Bridging the Divide: PowerMyLearning Transforms the Triangle of Learning Relationships

May 24, 2018   |   Elisabeth Stock, CEO and Co-Founder, ‎PowerMyLearning

Here at Microsoft, our mission is to empower every organization and individual to achieve more. To achieve this goal, we are always making an effort to identify local organizations that are looking to empower others. Cue PowerMyLearning.

Based in New York, PowerMyLearning is a national education nonprofit that strengthens the triangle of learning relationships between students, teachers, and families so every child succeeds. We’re excited to provide PowerMyLearning with software and Azure support to help them serve schools and districts with their innovative tools and programming.

— Antuan Santana, Community Manager, Microsoft New York

At PowerMyLearning, we believe that students are most successful when they are supported by a triangle of strong learning relationships between students, teachers, and families. This triangle is our touchstone and guides everything we do.

To make the triangle a reality for students, PowerMyLearning partners with schools and districts nationwide to transform teaching and family engagement through innovative coaching and workshops, and through our award-winning digital platform, PowerMyLearning Connect. As a nonprofit, we are especially committed to students from low-income communities, students with learning differences, and English Language Learners.

PowerMyLearning’s Family Playlists™ are a great example of work we do to strengthen the triangle. As reported in The New York Times, this innovation transforms the learning relationships between students, teachers, and families and provides a groundbreaking new way to drive student mastery and social-emotional learning.

When a teacher assigns a Family Playlist, families receive a text message on their cell phone in their language of choice with a link to access the playlist; students see the Family Playlists in their dashboard. Students first complete a few activities on their own and then teach their family partner by completing an offline, interactive activity together. This step of having the student teach their family partner leverages the “Protégé effect,” in which students understand a concept better after explaining it to someone else. Family partners then send feedback to the teacher on how well their child understood the concept, allowing for rich family-teacher communication around learning. Teachers can then view reports and determine how to better meet students’ academic and social-emotional needs.

Last school year, we piloted Family Playlists at South Bronx Preparatory, a high-needs district middle school that had historically struggled with family engagement. The results were powerful. Remarkably, 91% of families participated, and all the families agreed that Family Playlists helped them understand what their child was learning in school. Teachers were able to communicate with families more frequently, and they developed stronger relationships with each other. Students were not only teaching academic concepts to their families, they were also teaching socio-emotional learning competencies like persisting when struggling and keeping a growth mindset about learning.

Jaylen, a seventh-grade student at the school, and his mother Deshia participated in the Family Playlist pilot and continue to do Family Playlists this school year. According to Jaylen, “I used to get D’s, now I get B’s because of PowerMyLearning.” Jaylen said he enjoys Family Playlists because they give him the chance to show off what he’s learning in math and act as the teacher with his mom at home. When asked why that was important to him, Jaylen explained, “If I’m able to explain it to someone else that means I mastered it. It helps me understand it more.”

Jaylen’s mom Deshia said she also enjoys Family Playlists. During the pilot, she wrote back to Jaylen’s teacher on each assignment in the space provided for optional family comments. After completing the first Family Playlist with Jaylen, Deshia wrote, “I feel there should be more activities like this for homework, I enjoyed the interaction. It allowed me to see how my son is learning.” She commented on a later assignment, “Again I must say I really look forward to the Family Playlist… thanks again for the opportunity.” When Deshia walked into Parent-Teacher Conferences, Jaylen’s teacher jumped up excitedly to greet her. The two had been communicating about Jaylen’s work in math, so rather than starting from scratch, they were continuing a conversation.

We’re excited to take our impact further by growing the reach of Family Playlists with the help of Microsoft. The grant from Microsoft enables PowerMyLearning to strengthen our technology infrastructure and enhance the PowerMyLearning Connect digital learning platform, ultimately enabling students, families, and teachers to learn new skills and grow as they work together. Students succeed when they are supported by a triangle of strong relationships between teachers, students and families, and Microsoft is helping us make this a reality in New York and across the nation. We can’t wait to see how these students grow, thanks to Microsoft’s support.