Website Review
StudySync

Superb ELA resource spurs critical thinking with dynamic multimedia

  • SyncTV episode in which students are engaged in Socratic-style discussion about a text.

  • A "Blast" about Oprah Winfrey engages kids in a current debate.

  • Teacher toolbar offers easy access to student groupings, communities, assignments, and the library.

  • Possibilities for assignments include directions to students as individuals or in groups, as well as rubrics for assessments.

  • Library of 500+ literacy texts provides multimedia lessons based on strong pedagogy and best practice.

Quick Take
Pros: Each text is backed by quality multimedia; SyncTV gives kids an especially great model of how to communicate in class.
Cons: Initial setup could take quite a bit of time.
Bottom Line: StudySync offers great potential to build background knowledge, model critical thinking, and prompt discussion and writing.
Learning Scores
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
Web-delivered academic tool engages kids with social interaction and multimedia to connect them to great literature and ideas.
Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 5
Lessons and activities incorporate best practices for in-depth learning, such as the Socratic Circle, a tool that models collaborative learning and higher-level thinking.
Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 5
Audio and video supplements support the lessons. Multimedia tools and resources aid students, groups, communities, and assignments. A wealth of supports for teachers is also available.
Our Review
What's It Like?

StudySync is an engaging online resource that offers multimedia materials to support over 500 texts. This digital library covers English language arts, history, science, math and technology, and social studies. Each text offers audio, video, critical thinking questions, prompts, and lesson plans. The kicker? All of these well-written lesson plans are linked to Common Core standards. This research-based program employs best practices such as close reading of text and reading and writing across the curriculum. With teacher-created or public groups, students interact and engage in a variety of ways –- from short quick-writes to more thoughtful responses to prompts and peer review.

A full text of StudySync’s library is also available as an e-text through the Gutenberg Library. Lesson plans include differentiation, ELL guidance, and assessment. Texts range from "Huckleberry Finn" and "The Raven" to Einstein’s letter to the president.

Standouts:

  • "Think" question for Macbeth -- Why do you think Shakespeare uses the prophecy of the witches to set in motion Macbeth's rise to power?
  • "Blast" discussion topic -- Is the NBA’s minimum age requirement fair for young athletes?
Is It Good For Learning?

The depth and quality of StudySync's multimedia materials is really outsanding, but its coolest feature is SyncTV, which can fit beautifully into classroom study. SyncTV's dramatized chats involve a diverse group of kids responding to a prompt on a subject like Frankenstein's monster or Anne Frank, for example. They bring in several points of view, citing evidence from the text, sharing their own activated prior knowledge, and making connections to what they already know. Their connections often lead to current topics important to teens. They use iPads or other technologies as they do research to bring sophisticated meaning to the text, including outside quotes, biographical information, and in-depth character analysis.

The lively banter between teens is appealing and not stuffy at all, which kids should respond to. This rich discussion models for students what engaged learning can look like, and hopefully they'll be moved to emulate it in the classroom. StudySync really does make it easy to incorporate multimedia into your language arts curriculum.

How Can Teachers Use It?

Once you enter class info and become a part of StudySync's online community, you can assign tasks to individual students, small groups of students, or the entire group. Students can interact with each other in a variety of formats on a variety of topics –- from short quick-write responses and “Blasts” to more engaged, thoughtful responses to Prompts and peer review.

StudySync offers these "Blasts" four times per week, and they are current, relevant questions debated through an online community. You can also create assignments in the Goals section. Possible assignments can include a SyncTV episode, reading and writing activities, or short 40-character "quick writes." Navigation is straightforward. Once student information is input into the system, collaborative learning can begin! The inclusion of Common Core standards here is just icing on the cake, making it easy for you to align StudySync materials to current curriculum requirements.

This review of StudySync was written by

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