By Jessica Lyons
CFY's Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder Elisabeth Stock recently shared with Study.com how their work is creating students who will succeed in school.
Study.com: What is CFY's mission and how do you work to fulfill that mission?
Elisabeth Stock: CFY is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping K-12 students, educators and parents use digital learning to improve educational outcomes in the United States.
Our approach is unique in two ways. First, we address the learning students do, not only in their classrooms but in all environments, including the home. And second, we focus on all three constituencies that impact student achievement - educators, parents and the students themselves.
We pursue our objectives through the combination of our innovative, free K-12 digital learning platform, PowerMyLearning.com, and our on-the-ground direct service initiative, the CFY Digital Learning Program.
Study.com CFY's Digital Learning Program works with partner schools serving students in grades 6-8. How do you work with the schools? What are the results of your partnership?
ES: CFY's Digital Learning Program involves whole-school partnerships with high-poverty middle schools that focus on effectively implementing the Common Core State Standards, thereby driving student achievement. Through these partnerships, we provide support and training for school leaders and educators so they can more effectively incorporate digital learning into instruction and extend learning beyond the classroom.
We also hold Family Learning Workshops at these schools for children and their families. Parents or guardians attend with their children to learn about how technology and online educational resources, like our free PowerMyLearning® platform, can help create a stronger home learning environment. During the workshop, families learn on a computer that they then get to take home and is theirs to keep.
Since 1999, we have worked directly with more than 50,000 families at over 100 schools, so the results of the Digital Learning Program are widespread. We've seen that our program has had a statistically significant impact on students' standardized math test scores and has also had a significant impact on increasing student effort in class. Our program has enabled educators to use PowerMyLearning in their classrooms to differentiate instruction and address the different learning needs of their students. It has also helped educators successfully extend students' learning time in the home. Two studies also found that our workshops helped parents and guardians increase their confidence in supporting student learning at home.
Study.com PowerMyLearning is a free platform created by CFY to provide digital learning activities. How did the idea for the platform come about? What are CFY's goals for the platform?
ES: As software evolved and broadband became faster and more available, CFY saw a vast increase in the quality and quantity of educational content available online. With a decade of experience partnering with schools and evaluating educational software, we saw an opportunity to leverage our digital learning expertise to reach a broader audience. We decided to launch a free K-12 learning platform where all students, educators and parents could easily find and use the best digital learning activities available on the Web for free - things like academic games, videos and interactive simulations. In 2010 CFY launched PowerMyLearning.com.
One of our core goals with PowerMyLearning is to create a generation of students who, with the support of their teachers and families, can own their learning. This means they are more self-directed in their learning, cognizant of their academic strengths and weaknesses, aware of how to move closer to their academic goals and believe they have the necessary tools to help advance their learning. These are the students who will do well in school, be ready to succeed in college and will have a strong career to follow.
Study.com How do you come up with the content for PowerMyLearning? How do parents, teachers and students use and respond to the platform?
ES: CFY does not create the resources found on PowerMyLearning, rather we curate them. By playing the role of the curator, we can truly take an unbiased perspective. All of the activities are publicly available on the Web for free and vetted by our content team, which includes professional K-12 educators with experience using digital learning in their classrooms. We've evaluated thousands of activities in all major subject areas and identified the ones that are the most engaging and effective. We've tagged them by subject, sub-topic, grade level, the Common Core State Standards and a number of other criteria. Then we made them all really easy to find and use through PowerMyLearning.
If we were to use one word to describe the way that users are responding to the platform, it would be 'excited.' Parents and educators are able to immediately see the value that PowerMyLearning brings to every classroom and home. Educators are able to use the Playlist feature to experiment and test curricular ideas and then share what works with colleagues, becoming part of a culture of continuous learning and improvement. Parents are able to use PowerMyLearning to become more familiar with the Common Core State Standards and support their child's learning at home to meet these more rigorous standards.
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But what is perhaps most important is the enthusiasm we see from students. PowerMyLearning is an educational website, but it doesn't necessarily feel that way for kids. It was designed to be very kid-friendly - it's engaging; it's simple to use. The activities were picked not just because they're educational, but because kids have fun when they're using them.
Study.com How does technology help students take charge of their learning? How does using technology throughout their education benefit students?
ES: PowerMyLearning helps keep students engaged and empowers them to take charge of their learning. By making all the activities available to students and enabling students to see their results on assessments, PowerMyLearning enables them to become more self-directed in their learning. As described above, students quickly become cognizant of their academic strengths and weaknesses, and they know how to help themselves advance their learning.
Also, with this platform, students are able to not only complete teacher assignments, but they can also explore new topics that may be of interest to them. We've seen encouraging data from sixth graders at one school, showing that 86% of students continued to use PowerMyLearning at home after they completed the work assigned to them by their teachers.
We believe that when kids own their own learning, they are picking up skills that will help them succeed in middle school and then high school, and ultimately in college.
Study.com How can incorporating technology into a classroom help teachers?
ES: Incorporating digital tools like PowerMyLearning into the classroom helps educators engage students, meet students' specific learning needs and enable students to own their own learning.
By giving educators tools like PowerMyLearning, they are able to differentiate the learning experience for each student, giving each child material that's right for them.
Also of incredible importance to educators is the fact that the math and English language arts activities on PowerMyLearning are tied to the Common Core State Standards, allowing them to quickly design individualized or classroom learning plans based on these standards.
Finally, PowerMyLearning lets educators extend the learning experience beyond the classroom into the home, giving students more of an opportunity to move from just understanding a topic to deep content knowledge.
Study.com What can parents do to make sure they are using technology to have a positive impact on their children's education?
ES: Parents need to make sure their children are using technology in the right way. By choosing a trusted free resource like PowerMyLearning, parents can be confident that the activities were already vetted and that the time their children spend on this site is valuable learning time.
The platform also makes it easy for parents to transition from the role of 'homework police' to learning partner. We encourage parents to set aside some time each week to work alongside their child. Together they can identify fun and stimulating activities that reinforce classroom learning and spark new interests.
Study.com How can our readers get involved and help support the work of CFY?
ES: We hope readers will go to PowerMyLearning.com, create a free account and try out the platform. We also hope you will help us spread the word about this great resource. We ask you to tell your friends who are parents, tell your friends who are teachers and definitely tell your kids. PowerMyLearning has already been a game-changer for so many schools, families and students - and this is only the beginning. Our goal is for this to benefit every student out there! We hope you all can help make this happen.
Study.com Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers about CFY?
ES: Readers can learn more about how using PowerMyLearning in schools is resulting in real academic gains for even the most struggling students in this recent New York Times article.
Study.com has made a donation to help support the work being done by CFY. Visit their website to find out what you can do to support them.
The Portland organization Free Geek is also promoting computer education.