Friday, October 30, 2015

Standard Deviants Accelerate (Schoolhouse Review)

Over the past month, Emily has had fun reviewing the Homeschool Courses at Standard Deviants Accelerate. Standard Deviants provides fun and lively video instruction for a variety of  topics. For most courses, the Standard Deviants options would be best used as a supplement rather than a full course. Courses include:
  • Earth Science (Grades 6+)
  • Nutrition (Grades 6+)
  • Biology (Grades 7+)
  • Chemistry (Grades 9+)
  • Arithmetic (Grades 3+)
  • Fundamental Math (Grades 4+)
  • Algebra (Grades 7+)
  • English Composition (Grades 9+)
  • US History (Grades 9+)
  • AP Biology, Chemistry, American Government, U.S. History, English Composition (Grades 11+)
For the purposes of this review, Emily has primarily been using the Nutrition course, which we plan to count as part of her high school level Health credit. Topic covered include cells and macronutrients, imagemicronutrients, vitamins and minerals, digestion, food groups, nutritional disorders, the food industry, organic food, and food safety. Each of the eight primary topics is divided into 3-6 lessons plus a chapter review, for a total of about 35 separate lessons.
Each lesson has the same format: first, a 3-5 minute video teaches the information. The videos are fast-moving, jumping from one teacher to another for short bursts of infimageormation interspersed with illustrations. A script for each lesson is also provided. This is very helpful for review, or for a parent who wants to skim the topic without actually watching the whole lesson.
imageThen, a vocabulary page reviews the key terms for the lesson. The vocabulary page is followed by a “diagram,” an interactive review that requires the student to drag key words into place.
A five question quiz and written answer complete the lesson. The quiz is automatically graded and any questions missed are linked to a short video segment that explains the material. I really liked this feature, which allows the student to re-learn the missed material. (The student soon learns that this is important because the upcoming chapter test will include any questions that were previously missed!) Each quiz has only 5 questions, so missing just one will result in a grade of 80. I would have preferred to see 10-question quizzes.
We didn’t care for the written answer portion of the lessons. Each lesson has the exact same question, which the student is expected to answer as it relates to that lesson. Emily found this rather difficult to do, at least in the early lessons, since the question didn’t pertain to any specific lesson. Instead, I let her write a 2-3 sentence summary of the lesson, which I then counted for bonus credit for her test. I also gave bonus credit if Emily made the effort to take notes during the video. This helped to bring up the 80’s that she was making on many of the quizzes and to encourage note taking, which she avoids doing in any subject. (I’m trying to have her improve her note taking skills this year, since that is a skill she hasn’t had much practice with.) Note: the bonus credit was just in my own record keeping; the teacher can’t adjust the grades in the SDA software.
The Chapter Review for each topic allows the student to review, present, and be assessed on the material in unique ways.
Act it Out” captures the spirit of the Standard Deviant style of learning by asking the student to teach a lesson. The topic might not be exciting (“the difference between complete and incomplete proteins”, or “why carbohydrates are the most efficient form of energy for the body”), but the material must be presented in a fun way—making a comic strip, creating a game, or creating a series of Twitter posts about the topic. Teaching someone else is the best way to really learn something, so the Act it Out section helps the student really make the content his own.
The Post-test covers all the lessons in the chapter and is in multiple-choice format. Two Critical Thinking questions require the student to both retain information and use the information to draw conclusions.
The U.S. History course is not a typical sequential approach to history. Instead, it consists of 6 topics: American Presidents, Women’s Movement, Civil Reform, America at War, and Economic Changes. Each topic has several lessons that take the concept through time in U.S history.  We’ve only watched a couple of these lessons so far, but I know they will be a fun supplement for history this year.
    Meet the teachers! This photo gives you an idea about how zany the lessons can be! This goal of SDA and this group of young actors is to make learning fun!
Standard Deviants Accelerate Review
Emily found Standard Deviants Accelerate easy to navigate and use. The content is designed to be entertaining and engaging, and she agreed that it was. SDA keeps track of quiz scores and written answer grades (graded by the parent).image 
I found the parent/teacher portion of the site a bit more awkward to use. It is set up for classroom use, not for home use, so if I had 30 or 100 students, maybe it would have worked better for me. In order to see one of Emily’s written answers, for example, I would have to click on the class, then on the lesson, then on the particular assignment for that lesson, then on Emily’s name. Repeat the entire process to see a written answer from another lesson. After all that, as Emily could tell you, I would be rather irritated to find that she hadn’t completed the written answer yet!  It would be SO much easier to just click on her name, then see all the completed assignments from any subject under it. Other than the set-up of the teacher portal, I was very happy with the classes and content.
Emily gives “two thumbs up” to  the SDA courses. She says that the videos are packed with a lot of information and are entertaining to watch.  Because the lessons are short, she’s often able to complete two lessons a day, so she is already nearing the end of the Nutrition course that she started 6 weeks ago. 
The Standard Deviants Accelerate courses are currently priced at $9.99 per course per month. ($4.99 for the AP Prep courses.)
Standard Deviants Accelerate Review
I received this product free in exchange for my honest review.

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