at $25 a month) that includes coaching from an expert. Private instruction from a native speaker is available if you buy a course.

Bottom line: You can make language learning part of your child’s education even if your school district can’t provide it.
Grades: Middle school and up (children must be at least 13 years old because it’s a social network). Younger kids require supervision.
Price: Courses are free. Instruction starts at $25 a month.

Virtual house calls
When a kid’s grades start to plummet, it can be difficult for parents to determine where the knowledge holes are. That's why the Kaplan Kids online tutoring program starts with an assessment test that targets problem areas. Going forward, the online instruction adapts to the child’s progress so he won't lose interest or grow bored.

Kaplan Kids offers math and reading lessons with activities adapted to both little kids and older learners, so they can have a bit of fun along the way.

Bottom line: Experienced tutors who make (virtual) house calls.
Grades: Kindergarten through eighth
Cost: After a seven-day free trial, it costs $29 a month per child.

Loony lessons
If Sponge Bob taught math, history, and science, you probably wouldn’t object to your kids spending Saturday morning in front of the TV.

Meet Tim and Moby. Tim is a witty cartoon guy and Moby is his robot friend. Together on BrainPop they tackle everything from diagraming sentences to polynomials, and they do it with the madcap energy of your kids' favorite cartoons. The pair bring a little humor to their on-demand tutoring lessons, and keep the lectures short and to the point. They even cover health issues, so if you've put off talking to your kids about the facts of life, these goofballs will kick off the conversation.

Bottom line: Cartoons that teach? Worth the price of admission.
Grades: Kindergarten through eighth (Adults have been known to enjoy it, too.)
Cost: $7.45 a month

Study buddies
Studying is more fun when you do it with a friend, and Grockit takes advantage of that fact by using social networking to promote learning. Kids can invite friends to study with them on Grockit, or join students from the online community who are preparing for the same test.

On this site, kids play games or do assessments, together or on their own, that make acing the test the goal. Instead of earning Facebook "Farmville" badges, kids earn badges for mastering concepts in algebra or geometry, or preparing for the SAT, ACT, GMAT, GRE, LSAT, or AP placement tests. (Of course, its unclear whether kids will forego Facebook time to do test prep, but it's worth a try).

Bottom line: Harnesses that social networking time by encouraging kids to do test prep with friends.
Grades: Seventh grade and up
Cost: $29.99 a month for each course segment.


Life in the Balcony said...

What awesome resources! Thanks for posting this!

Cerebration said...

Glad you appreciate them. This list was originally published at Great Schools. com but we had the links to Khan Academy and Brain Pop in our Favorite Links column on the right side panel for quite some time. We like both of those. Khan Academy is the wave of the future, IMO. Bill Gates has endorsed Sal Khan's program. We have a vast collection of really great links on a variety of topics in our Favorite Links - check them out!

Anonymous said...

Comcast has just started a reduced fee for Internet access for those that qualify...basically if a child in school qualifies for the free lunch program. There also is a credit for help in buying a computer. Maybe someone can tell Ms Berry about this.

Sorry to say that the thought sometimes crosses my mind that some in the administration really do not want the Title I children to be educated.

Cerebration said...

That's great news! We have posted before about the "One Laptop Per Child" program. They are working very hard to get laptops and internet connections to children in third world countries.

The little green XO laptop is super cute too! Here is their statement on "why" they have this mission:

We aim to provide each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop. To this end, we have designed hardware, content and software for collaborative, joyful, and self-empowered learning. With access to this type of tool, children are engaged in their own education, and learn, share, and create together. They become connected to each other, to the world and to a brighter future.

I agree!! I heard the "Triage" presenters promise Apple iPads for our students in DCSS. We plan to hold them to that promise, as we firmly believe that access to and understanding of technology is the new key to freedom.

Kim Gokce said...

The new Comcast program mentioned above is found at:

$9.95 residential internet access and lap-/net-books for around $140. Great offer for qualifying families. The Cross Keys Foundation is helping to get the word out in our seven attendance area schools.

So many great resources on the web, every child will benefit from having access ...

Anonymous said...

Cyber school is not the virtual school that the state uses. Georgia Virtual School is run by the state DOE and is not a part of k12.

Cerebration said...

Is the k12 cyber program different in GA? I thought it was the same curriculum...

You know that your kids have something special inside them. We know it, too. Georgia Cyber Academy (GCA) and K¹² ignite the minds of children like yours to bring learning and innate possibility alive. Together, we are helping Georgia students in grades K–10 reach their true, personal potential.

Why GCA?

The Georgia Cyber Academy and K¹² give Georgia kids in grades K–10 the chance to learn in the ways that are right for them. GCA offers:

The award-winning K¹² curriculum
Full-time, tuition-free online public school option
Support from state-certified teachers
An active, supportive school community
A range of extracurricular activities
A robust Advanced Learner Program
An active parent booster group
A program that has met Adequate Yearly Progress goals for the past two school years

The students I know who have used the GA k12 Cyber School have good things to say about it... Does anyone know if it's a special version of k12?

teacher said...

From what I have learned about k12 is that it is basically the same. The experience that I have had in the elementary school k12 program, is that what they offer is superior to what DCSS offers. Higher standards for learning and better materials.

Cerebration said...

Wanted to share a cool link (I've also added it to the list of favorite links on the side panel) -- it's an open source "planetarium" for your computer...

It shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope.
It is being used in planetarium projectors. Just set your coordinates and go.