Product Review: Shmoop

reviewed by David Kapuler

Product: Shmoop

Vendor: Shmoop University Inc.

Website: http://www.shmoop.com/

Retail Price: Most of the site is free. The teacher resources are $7/year and the test prep ranges from $12.95 to $23/year. Schools and districts get a volume rate.

Product Description: Shmoop is a site designed by educational experts in more than ten subject areas, including Literature, Poetry, Shakespeare, Bestsellers, US History, Civics, Economics, Biography, Music, and Pre-Algebra.Shmoop offers free learning guides as well in depth analysis, questions, quotes and multimedia to help stimulate those creative juices .

Also, Shmoop offers premium paid services to teachers that includes, quizzes, essay questions and standard based learning guides.The unique humorous information provided on this site is what helps bring back that love of teaching for teachers.

Shmoop also features test prep courses for ACT, SAT, PSAT, and AP exams.

Quality and Effectiveness

Shmoop is designed by educators who just “get it.”Many have Ph.D.'s and attended Master Programs at some of the top universities in the world - Harvard, Stanford, etc.A number of them have taught at the high school and college level. Their love of learning shines through their online content in just about every sentence, and it is this passion that inspires their users to achieve academic success. It’s no surprise that Shmoop is one of two sites to be nominated for a Webby Award in 2009 & 2010.

Students, parents, and teachers alike rave about how innovative and humorous Shmoop is, and how it makes complex topics easy to understand. One parent/teacher puts it best, “As a language arts teacher and homeschooling parent, I can tell you how hard it is to find Internet activities that won't leave teenagers rolling their eyes. Shmoop has just the right blend of wit, sarcasm and humor so teens actually "get it." I enjoy the variety of books you review and the study questions make my job a lot easier. Keep up the great work!" Marie-Claire Moreau, Ed.D, Jacksonville Homeschooling Examiner

Ease of Use

At first glance Shmoop’s home page might look a little busy.However, after a few minutes itbecomes clear how easy it is to navigate around the site and gain access to all of its in-depth content.Video tutorials offer guidance on using Shmoop and integrating it into the classroom.

Creative Use of Technology

What really sets Shmoop apart from other similar sites is how innovative, fun, and engaging it is.For example, users can earn "Shmoints" -- currency used on Shmoop which may allow the user to win prizes (ie, t-shirt).

An ingenious feature to be found on any analysis/learning guide is the section called, "Why Should I Care?"This section helps explain the importance of the analysis and puts the topic into easy to understand terms.Shmoop speaks the students’ language and has a knack for pop culture and connecting emotionally with teens.

Suitability for Use in a School Environment

Shmoop offers a large variety of resources and multimedia content.Teachers can pick a topic and then find assignments, quizzes, pop culture events and discussion and essay questions to use in their lessons.It is very easy to integrate Shmoop into the classroom and use as a study tool.

Overall Rating

I can not say enough great things about Shmoop or recommend it any higher. It is an educator's dream and a product I wish was available when I was going to school. It is very easy to use, simple in its approach, yet highly innovative and humorous to keep the user engaged. While this may have been designed ideally for higher education, I see Shmoop being useful in a middle school as well, because of the vital resources available.

Top three reasons why this product’s overall features, functionality, and educational value make it a good value for schools:

1.Mobility - Shmoop is the largest cross-platform educational publisher, with more than 4,000 titles available across the Web, iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle, Nook, and Sony Reader. The company helps teachers and students take their classroom on the road in more ways than ever.

2.Test Prep – Shmoop has a variety of fun, interesting ways to help students prepare for their future, including ACT, SAT, PSAT and AP prep exams.It also offers good value for districts that desperately need to make their dollars go further. Test Prep and Teacher’s Editions are completely digital and very affordable.

3.InnovationShmoop provides an abundance of teacher resources, videos, and photos. By mixing its analysis with pop culture, it engages students with a unique and fun way to learn. Its array of online tools not only helps users improve their educational skills but also helps them increase their technology literacy as well.

David Kapuler is an educational consultant with more than 10 years of experience working in the K-12 environment. For more information about his work, contact him at dkapuler@gmail.com and read his blog at cyber-kap.blogspot.com

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