A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Brightstorm is a website that provides short videos that can complement and cement what your kid is learning in class. The lessons, which are offered in English, math, science, and test prep, are taught by seasoned teachers, who break the content into small pieces so kids don't get overwhelmed. If your kid is an extremely reluctant learner, these videos may not be the thing for them, as they seem geared toward kids who are already motivated but want to do better. Still, their quality is great, the subject matter is taught well, and Brightstorm could give some teens the boost they need.
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What's it about?
BRIGHTSTORM is a website that offers short video lessons on various subjects within the categories of English, history, math, science, and test prep. Users can subscribe to one, two, or all 19 subjects; they can then watch all the video content on their chosen subject. Videos are broken down by topic, and some directly correspond to textbooks kids may be using in class. Each video is between five and 10 minutes long and covers a small piece of information related to a topic. For example, the section on Death of a Salesman has separate videos for exploring the play's theme, its meaning, and its symbolism. All these lessons are taught by educators with either master's degrees or PhDs. Additionally, newer sections feature advice on college counseling and study skills. All videos and content are available through Studystorm, the iOS and Android app created by Brightstorm's developers.
Is it any good?
Although the company is based in Palo Alto, its founders and many of the staff are Estonian, and language on the site can be a bit choppy. It's understandable, though the translations aren't always perfect. The videos are generally great, and there's a diverse team of teachers who try to connect gently with their virtual students. Some of the teachers are outstanding, but they're not all equally engaging -- you need a lot of personality to teach well over video. Also, note that most (if not all) of the math videos are available for free through Brightstorm's YouTube channel -- a helpful alternative for families who might balk at the steep subscription price.
Struggling students might feel that watching these videos is too much like being in class, only with a different teacher. The site's tone doesn't help much: Testimonial quotes like "You explained in 3 minutes what my teacher couldn't in 5 weeks!" may further undermine a child's confidence that he can be successful at school. If kids are having trouble connecting with their teacher, it's possible that they can access that same content more successfully through Brightstorm, if their textbook is supported. However, the site's steep price tag and its pretty-traditional approach make it unlikely to be a game-changer for most students. Motivated kids may love it; those more on the fence may leave feeling uninspired.
Talk to your kids about ...
Take advantage of the chance to learn with your kids -- watch one of the videos with them. Discuss what made sense and what didn't, and talk about how you can use the video's features -- like pausing and re-watching -- to make sense of what they're learning.
Let your kids know that everybody struggles sometimes and that there are many different ways to learn. Help them develop positive self- talk around school; what are they good at? How can people help when they struggle? Help your kids start to develop their own narrative of self-advocacy as they get older and take on more responsibility at school.
- Subjects: Language & Reading: reading, vocabulary, writing
Math: algebra, calculus, geometry
Science: biology, chemistry, physics
Social Studies: geography, government, history
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: collecting data, making conclusions, problem solving, thinking critically
Self-Direction: academic development, work to achieve goals, working efficiently
Emotional Development: persevering
- Genre: Educational
- Pricing structure: Free to try, Paid
For kids who love getting ahead in class
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.