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Review by Andrea Zellner, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2013


Safe social-publishing platform with amazing badge system

Subjects & skills
  • Arts
  • English Language Arts

  • Communication & Collaboration
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.
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Pros: It's a great way to support student digital literacy, and the focus on safety will ease teachers' minds.

Cons: Not a ton of support to make the content accessible for disabled learners; free accounts have limited storage.

Bottom Line: Super-safe, engaging platform for teachers to support sharing of student videos, blogs, and podcasts.

With a strong network of teacher users, there's no end to ideas of how to use Makewaves in the classroom. It's a great way to meet the Common Core requirement of digital publishing. Makewaves badges fit into lots of humanities subjects, one even pairing international schools in a digital-age pen pal experience. Students in this project not only publish their own content, they also get to ask questions about their partner school's culture and even practice writing in other languages. Best practices in reading and writing suggest the importance of an authentic audience for developing writers, and Makewaves provides a safe environment for sharing beyond the four walls of the classroom.

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Makewaves is a site (with a full-featured companion iOS app) designed specifically for teachers and students to safely share digital content such as blogs, videos, and podcasts. Content is hosted directly on the site, so there's no need for multiple accounts on YouTube or blogging sites. Schools and teachers can customize the platform to work for their kids' needs, and you have complete control over the content students are posting. A strong focus on Internet safety and citizenship helps guide students into developing their own ability to navigate the Internet safely, and Makewaves clearly hopes that these skills will transfer beyond their site.

Student-created content featured on the site spans all genres, from video games to Diwali celebrations, with a heavy emphasis on language and reading. Kids can also get inspired by missions -- assignments such as "Supporter to Reporter," where sports fans can become sports journalists. After completing a mission, they're rewarded with a cool digital badge. 

Its digital badging system is inspirational and fun and gives kids a framework to share their ideas and thoughts on tons of subjects. Plus, it's easy for teachers to create their own missions that relate to classroom studies or current events. The site also uses Mozilla’s open badge infrastructure, meaning students can take their digital badges with them beyond the Makewaves site. Earning badges is a nice blend of research and fun; for example, to earn a Safe Social Networking badge, kids take quizzes and then get to create an e-poster to share what they've learned. Setup is easy, and the comprehensive teacher dashboard helps you keep track of and curate student content. With Makewaves, students as young as 5 can safely post digital content to be shared with parents and other students, even across the globe.

Overall Rating

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

Makewaves' focus on student-created media provides an engaging platform for young publishers. Getting badges is fun, and the suggested missions are encouraging.

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

The site offers a scaffolded experience for learning with a focus on digital literacy and badges, as well as providing kids with a comfortable, supportive space for sharing and creating.

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

Responsive forums and human support via email and telephone make help easy to find. Plus, a large network of teacher users provides examples and ideas for using Makewaves with students.

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