Review by Marianne Rogowski, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2019

ACT Academy

Personalize and differentiate with expansive multimedia resource library

Subjects & skills
Subjects
N/A

Skills
  • Critical Thinking
  • College & Career Prep
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
K–12
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Pros: With nearly a half-million free resources of all types, teachers will easily be able to find plenty of ways to differentiate instruction.

Cons: Kids of all ages will likely be exposed to advertisements, and school or district filters might block some content.

Bottom Line: Whether it's skill-building, test prep, interactive lessons, or games you're after, this extensive site has it all in an easy-to-use platform.

A large number of resources available in so many different formats make ACT Academy a convenient fit for teachers who want to include high-quality digital content without searching all over the web for it. Create flipped lessons that take kids through a topic start to finish, with text, audio, video, interactive, or game-based content. Design differentiated lessons by choosing individuals or small groups that need to work on specific skills, and let them work through lessons independently or together. Promote passion projects by letting kids search for resources on topics that interest them. Also, take advantage of the site's feedback and assessments to stay informed of student learning and give parents a chance to support their students at home.

It's easy to get lost in resources: Many items redirect users to sites containing thousands or even tens of thousands of additional resources. With that in mind, it's probably best to have some idea of what you're looking for -- or at least set a time limit for yourself -- before you dig in. And be careful not to overuse the program: While it's fairly easy to put together assignments that seem like they might teach a topic from start to finish, students will still need you to provide context, guidance, and reflection time as they make sense of it all.

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ACT Academy is a K-12 resource library where teachers can search for, save, and assign multimedia content to individuals or groups of students. Teachers can take advantage of the site's mostly free resources to build a library of favorites for their classes. The dashboard is intuitive: Teachers won't need to spend much time setting up classes, especially if they integrate through a learning management system (ACT Academy is compatible with a bunch). Teachers simply import their students via CSV file, Canvas, or Google Classroom, or give kids a class code to access the class. Then it's as simple as searching for and assigning content to fit instructional objectives and monitoring student completion and progress through the assignments. Students can guide their own learning on the platform as well, with access to the same library of content. Not every item will work on every device: Some require Flash player, and others, such as YouTube videos, will contain ads and might be blocked by content filters.

With proper curation and guidance, ACT Academy can be a great fit for the technology-driven classroom. The wide range of resources and the ability to individually assign content make differentiation an easy reach. Be aware, however, that the level of feedback changes depending on the content and level of interactivity. Some activities, such as videos, offer no feedback, while others, such as games, provide excellent feedback and adapt as students improve. Since students can access the library and choose content that fits their ability, learning preferences, and interests, they can engage in personalized learning whether their goal is study and review, skill-building, or interest-driven learning, but they'll likely need some assistance in making good choices.

The onus of making sure the activities are actually fostering growth will be on the teacher: It's easy for students to watch videos or play games that don't necessarily enhance their learning. With this in mind, whether the goal is to reinforce standards, build skills through gaming, or let kids experience the joy of learning something new, teachers are bound to find something on the site that will fit their students' needs.

Overall Rating

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

For students inclined to search for it, there are plenty of interesting resources. For more reluctant learners, teachers will need to carefully curate relevant and inspiring content.

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

It's easy for students and teachers to find standards-based content of all sorts -- the trick will be to piece it together to form powerful learning experiences.

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

Teachers can differentiate by ability, interests, and learning needs. Also, a bunch of resources are available on the help page.


Common Sense Reviewer
Marianne Rogowski Media specialist/librarian

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