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Friday, November 7, 2014

TOS Review: IXL

Christmas Book Review
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I had the privilege of reviewing IXL Math and IXL Language Arts from IXL online learning site. The IXL site is intended for students in Grades K-12, though the IXL Math covers everything from Pre-K to Pre-Calculus and IXL Language Arts covers Grades 2-8. 
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I received access for a full year for up to five students.
Purchase it yourself for:
One child for one course, Math - $79 a year, or $99 a year for two children
One child for one course, Language Arts - $79 a year, or $99 a year for two children
One child for Math AND Language Arts - $129 a year, or $149 for two children
For three or more children or for monthly billing, figure your own family's needs and number of students using IXL with the IXL membership calculator.
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It uses technology to help turn learning into a fun, game-like experience. IXL can be used on the PC, and they also have IXL apps. The iPad app works on all iPads. The Kindle app works on recent Kindle Fires, and the Android app works on devices that are 7" or larger. 
I have actually had the pleasure of being able to review IXL app for the crew last year, and was so excited to get to refresh our experience with the site.
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This time, I used it with my 3rd Grader and my 9th Grader. My 3rd Grader used it for Math and Language Arts, while my 9th Grader explored Geometry at the high school level. This time, we only used it on the PC. The site says that there are more courses coming for high schoolers, but as of right now, all you can do is sign up and anticipate the wait.
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IXL is intended to be used as a supplement, and works more like a quiz/testing site than an instructional one. The student logs on and works through answering a series of questions on each topic.
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It is presented as a bit of a challenge game where the child tries to get a score of 100, and to achieve goals.
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The parent receives e-mail updates that contain information about the students progress along with a printable certificate.
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WHAT DID WE THINK?
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The site is great for reviewing information in Math or Language Arts that you have already covered with your children.
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It is also fantastic for preparing for standardized testing.
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Though, it can be extremely challenging when it presents a topic the student is not yet familiar with, because in order to see how the problem was supposed to be solved, the child first has to get the answer wrong. This then shows how IXL arrived at the answer. While this is somewhat instructional, my children found it to be quite frustrating to watch their point level go down when tackling subject topics with which they were not yet familiar (While it aligns its skill level with the State requirements for Common Core, it doesn't follow one specific curriculum. So, a topic they need to know by the end of the year may or may not have been covered in the sequence of the curriculum you are using).
It was really fun when we got the answers right. The screen would pop up with big green words like, "BRILLIANT~"
"THAT'S RIGHT!"
"YOU GOT IT!"
As each question was answered correctly, the score tally box would go up, up, up.
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However, when the student answered a question incorrectly, it was quite discouraging to see that same tally go down especially when it was a subject topic that was a bit over their head to begin with, like Geometry was for my son. He would go up, up, up, and almost reach 100 only to get a few wrong and go rapidly back down.
I realize this might encourage children to spur them on to think about their answer and strive for perfection. My son, on the other hand, being the gamer that he is, wanted to strive for a perfect score and to "get to the next level". He kept wishing for instruction BEFORE the quiz games and not after he was dinged on his point value.
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IXL is intended to be used as a supplement, but I still wish it would give just a brief instructional video before each testing game segment just to be certain that the child has had instruction on that particular subject before the quizzing games begin, because even if you are following an accelerated curriculum, the individual topics of what is covered in the IXL quizzing may not have been covered yet in your particular curriculum. 
OR - It would have helped my son if, when he got a wrong answer, his score would not go down, or he would have even liked to have been allowed to see how the problem was worked and then resubmit his answer before having points taken away.
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However, it works well if you are absolutely certain the child has covered all of the material in a particular section, if you sit with them to use each question as a reinforcement to a current lesson you are working on or for REVIEW of something you are confident they have learned or have at least been introduced to, or if you start them out at the grade level below where they are currently learning and then they practice and review their skill with mastery and success.
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