Voices Vol 41 No 4

Technology

Favorite Websites —http://www.sophia.org

By Marilyn Pongracz

In my last article, I wrote about keeping up with technology, and, in particular, how to find what is best for your particular needs.  See: http://www.njtesol-njbe.org/voices/vcsv41n3/default.html.

One of my favorite ways to keep up is to have the information come to me through http://www.eschoolnews.com/.  I get an e-mail message every day and from the subject heading decide whether to scan or delete it, and if I scan it, whether to save a link for further review or not.

An intriguing site that came to my e-mail is Sophia, which has over 25,000 tutorials.  It’s a relatively new tool for learning using the “flipped classroom” model.  The idea is that instead of the teacher always presenting information in class and then students reviewing it at home through homework, at least some of the time students can learn concepts at home viewing videos and taking online quizzes, and then applying those concepts interactively in the classroom.  This can give the teacher time for differentiated instruction.  Scheduled webinars offered on the site demonstrate how to “flip” a classroom.

One major advantage of the site is that concepts are presented in very small chunks, usually in a five minute video or six-slide PowerPoint.  For example, two of the topics that I viewed were Finding the Area of Irregular Shapes and The Properties of Water.  Most of the presentations also have three- to four-question quizzes to review the material.

Each presentation can be rated by every viewer, and these ratings are a good guide to the best ones.   Teachers can sign up on the site and set up playlists or groups for their students to choose which presentations they want their students to work with.

The site also offers “Pathways” so that students can start at the beginning of any subject such as basic algebra, take a quiz for each topic first, and review the concepts that they do not understand as they go along.

Based on its content, Sophia seems most appropriate for students in middle school and higher, and its focus and strengths are math and science.  There are a few presentations about English grammar and writing, but it is not ESL grammar and the vocabulary in the presentations is too advanced for even college-age ELLs. 

Sophia is a subsidiary of Capella Education Company which is also the parent company of Capella University, an accredited online university for which Sophia is an important learning tool.  However, teachers from all schools are encouraged to contribute lessons.

Marilyn Pongracz is the Technology Coordinator for NJTESOL/NJBE and the English Language Resource Center Supervisor at Bergen Community College.