How I Use It
I only got to use eSpark briefly before COVID-19 forced us into our homes, but I used it as a small group center rotation in math and reading. It's low prep and allows students to work at their own pace and at their own level. I am confident that the children are learning and practicing even when I am working with a small group at my teacher table. Now, I am assigning lessons weekly to continue student learning from home during the pandemic. It's easy for them to use and easy for me to check in on them on the teacher dashboard.
I love eSpark and prefer it to many of the adaptive pathway learning platforms that I have seen or used prior. Many other programs ask question after question without offering the student any teaching or reteaching of the content. eSpark's curated collection of videos, activities, and games actually help the students to understand and practice the content. There are questions for progress monitoring and assessment, but they are not the focus. I like that the platform asks students to reflect on their feelings and emotional state at the start of each session and asks for their opinion (thumbs up or down) after each video or game. Like all teaching tools, it does have limitations- the greatest of which being the assignment feature in the teacher portal which allows you to send specific topic "quests" to the students. From my understanding, it is relatively new so bugs are to be expected. It doesn't allow me to assign more than one lesson without refreshing the page and I can't rearrange the order in which lessons are pushed to students; they just get added to the end of a queue. On a positive note, the adaptive pathway functions separately from the assigned lessons so that students can continue working once their assigned work is complete or switch focus if the assigned work is too challenging. The program doesn't seem to track what content each student covers in their own adaptive pathway, so it is entirely possible that I could send a kid a lesson they've already worked through. You can see what children work on each week but the data doesn't seem to get stored anywhere once the week is through. Since it pulls from a variety of online sources, there can be glitchy moments where the technology fails us or links are broken. It is easy enough to go in and bypass these chunks from a student's lesson sequence (and a good safeguard that they can't willy-nilly skip through the lessons themselves). I also think it is neat that eSpark encourages students to create a culminating video at the end of each quest to showcase their learning on the topic.