Product: McGraw-Hill Spark!

9/27/2011 By: MaryAnn Karre

www.360ed.com Price: Contact company for pricing.

Spark! combines the engagement and collaboration features of social networking sites and the action of online gaming with the solid reputation of McGraw-Hill content to “spark” educational success.

Quality and Effectiveness: McGraw-Hill has combined games, e-books, and social networking to create a suite of online courses for high school math and science. Spark! has been developed in partnership with 360Ed, which has developed software products and solutions for such companies as EA Sports, using a software foundation called SiTi. This format allows educators to turn sometimes difficult courses into fun digital learning environments.

Ease of Use: Spark! is compatible with a wide variety of platforms, which means that it has the same content and accessibility from any Internetconnected device, whether it is a PC, Mac, smartphone, iPad, or Android tablet. The interface is arranged for ease of student use, similar to other social networking sites. Top tabs are used to access main sections, and banners separate areas of interaction. At a glance, users can see assignments, messages, news, grades, and their current accomplishments. To make the textbooks more accessible, large sections of text can be collapsed or expanded and interactive links will soon be added to the text. Highlighting any area of text brings up a highlighter and notes option, which becomes a search tool to locate other areas within the textbook with related information.

Creative Use of Technology: It is the combination of learning tools that makes Spark! so effective. It is designed to facilitate collaborative learning; students can view each other’s posts, compare their reading and gaming progress, explore profiles, and chat. Yet Spark! encourages independent learning as well by providing students with a variety of areas to explore, games to play, and simple highlighting and note taking ability. [EDITOR’S NOTE: This reviewer did not have access to the teacher portal, but the company reports the program will include customizable lesson planning, a learning management system, and professional development.]

Suitability for Use in a School Environment: The interactivity, media content, and Web 2.0 connectivity augment the textbook and transform Spark! into a collaborative curriculum that can easily be used in any high school biology course. Although this review was based solely on Spark! Biology and Algebra 1, more courses are scheduled to follow soon, with the full suite of High School Math and Science courses available in the next year and a half.

Top Features

• More than just an ebook, Spark! is a complete interactive curriculum.
• Because it is Web-based, Spark! can be accessed from any Internet-enabled device.
• Spark! allows students to personalize their online experience with message boards and avatars.

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