educational websites

Free SAT Prep Classes

Written on March 26, 2014 at 2:24 pm , by

My kids have frequently used the Khan Academy to improve their grades, catch up on classes and complete their homework. So the announcement (above) that this free online classroom has partnered with the College Board to make SAT prep free to everyone made me very happy.

My son has taken the SAT three times and plans to take it again. Every time he does, he plans to study. But somehow he never manages to get in enough studying before test day. Next time, he won’t be trying to drag himself through a book. And I won’t feel guilty if I can’t afford to buy him an expensive test preparation class. Because, according to David Coleman, CEO of the College Board, the Khan Academy will be the best place to prepare for this exam going forward. “To be clear,” explains Coleman in the above video, “this will be the only place in the world—and free to the world—besides on our own website, that students will be able to encounter materials for the exam that are focused on the core of the math and the literacy that matters most…There will be no other partnerships, so this will be the best there is.”

So that’s where my son will be taking practice tests, watching Sal Khan work through actual SAT questions, retaking tests, practicing with real SAT reading and writing problems provided by the College Board, and doing it all from whatever tablet, smartphone or computer he happens to be in front of. To make sure he’s on track, I can act as coach and check his progress online.

For 2016, the SAT will be completely redesigned to put the emphasis back on testing knowledge rather than mastery of test-taking tricks. The Khan Academy is working in partnership with the College Board to create study materials—available for free to everyone!—to go with the revamped SAT, too.

Free test prep for college, free college classes for all students. I love the democratic, egalitarian place the Internet is taking education. All we have to do is dial up learning instead of silly cat videos and we can change the world. It gives me hope.

 

Christina Tynan-Wood has been covering technology since the dawn of the Internet and currently writes the Family Tech column for Family Circle. You can find more advice about buying and using technology at GeekGirlfriends.com.

Alleyoop.com Helps Teens Master Math and Science Homework

Written on August 27, 2012 at 8:39 pm , by

It was back-to-school day today at our house. And that means that almost every conversation I have with my teens for the next nine months will have the word “homework” in it. Last year was a bit rough around here school-wise. So this year, I’m determined to make the homework hour as much fun as possible. To make that happen, I’m looking for entertaining educational sites my kids will enjoy exploring as much as they like poking around YouTube watching amusing videos.

Back in February, Alleyoop.com launched to help teens get college-ready with math. And just a couple of weeks ago, the site added an extensive science curriculum through collaborators like NASA eClips, and partners such as National Geographic, Scientific Minds, Patrick JMT, Virtual Nerd, Adaptive Curriculum and Brightstorm. Alleyoop.com fits  perfectly into my up-the-fun-strategy on homework. Not only does it teach science and match  in short, engaging videos and animations but the topics are easy to search and align neatly with the high school curriculum being covered in school. Added bonus? It’s all wrapped around a gaming model that infuses learning with a little bit of game fever. They take lessons to earn points. And those points can be used to buy one-on-one tutoring. It will even reach out to kids via text or email to remind them to carry on with a subject they are learning — and earn more points.

What happens in my house at homework hour usually falls into two fairly predictable scenarios: The materials covered in school was easy and clear and the homework is  done in a matter of minutes. That is obviously my favorite homework hour. But sometimes, nothing happens. No amount of poking, reminding, or prodding gets the homework done. The kids won’t say why. They are just stalled. But I have learned that the reason for this is usually that they weren’t paying attention in class – or just didn’t understand the material — so they don’t know how to do the homework. Rather than admit this, they just avoid the work.

When the subject they are stuck on is difficult science or advanced math, finding a tutor right now is not only challenging but  expensive. But calling up a quick, clear, and engaging animation that explains that difficult topic using examples kids can relate to, a video lesson by a gifted teacher, or a whiteboard lesson in math or physics that will explain the topic clearly – and explain it again…and again? Or, when all of that fails, dialing up a tutor right there? That’s exactly what I need to turn those “stuck” homework sessions into the kind that move along quickly and successfully. Alleyoop.com is now bookmarked on all of our computers.

Christina Tynan-Wood writes the Family Tech column for Family Circle, and is the author of “How to Be a Geek Goddess.”You can find her at GeekGirlfriends.com, as well as here on Momster.com.