15 Mar 2013

Computer Learning Systems Review GCSE English

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It's very seductive to think we can sit our kids in front of a computer and they'll learn. Books like Detoxing Childhood set out the dangers of too much screen time. But we're busy, and we don't have time to sit them down and do homework. So we find a screen-based learning system, which looks fun, and hope for the best.

Iamlearninghome.com gets great reviews and is used in schools. It costs £5 per month recurring, or £49 a year. So I thought I'd try using it for GCSE English. The system contains an array of games designed to boost learning, and identifies which areas kids do, and don't understand. Finding, then filling in gaps, is essential to good revision, so this looked perfect.

First, the games. They would have been exciting - in a 1980s arcade. Perhaps. Older kids and teens would find the low grade gameplay infuriating rather than exciting. The games I saw interrupted the revision, rather than being an integral part of it, which was somewhat disappointing. It felt a bit like breaking off a test every three questions to play space invaders.

Don't assume this system will teach your child. The English games I tried were test-based, and you needed to know the subject thoroughly already in order to hit a high score. There was no clear explanation about why the answer was right or wrong, and the system marked answers as incorrect that would have gained credit in a GCSE exam.

In Science or Maths, this online system probably works better -as in these subjects, the answer is either right or wrong. In English, interpretation is everything. The scoring system on I Am Learning was so inflexible it might well confuse students and lead them to doubt their own knowledge.

If you want to help your kids in English, invest in good textbooks and revision guides instead. Get a checklist of what topics will probably appear on the exam, and let your child fill in the gaps themselves. At least then they're taking charge of their own learning.

If you want to try I am learning for yourself, you can sign up with Paypal, then cancel your subscription if you don't like it. If you get stuck cancelling, check Paypal's Help section. For Maths, I'd recommend Mymaths, which most secondary schools subscribe to, or Mathletics, which is also popular. These programmes give video tutorials as well as tests. Don't just leave them with it though. Always check that your child is working at the right level.

If you do have time to sit with your kids, and give support, they'll love you for it. Teaching your kids (anything at all) is a fab way to bond, and they'll remember it forever.