A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that JAM is a website dedicated to courses and online education. The site's online course content seems fairly safe, although objectionable items could potentially be posted. The company says it monitors review items, but comments appear within seconds of being posted -- which indicates they're being looked at after they go live. Moderators also provide positive feedback to support kids as they complete projects. When registering, parents will enter their child's first and last name and a username that other subscribers will see if their child posts videos or comments; kids can follow other users but can't chat with or directly contact them.
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What's it about?
JAM offers courses for kids age 7 to 16. Topics such as inventing machines and cooking are grouped in packs and contain activities that are listed from easiest to hardest, which kids can complete in any order. Videos offer instruction for each project; kids can also post clips about what they've learned. They earn XP, or experience points, for watching, liking, and commenting on other kids' work or trying projects. According to the site, which launched in 2012, most courses can be completed in six months. Courses can also be viewed via an app.
Is it any good?
This video-based learning site offers lots of detailed, informative courses that kids will love to participate in, especially if they want more opportunities to learn out of class. On JAM, kids can access an overview of what each course contains and short videos with general instructions and more specific explanations about each project. They can also post information about their project experience and view videos from other kids about how their experiment went, which can help further their understanding of a topic and provide encouragement if they're concerned something may be too difficult. Courses are taught by a variety of subject matter experts, ranging from an America's Got Talent contestant to a Cartoon Network animator and writer.
Some courses involve more traditional educational subjects than others -- one, for example, includes experiments based on aerodynamics and electricity; another is focused on teaching kids how to create Minecraft-related videos. But even if kids aren't learning about things they'll come across in the classroom, the courses should help ignite a sense of curiosity and an understanding of some related concepts. The Minecraft course, for instance, offers instruction on addressing a specific audience, which can help strengthen kids' communication skills. There aren't a ton of courses -- currently, nine are offered, and they're recommended for various ages. But given that individual courses, according to JAM, can take six months to complete, that's probably plenty of content -- although, given the lengthy timeframe, some dedication will be required for kids to make it to the end.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about setting and working to achieve goals. Kids receive documentation when they finish a course, so what type of dedication and planning does it take to get to that point?
Courses can take months to complete. How can long-term projects be broken down into more manageable phases? What steps or smaller goals can your child identify to work toward finishing a course?
Kids perform experiments to learn things in the site's courses. What's the difference between reading about a theory or principle and testing it out? Can your child think of a question he or she has and figure out how, together, you might find an answer?
- Subjects: Language & Reading: following directions, presenting to others, reading, using supporting evidence
Science: engineering, electricity, gravity, momentum, physics
Arts: drawing, music
Hobbies: building, cooking
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: analyzing evidence, applying information, decision-making, hypothesis-testing, investigation, part-whole relationships, spatial reasoning, thinking critically
Self-Direction: personal growth, work to achieve goals
Communication: listening, presenting
- Genre: Educational
- Topics: Science and Nature
- Pricing structure: Free to Try, Paid (Access to a single course for one child is $8.25 a month, with an upfront $99 payment; obtaining access for one child to all courses is $15 a month, with an upfront $180 payment; or parents can pay $20 a month, or $240 for the year, for access to all courses for up to four children.)
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