Review by Shaun Langevin, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2018

PrepToon

Uninspired math videos not a good use of student time

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Math

Skills
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
4–6
Common Sense says (See details)
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Not yet reviewed

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Pros: Clear Common Core connections and access to student reports.

Cons: Videos are inconsistently animated and generally low quality, with little to no concept teaching.

Bottom Line: PrepToon is basically a sheet of word problems in video form.

Fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grade teachers can use PrepToon as an assessment after they've taught concepts surrounding particular Common Core math standards. Be sure to guide students through the one example as a class so they can get a feel for how it works before setting out on their own. You'll need to review what some symbols on the computer mean (such as "/" for division) and how to understand the written explanation of the solution. It's also best to make sure students do their work in math journals or scratch paper, not on the computer.

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PrepToon is a web-based program where students access videos that describe a math problem, giving questions during the video and several more at the end. Essentially, it's a way to assign a cluster of word problems to your students. When first signing in, teachers will access their dashboard to create a class and fill it with students. Next, they give students their usernames. Teachers and students can watch any video at any time, and each video is clearly labeled with the Common Core State Standard (CCSS) it addresses. Unfortunately, there's no way to assign them to individual students.

PrepToon's narrated videos (students can also select an option to read a transcript) will set up a math problem and ask questions. When each video is over, PrepToon provides additional written questions with no narration. Most questions will tell students if they were correct or incorrect and give a procedural text-only explanation of the solution. After students have completed a video, teachers can view reports of how students answered the questions.

It's difficult to recommend PrepToon to teachers, as there are other tools that do a better job assessing and/or teaching students. Many students would be turned off by the quality of the videos -- some seem to have been created in a simple Paint program. Other videos are a little better, but students will notice the lower quality compared to what they're typically exposed to. Visuals may seem like a secondary issue, but the low quality can actually be distracting.

PrepToon's videos won't teach students but will set up a problem and ask questions. It's very nearly the computer-based equivalent of handing students a worksheet with 10 or 15 word problems. It will tell students if they're right or wrong, but the explanations might include symbols they aren't familiar with and are strictly procedural. This might actually have a negative impact on learning by showing a procedure you don't use or explaining it in a way that might be frustrating or discouraging for students. Teachers' money would likely have a more positive impact on student learning if spent elsewhere.

Overall Rating

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

Many videos are visually unappealing to the point where the quality is a distraction. Any novelty students feel would likely dissipate after they realize each video is a series of word problems.

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

Students answer word problems in video form and receive feedback about right or wrong answers. Low-quality videos and complicated procedural explanations might hinder meaningful learning. 

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

There's a brief FAQ for teachers, which should be read before setting up a class. Narrated videos will help students who have difficulty reading, but as some questions are text only, it won't provide a consistent experience.


Common Sense Reviewer
Shaun Langevin Technology coordinator

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