Another website disappointment

Posted on April 1, 2013

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Learnzillion.com looked like a winner.   It’s all about lessons based on the common core, with little videos and practice and quizzes.   I figured this would be a good one to try out … but now I’m pretty sure I’ll keep on looking.

I picked the lesson “Combine parts of an expression: using the associative property”  and I liked the video; it showed figuring out the perimeter of a rectangle by adding l + l + w + w, and then showing that was the same as 2l + 2w, and then that that was the same as 2(l+w).   Granted, I would have *started* with the idea that the perimeter is the distance around … as in, l + w + l + w, but since the whole idea is to see what details *do* matter, I figured that wasn’t a big deal.

THe “practice video” had guided practice with real numbers.   I *like* that.

The practice the students were supposed to do?   It had nothing, zero, zip nada to do with the video except that it had algebraic expressions.  It was practice identifying order of operations with algebra, what a quotient was, and exponents.

I had found another lesson on algebraic expressions that showed the different ways to write “two times x” and “two divided by x.”  Maybe that video had explained what a quotient was and that the program was sophisticated enough to combine them?     I really like that they’re explicitly teaching those details.   However, when I clicked for “practice” on that one… there wasn’t any more practice.   Well, that’s better than the *wrong* practice, but…

…. I’m hoping this is (unlike my Khan Academy experience) a sampling error and that other stuff will be better.

And speaking of academies, think I’ll go review javascript …

… Update:   they’re 0 for 2.   I watched a nice video on combining like terms… and it was okay.   It still fell headlong into the Typical Math Teacher STuff, to wit: she uses blue squares to represent “x to the second power” (kudos for saying it that way and not confounding with extra terminology, while explaining the “square” aspect), and a green bar to represent “x” and a yellow square to represent a number one.   The green bars are arranged in the two dimensions, so some folks would probably make that connection… but ya know?   We have the technology.  Why not actually show a *number* example?

Then we go through one example that way.   After that, you’re supposed to get it, and *all the rest* of the examples are just algebra.  One and done.  I want bridges and practice.

When we learn about terms, we hear this lovely, correct verbal explanation of what terms are … and then, when you’re done with the explanation, you write the expression.   WHy not have the expression there in the first place so I’ve got something there to hang your explanation on?

The clincher, though, the “no, I don’t even want to *try* this on my students who’ve had as much abuse as they need” problem:   after your wonderful explanation, what is the practice?

X + 4 = 19; what’s the value of x.

Forgive me, but my students are not quite ready for this “here’s a lesson — now, of course, you’ll be expected to apply this to a completely different problem with material we have not taught you!”

Further update:   I’m duly informed that yes, they’re aware that there’s no match.

My response was full-on old-lady-teacher curmudgeonette:

I would rather strongly suggest that you have higher pre-release standards with a modicum of concern for the poor folks who might use your program. Having “practice” that doesn’t match the lessons is an egregious fundamental mistake that calls everything else about the program into question. That’s a crying shame, because you’ve got passionate people trying very hard to make something that could and should be useful.

I don’t know, maybe I’ll mellow after some tea.   I completely, fully understand that there are goign to be mistakes that get by editing processes, but … practice that doesnt’ match the lesson? That’s a fundamental design flaw and I’d have yanked it off the air… but, maybe they’ve got “did you get the product OUT THERE” (and that’s what’s most important) folks breathing down necks…

Anyway, time to print out my little conceptual assessment for a student coming in this morning…/

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Posted in: rant