The Awesomeness of the Software & Service
Set up is easy. Create a free teacher account at classroom.frontrowed.com. Enter students' names and grades. Front Row automatically assigns a class code (which can be changed if necessary). Give students the site (student.frontrowed.com) and they log in just by entering their name and class code. Front Row even auto-capitalizes the students' names as they log in, so there are no case-sensitive login issues. Are my students the only ones who don't use capital letters on a regular basis? (Hint: Use students' full legal first names to eliminate confusion since they must type it exactly as you did in order to log in.)
Front Row is organized according to the Common Core math domains for grades K-8. If you're a high school teacher, hear me now. My high school students, grades 9-12 with weak to average math ability, find it challenging. Most of them are working on 6th grade levels and below because the questions force them to THINK and READ and COMPREHEND. I'm not teaching any advanced level courses this year, but I think those students would also benefit from using Front Row. The only difference would be how quickly they complete all of the domains. I think they would get eight hours use from it at the very least.
Students take a diagnostic test at the start of each domain. Then the adaptive practice automatically assigns and practices the skills they need. As they work on a "Lesson" (actually a Common Core standard), they see a green progress bar across the top. They also earn stars in the bottom right corner. I'm not exactly sure how the stars work. It seems that when they master a lesson, they earn 1-3 stars based on how easily they master it??? Again, I see it as I monitor, but I'm not sure.
Once students have completed the domain diagnostic test, they can also choose assigned practice. This is useful for taking students directly to a certain skill that matches the current unit.
There is "scratch paper" on the right side of the screen. That is really most useful if students are using an iPad. Otherwise, trying to write with a mouse is more trouble than it seems. This is extremely useful in my family because playing sports from August to April necessitates studying in the car, often in the dark. If she's using Front Row, her scratch paper is right on the iPad, and lighting is not a problem. Any other time, math work in the dark is not productive.
Another HUGE feature in my mind is the support given to the students as they practice. Front Row immediately tells them if the answer is correct. If the student answers incorrectly, Front Row suggests a short (<2 min) video of a similar example. A video! Is this not what I've been wanting?!?!?! Not only is it adaptive practice but also adaptive support and instruction!!!!!! Not only that but if any other students in the room have mastered that skill already, Front Row suggests their name to ask for help. Peer tutoring perfected!!! The student has an opportunity to answer again as well, which for many of my students has helped them understand better as they analyze the correct and incorrect answers.
Last, but certainly not least of the features is the audio component. For my inclusion students who are struggling readers, these Common Core questions have lots of words! I already make them wear headphones while they work so that they can watch the videos, but Front Row also has a button that they click to have the question read to them!!! Have I mentioned I'm in love?
I almost forgot this part, the printables! Front Row will allow me to print worksheets for any objective, broken down into very detailed skills, and there are multiple version of each. I can even print a worksheet for each student individually with the click of ONE button. Can you say instant sub work?
The concept reminds me very much of STAR Math and Accelerated Math. Right now, though, I'm with Front Row all the way. There are pros and cons of each. If you want a detailed comparison, I might do that in the future.
This will be brief because my experience with K-8 math curriculum BCC and ACC (Before/After Common Core. It's like BC and AD, right? Common Core will have been a major milestone. Anyway...). Because my K-8 math experience BCC and ACC is pretty much non-existent, take this next part with a grain of salt. I think Front Row's questioning style is more Common Core-aligned than any other similar online services I've seen that reach up to 8th grade. Front Row definitely requires more reading comprehension than Accelerated Math does at the K-2 grade levels. Fortunately, the read-aloud feature helps.
Built-In Reward System
As students answer questions correctly, they earn coins that they can spend at the "Piggy Store." They each have a pig that they can dress up. It seems so simple, but it works. It's silly. It's fun. I read something on Front Row's FAQs that said the coins do not roll over from day to day, but my students say they do. It also shows a leader-board for the coins, though with the free version, the names on the leader-board are fake class names. But it shows the student to which fake class he belongs, and the competition is on an equal playing field since each student is practicing at his unique skill level. Actual quote heard from a high school student this week, "Oh good, we're doing Front Row today. I almost have enough money to buy a shirt for my pig!"
Cons for the Sake of Transparency
- Can't be organized into classes without a subscription.
- Doesn't auto log-off. On at least three occasions students have accidentally completed work for another student. The good news is that when you figure it out, you do have the ability to reset all work in a domain. So, I had to reset it and let the original student start over. At least having a diagnostic test helps them back to where they were pretty quickly.
- Some of the images on the printables are low-resolution and therefore hard to read. I have contacted Front Row about this issue.