By Sarah Plummer
Nothing seems more exciting to school children than a snow day, but after the snowmen have been built and the hot chocolate sipped, students can brush up on their school work with a fun, interactive website — Learn21.
A culmination of work done by the West Virginia Department of Education and a team of 60 educators and technology specialists, Learn21 is a website for Pre-K children through 12th graders offering interactive games, virtual field trips and video lessons in the core subjects of math, science and social studies. The Department of Education hopes to add language arts, reading, fine arts, health and technical education soon.
West Virginia Deputy Superintendent Jorea Marple sees this new initiative as another step along “a journey to transform public education so that it is not only school-based” by creating and offering more resources online.
Marple mentioned that if a student has difficulty learning multiple step equations in Algebra I, for example, he or she can go the Learn21 website and hear a master level teacher explain the concept again, see a problem worked, the try to solve some equations on their own.
“Children should be able to learn 24/7 wherever they are,” she said.
And while Learn21 offers lessons, the site is much more than a rote study guide; it both reinforces the concepts that students learn in class or might have difficulty understanding as well as “engages students in extended learning,” Marple explained.
During a snow day, she continued, a student can visit Learn21 and go on a virtual tour of Williamsburg while enriching their knowledge of the social studies curriculum.
Although learning through play may not be something that immediately attracts older students, Marple pointed out that the Department of Education hopes to communicate that “learning is about personal responsibility; it is not just about what you do in school.”
In addition, Learn21 is fashioned to allow feedback from users and the development team may even include college-age students in the future, she said.
“The Learn21 team takes feedback very seriously and makes changes accordingly. With their input, we design activities that are interesting to them.”
For the Department of Education, it was very important to include a Pre-K student site, noted Marple.
The constructs of each age-appropriate site are substantially different. For preschoolers there are more animation and games.”
She pointed out that one game, called Measuring Up, is a fun way for young children to lean about measurements while having fun.
“A lot of research suggests the important in preschool enrollment to later success in school,” she said.
New content and activities will be added monthly to this growing initiative.
Visit Learn21 at http://wvde.state.wv.us/learn21/.