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Monday, June 19, 2017

Miacademy Review

For those of you who remember, quiet a while ago, I reviewed one of their other learning site-Always Icecream for girls and and have a lifetime membership to that and to Clever Dragons for boys because we enjoy their safe, moderated content so much.  Now, the same parent company has created another learning site where all kids can find a "safe, wholesome, and fun place to learn online".    That site is called Miacademy.

Beyond being open to both boys and girls, what makes Miacademy so very different from many other sites out there is the emphasis on meeting your child where they are at, meaning this site is great for "normal" kids, but also perfect for those that need a little extra help.  It begins when you first sign your kids up.

In this box above, parents configure learning levels and social features.  You can set difficulty generally, by only adjusting the top bar across any range you want-as wide or narrow as you wish.  Or, you can choose to go subject by subject...or a combination of both.  Here, I left most of it set to the upper range, but keyed in on the foreign language setting and made that one lower, knowing that my child's exposure to ASL was probably not going to help them much with French or Spanish games.  Socially, you can choose to have them be able to interact with others in the community or not, so they can just be there to learn, or they can take place in the group games.

Parents' accounts have two levels- free and premium.  With the free membership, you can assign your student(s)' s learning and social levels, choose whether learning and enrichment videos are accessible to them, receive weekly emails with your student(s)'s progress, and give them bonus site based currency for chores or schoolwork done at home.  Here is what you get for the premium membership:

Premium Parent Membership Benefits 
  • Assign practice from any learning area on Miacademy.

  • Preview and assign assessments. You'll receive statistics on your child's scores when your child completes the test.

  • See a detailed list of incorrect answers. (You can use this to help focus your teaching where it's most needed.)

  • Require an assignment to be completed before your child explores other site areas.

  • Receive detailed reports about your child's assessment progress as part of our weekly update.

  • Track study time and see how much time your children spend in each learning area.

  • Print customizable report cards for independent study portfolios or school.

  • One Premium Parent membership covers all paid child accounts.
The parent premium membership is $199 for a lifetime, or $99 for one year.

Here's a sample of the letter portion of the weekly email you receive letting you know what your student has been working on:

When your student first logs into the site, they create a "mini me".  that figure is initially customizable  in a somewhat limited fashion, but as they play more, they can design clothes of their own for their figure to wear.  Then, they can even sell the clothes (and other items) they design to others in the site, and the site tracks how well their item sells and shop does overall allowing them to learn about business as well.

The map helps them explore their world, and as you can guess, in the design studio is where they can do all their creating, whereas the shops for the items are on the right hand side.

I have to say, this creative area is one of my daughter's favorite parts of Miacademy.  She loves being able to design clothing and furniture items, or just works of art, and then offer them for sale to others.  And she loves seeing all the creative things others have designed!  That apple doesn't fall far from the tree though, because her sister typically has one of the top selling shops on Always Icecream, and I really credit that with planting the seed for her digital design aspirations.

The above circle explains the Miacademy model best, as it's not all designing clothing or fun and games, it's about smart learning.  Kids have the opportunity to learn across the curriculum through multi-level educational quizzes and videos.  There is lots of appreciation for accomplishment like achievement medals earned in game, praise and incentives awarded by parents, and peer support.  And then there is plenty of incentive with the earning of "in game" currency.  "Gold" earned from doing learning games or watching learning videos can be used to purchase decorations for your castle, expansions to your castle, pets, new clothes, play creative games, or, if you allow it, watch entertaining videos (which are still approved by the moderators).

 Here's an example of a science game.  During the initial assessment process, the games begin somewhat simple and allow students to skip 5 levels once they have shown some competency.  They can always go back a level as well.

 Here's an example of earning a medal in a a game.

This is the video screen.  The ones with coins on them will earn the students coins to watch them, and the ones without cost them coins to watch them.  Again, all videos have to be approved before they are allowed on the site, but you can also chose to not allow your child access to videos if you'd like.

OBM says:  I have 4 kids, but really only one that falls within this age range anymore.  I have to say though, that even though my 17 year old daughter has "aged out" of Always Icecream, she loves to go on there and create new things from time to time because she's artistic and with AI she found a community and an outlet for her artistry she really enjoyed.  She also learned SO much through the videos about geography and other subjects.  But every child is different, and for whatever reason, even thought she enjoys AI, my youngest child has LOVED Miacademy even more.  She is truly my Ferdinand...preferring to smell the flowers in the field over doing the schoolwork in front of her...but she will willingly do Miacademy all day long.  NOT that it is a replacement for a full day of school.  But it is a welcome change to fighting over everything, for sure.  I like it because it has solid educational material that she will watch and do without fighting with me about.  And I like it because, unlike YouTube and a lot of other video sources out there, once she's done watching one video, I don't have to worry about the content of the NEXT one that is going to pop up.  She likes it because she can work on her own.  I can use the parent's premium membership to assign her work if I want to, but so far I've just let her wander as the mood suits her and kept track of it with the weekly emails.  We'll see how that changes as time passes...I can tell you the parent company behind Miacademy is very responsive and really listens to any concerns you might have, which in my mind's eye is another huge plus in today's day and age.  The biggest "con" I would have is that the artificial intelligence voice that speaks through most of the games can be hard to understand sometimes for critical things like phonics games where you are trying to distinguish between very similar sounding words or phonemes, which sometimes results in erroneous "incorrect" answers.  But that doesn't happen too often, so it's something I can get past given the other positives.

To sign up for a free trial of Miacademy, just click the link.  Pricing is $9,95 a month ($4,95 for your first month), $89 a year, or $189 for a lifetime.  If you have multiple kids and many, many years ahead of you, then the family lifetime might be your best bet.  It's $389 for up to 4 children.  My friend Susan had multiple students using Miacademy, so you can see the benefits of that if you read her review here: Homeschooling Hearts and Minds.

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