Friday, September 3, 2010

Time4Writing- A TOS review

I was given the opportunity to review Time4Writing. This is an online writing course for kindergarten through high school. You do your work independently online and a cyber teacher grades your material. Some of the exercises were multiple choice and some you typed in and the teacher corrected. It states that each 8 week course is $99. You can also buy an 'extender' if you feel you would like additional weeks to complete the course. We decided on the basic grammar course.

The positives of the program are:

  • Feedback on how you are doing. You can do your work at any time. There is a teacher (actual person) there to help your student on a 24 hour feedback loop via 'email' in the classroom. This is not quite accurate if you want to do more than one assignment. In the beginning of the class we received 24 hour feedback. Later on in took longer and if we did more than one assignment only one was graded per day. Sometimes it did take longer than 24 hours.
  • There is audio instruction for the visually impaired but you will need help from another person to take the quizzes as they are not audio given. Or, if you can read the pages via various technologies for the visually impaired, you should be fine with the quizzes. (Hopefully I stated all this right- we don't deal with visual impairments here so I don't know the lingo but I did like that there was audio.)
  • If you have a lot of children this might prove useful to help take some of the burden off of teaching things yourself. In addition, in the higher grades it might prove beneficial to have the aid of an actual teacher help you figure out if what your child is doing is 'correct.'
  • The audio portion was excellent in following the written text and very clear. Andrew, a cochlear implant user since 1 year old, was able to clearly hear the audio even with the dishwasher and washing machine going.

Difficulties for us:

  • Andrew does not do well with grades and percentages. If he gets less than 100% he gets very upset. We have found this with two other programs that we use. This is a graded program. Some folks love this. (Thus the "difficulties for US" title.)
  • This particular program does not use very many videos; however, they are not closed captioned. All of the material was also available in written form on the same page but not 'captioned.' If you need captioning you will want to contact them first to see how many videos they may have in the program you are considering (either time4writing or time4learning.) I am speaking ONLY of the grammar lesson of Time4Writing. I do not know the details of the others but this is a question I would ask if it is important for you.
  • Andrew still needs direct 1:1 and so while he found this program 'interesting' and it was easy to use, I still had to be there to guide him or he would have ended up on a gaming site in about 60 seconds. It was interesting but not THAT interesting. It was still 'work' to him. (Kind of like I go to look for something on the internet and end up on Facebook...not that I do that or anything..)
  • If you wanted your child to be able to do this independently they will need to know how to grab text and cut and paste it into the work area and also change text to italics. They gave options such as 'type answer into box' instead of copying and pasting. On some of the pages, I would print out the exercise and have him do it on paper. On other ones, I would do the typing for him online. Some of the assignments I just corrected them because I wasn't going to retype the whole thing online since he did it on paper. The actual teacher then grades this work. With a bit of instruction Andrew could probably do this but I didn't see the need to address that at this point. We do so much of our work orally with me giving immediate feedback that the teacher was a bit redundant, but this could be very helpful for those in a large family whose child was an independent worker. These options (computer) are available earlier in the academic career than some of the other online and cd rom 'school' options which generally start in later elementary. These can start at kindergarten or first grade.
  • I felt that some of the beginning grammar lessons were not 'beginner.' When talking about adjectives (in the beginning course), they gave a quiz to identify adjectives. One example was "This pizza has peperoni." Andrew told me that "THIS" was not an adjetive and that it was a pronoun. I did write the teacher on Time4Writing and heard back very quickly. She indicated that "this, that these and those" are demonstrative adjectives. I looked it up (ie: googled it) and sure enough they are. Still, this is quite hard for a beginner (K-1 st grade) and I ended up asking quite a few adults who didn't know the answer. If you were brand new to grammar you might need additional helps. Others I spoke to doing this review thought that the lessons were too easy. (See banner at top to go to the link for more reviews.)
  • I disagreed with the teacher in more than one instance as to the answer on written exercises and quizzes. Her explanations did not convince me I was wrong, and this was beginning grammar. I will admit that I did some of the exercises (written and quizzes) myself because I did not feel it would work for Andrew but still wanted to 'trial' the program to give it a fair evaluation. My informal survey on Facebook (very scientific) of who was right ended up in my favor. To be honest, I don't mind disagreements, but you can't 'argue' with the teacher in this instance and for what it's worth, I don't know if I 'trust' the grades given. This is probably the same as in any program online though. One of the other reasons I like homeschooling is that Andrew can give me an answer that might not agree with mine but if the explanation is reasonable I can count it as right OR give further explanation as to why I am correct.
  • You are only allowed to do one graded assignment a day. This is one of the biggest reasons we love homeschooling; flexibility. I get why they do this. They have to when dealing with many kids papers to grade but for our school it would not work.

I did a quick google search of other reviews of this product and I wanted to note that many people are very happy with this program when you get to the middle and high school years. I just think that the earlier grades probably need a more 'hands on' teacher my opinion..which this is..since it is a review :) I can see the potential desire for this later on in Andrew's academic career at a higher level. And again, if you have a larger family you might find this very useful. You can see other's reviews of this product by clicking on the banner at the top of the blog!

As part of The Old Schoolhouse Crew of reviewers, I was given a complimentary subscription to Time4Writing. I am not compensated for this review and am not obligated to provide a positive review.


Guiding Light said...

Hi! Stopping by from the crew to check out your review. Great job! Have a wonderfully blessed day!

One Mom said...

Great job on your review. You made some good points!

Our Village is a Little Different said...

Thanks for your review. I enjoyed reading your opinions!

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