It often surprises people when I mention that education accounts for fully one-fifth of nonprofit activity, second only to human services. Of course libraries are all about education in its various forms. There are now a dizzying array of online resources in this area. But what's good, effective, and also entertaining for kids? I think I may have a lead for you.
PowerMyLearning is a new, free online resource that has educational games, videos, and other activities for elementary, middle-school, and high school-aged students. The platform is currently available in English and Spanish. I have to say that this turned out to be a pretty time consuming piece to write because the games are pretty fun and surprisingly high quality. There are hundreds of things on there. Some of the videos, however, I found to be a bit sleepy. This site carefully aggregates and vets educational content from places like the nonprofit Khan Academy, PBS Kids, Discovery Channel, and other reputable online educational sources.
The PowerMyLearning online resource launched just a few years ago and was developed by the New York-based educational nonprofit, CFY. CFY was founded by Elisabeth Stock in 1999 with the mission of helping students do better in school by improving their learning environments at home. Since then, the organization has partnered with hundreds of schools and provided digital learning resources to 50,000 families in five cities. They’ve had lots of experience seeing what works and what doesn’t.
I know Elisabeth and am not surprised that she successfully fundraised $7 million to launch this service with support from the likes of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Broad Foundation, and The W.K. Kellogg Foundation. She's something of a force of nature.
The PowerMyLearning activities are organized by subject and grade level (K-12). The math and language arts materials are geared to the Common Core State Standards that most U.S. states have adopted. An educator can assign “Playlists” of activities to students based on school curriculum or specific student needs. They can then follow what each student is doing and how much time the student spends on a particular Playlist or activity whenever they go online to PowerMyLearning. An assessment component will soon be added to the platform. Parents, teachers and students have access to the same usage report, which allows for better coordination between parent and teacher, and greater student accountability.
Educators can also create "classes," which are groupings of students (one to 1,000) that they want to share playlists with. It's important that educators register as educators rather than parents or students on the site because that will give them full access to the Playlist and Class features, which are not yet available to parents and students. It also integrates well with after-school programs and library open-access. Several Boys and Girls Clubs are using the platform to supplement their efforts to improve student achievement. It is designed not only to enhance instruction in the classroom, but also to extend learning beyond the classroom.
Bill Rappel, CFY's Director of Strategic Partnerships told me that CFY wants this platform to be used far and wide – not just in the U.S. It's available to anyone with an Internet connection. It has over 1,600 activities, over 100 of them in Spanish.
Bill Rappel says, "CFY has a decade of experience working with students, teachers and parents on the ground. We are now are transferring that experience to the cloud to be able to reach many more people. It's our mission to help students, teachers, and parents use digital learning to help students do better in school."
Bill is also eager that nonprofits and libraries know that CFY can provide you with a "PowerMyLearning desktop icon" that you can put on your lab computers to explore PowerMyLearning quickly and easily. The icon is customizable so CFY can provide you with web analytics data showing how many people are using the platform from your organization’s icon. Nonprofits, Computers for Classrooms, and Computers 2 San Diego Kids are including the PowerMyLearning desktop icons on the computers they distribute to schools, labs, and low-income families to track the impact of the equipment.
Tell us about your daily routine maintaining public computers, or a moment when you were particularly proud. Don't forget that what might be "that's nothing" to you may be an "aha!" to someone else!