Review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2014
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Learnist

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Read-only access to sprawling library of crowdsourced content

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking
  • College & Career Prep

Subjects
N/A
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
8-12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (1 Review)

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4 images

Pros: Images and interface are attractive and engaging; categories and reading list feature make for easy browsing.

Cons: Uneven quality and unintuitive search features make the this read-only experience hard to use for intentional learning.

Bottom Line: Learnist offers great visual style and interesting topics, but the content itself is too brief and too unreliable to result in deep learning.

Some of the most interesting content on Learnist is the content that appears to have been generated by students and their teachers. Unfortunately, features for generating content are only available through the Learnist website, making this app a read-only experience. Using the website, teachers might have their students create their own learnboards on a variety of topics, creating individual entries on different elements of a larger topic, and then students might use the app to explore those learnboards. Students then might add their classmates’ learnboards to their own reading lists. This might be a great way for students and teachers to generate outlines for review or to share resources on multi-step projects. Teachers might also use Learnist as a lesson in citation: Few entries in the library cite their sources extensively, and teachers might create an activity using Learnist to help teach students about the importance of citation in research and writing.

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Learnist is a collection of crowdsourced content intended to offer users the chance to explore a world of knowledge. Image- and video-heavy entries fall into broad subject categories and can also be collected into "learnboards," which allow users to create and organize a few entries under a common theme (like how to memorize students’ names or how to search for a job). Users can browse entries by their popularity or by their category, and learnboards and entries can be saved to a reading list for later review.

Learnist has potential to be a more visually appealing Wikipedia, and in many ways it achieves that goal: It’s a great way to browse interesting articles on a wide array of topics by a wide array of authors. But while learnboards and entries often have appealing titles, the content is uneven, brief, and often alarmingly unedited. Additionally, the app lacks features for adding new content, making this a read-only experience for users.

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Learnist seems like a far better app for entertainment than for education. It’s a terrific platform for free-form exploration and enrichment; indeed, its short entries and arresting images make it great for falling down the rabbit hole of interesting posts on new and increasingly engaging topics. Learnist shares Wikipedia’s reliance on crowdsourced content without its commitment to citation, leaving users without context and with real questions about the entries’ reliability. 

While the learnboards often have appealing titles, the content is uneven, brief, and often alarmingly unedited. Search features within the app are especially disappointing: A search for “World War II” resulted in some related entries on Franklin Roosevelt and the Warsaw Uprising and then a series of unrelated posts about current events, Area 51, and a paid learnboard on creativity in filmmaking from director Gus Van Sant. Additionally, keep in mind that the crowdsourced nature of the app means students might encounter inappropriate content in the course of seemingly benign searches.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Article titles and images provoke interest and draw the user in, though the articles themselves are extremely brief.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

With little ability to search and even more limited deep content, teaching and learning opportunities are limited to broader glosses on big topics.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Developer website has nice guidance on the intent and best features of the app, but in-app guidance and search features are limited.


Common Sense Reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

Teacher Reviews

(See all 1 reviews) (1 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Jamey B. , Other
Other
Great way to Save Resources

With the updates, I am starting to use Learnist as an online textbook. With their extensions for web browsers I can add content quickly. It does take time to reorganize the content later, but that is a minor issue. The ability to add an content from the web, video, websites, and articles, makes Learnist a great content based tool.

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