Resource Evaluations

Purchasing materials for a library collection that are both high-quality and meet the needs of the library's particular population is a key component of a librarian's job.  Librarians often must review resources and decide the most appropriate ways to spend limited funds in order to provide the best materials for their patrons.  I had the opportunity to evaluate several different types of resources to determine whether or not they might be appropriate for my library collection.

Audio Evaluation

Selection Rubric: Audio Materials

Title:               Sing and Learn Japanese

Source:          Recorded Books

Date:              2006  

Cost:              Available as mp3 files only (no manual or instrumentals) from Amazon for $8.91

                        Available from resellers; price varies, but it averages $18 - $20.

Length:          75 minutes               

Format:          Compact Disc

Subject Area: Foreign Language        

Grade Level: Pre-K through 2

 

Instructional Strategies:

Whole class or small group instruction, independent study at centers, supplemental for home use and reinforcement.

 Brief Description

A compact disc and accompanying booklet that contains nine songs for teaching children how to speak Japanese.  The songs are aimed at teaching basic vocabulary, including body parts, colors, numbers, familiar animals and their sounds, family members, days of the week, and other various words.  The CD contains all songs in Japanese with both children and adult voices.  Several different styles and rhythms are used, and many songs contain movement instructions within them (i.e. walk forward, walk backward, jump, etc.)

 Standards / Outcomes / Objectives

 Content standards may vary; no content standards for preschool children; no content standards for language immersion program.

 Communication: Communicate in languages other than English.

Benchmark A: Ask and answer questions and share preferences on familiar topics.

Kindergarten           1. Answer simple questions about personal information and other familiar topics.

Grade Two              1. Ask and answer questions about likes and dislikes.

 Benchmark C: Request clarification

Kindergarten           4. Respond to questions seeking clarification.

 Benchmark D: Give and follow a short sequence of instructions.

Kindergarten           5. Follow simple classroom instructions.

Grade One              5. Repeat and follow a simple sequence of instructions.

 Benchmark 3: Respond appropriately to requests accompanied by gestures and other visual or auditory cues, and follow directions

 Kindergarten           6. Respond to simple requests.

 Benchmark F: Identify people and objects based on descriptions

 Kindergarten           7. Identify and/or match pictures relating to oral or signed descriptions.

Grade One              7. Identify people and objects based on detailed oral or signed descriptions.

Grade Two              7. Identify accurate and inaccurate descriptions of people and objects.

 Benchmark G: Decode words, phrases and sentences using knowledge of letter/symbol-sound correspondences and contextual cues.

 Kindergaraten        9. Understand new words from the use of pictures within a text.

Grade One              9. Identify and say alphabet and sound-symbol correspondence

 Benchmark I: Dramatize songs, short stories, poetry, or activities

 Kindergarten: Recite short poems/rhymes or sing/sign songs with appropriate body language.

 Prerequisites:

No required prerequisities; the CD is aimed at children who do not speak Japanese.  Students must be able to hear the music clearly, and would benefit from having enlarged visuals.

 Strengths:

The program uses simple, catchy songs to teach.  This is a huge strength, as what is learned musically is often retained for a very long time.  The songs incorporate movement, and visuals are included with the accompanying material.  Although the resource itself is predominantly audio, it can be used in ways to engage multiple learning styles.  The resource comes with supplemental visuals.  The songs are also included as instrumental tracks, allowing for modification of the songs as the teacher or students require.  The resource is targeted at an age group still able to learn a second language extremely easily.

 Limitations:

The songs are only in Japanese – children will need some sort of assistance visually or with teacher directions or explanations to learn what the songs mean.  The accompanying visuals are very small and could not be used along with the audio for an entire class, meaning the teacher will probably have to prepare visual aids.  This material is geared for very young children who often do not study a foreign language in school, making the resource only useful in certain specific environments.

 Special Features

The songs on the CD are followed by instrumental tracks for all songs to allow practice.  The accompanying manual contains small pictures for the words and phrases, the Japanese text in both Kanji and a Roman alphabet transliteration, and the English translations of the songs (in the back).

Selection Rubric: Audio:

Rating Area

Quality Rating

Rationale

Alignment with Standards, Outcomes, & Objectives

High

The information in this resource would probably not be used exclusively to teach a standard, but the content aligns strongly with the standards, and could easily be used as a step in reaching the final standard.  For example, a child may be required by the standard to describe something in detail or identify a word by pointing to a picture of it.  The songs do not specifically require the actions outlined in the standards, but learning the material in the resource would allow the child to perform the standard later if asked.

Accurate & Current Information

High

Since basic language very rarely changes, the information in the CD is current.  The music does not sound out-of-date or old fashioned

Age-Appropriate Language

High

The CD focuses on certain basic language categories like colors and animals.  While there are a few somewhat random words thrown in (i.e., the Mona Lisa), the language overall is very simple and appropriate for a young audience

Interest Level and Engagement

High

Interest will probably be high; this material should be used toward the beginning of a young-child language program, or language immersion program.  Most children are interested in learning other languages because the sounds are unusual.  If material is presented in a fun manner, children will often stay engaged even with difficult concepts.  The CD incorporates music, some humor and silly songs, and movement and dance, allowing children to enjoy the resource while they learn something.  The songs are somewhat simplistic and repetitive, but that is appropriate for young children, and even engaging because it offers lots of opportunities to successfully recognize and understand words.

Technical Quality

High

From an audio standpoint, there are no problems with this media.  CD players are readily available, and the corresponding MP3 files are available for purchase from Amazon, both individually and as a collection.

Ease of Use ( User may be student or teacher)

Medium

Because the resource contains very little English translation, and none at all on the audio, it can be confusing for some students.  Some sort of supplemental visual aids or instruction will have to be given to the students to help them benefit from the resource; it will have difficulty as a strictly stand-alone resource unless the child already speaks Japanese.  The user guide can be a bit confusing, since not every word has an accompanying picture, and the English translations are in the back.  Further, the accompanying visuals cannot easily be used in a whole class setting.  However, the resource itself is, of course, easy to play on a CD player, and easy to navigate.  It would not be difficult to add the supplements to make this a highly successful resource.

Bias Free

High

The resource contains no evidence of bias, stereotyping, advertising or other questionable content.  It does contain cultural references to things like sushi and sumo, but these enhance the child’s experience and do not override it.

User Guide and directions

Medium

The user guide is a wonderful resource but can only be used by one person at a time.  Since the guide is most helpful to the person learning Japanese, its small size is a detriment to class instruction; further, very young children may not be able to read the English translations.  It does contain pictures for almost every word used in the songs, most of which are easily identified.  Some parts of it, like the Kanji, will probably not be utilized much.  Size aside, the user guide will be very helpful to a teacher preparing the material for use in a classroom setting.

Pacing Appropriate

High

The material is well-paced, although it will require teacher assistance, probably in the form of visuals, in order for the students to comprehend it.  A particularly nice feature is that several concepts appear in more than one song.  Color, for example, is introduced in one song, and then used in several others.  In one, colors are even matched with inappropriate objects (i.e., the green pig) for some silliness that young children will appreciate, and further appreciate because they “got” the joke in a different language.  The songs use a lot of repetition and are accompanied by a Romanized transliteration to help children know the letters and sounds they are pronouncing.

Use of Cognitive Learning Aids (Overviews, Cues, Summary)

Medium

The audio material is fairly well organized.  If the user guide is also included, it contains all the necessary information – written Japanese, pictures, English translations and Romanized Japanese – to make learning the songs and their meanings possible.  Some basic instruction is included, although very little.  The songs are organized in such a way that would make learning aids extremely simple to implement, both visually and otherwise, but the aids are not actually provided for classroom use.   Based on the nature of the resource, aids are not necessarily expected, although the songs might have benefited from alternating English and Japanese to facilitate learning.

 Recommended for Classroom Use:  Yes (in appropriate classroom environments)

 Ideas for Classroom Use:

This CD could be incorporated into a classroom in several ways.

  • Whole class instruction in basic vocabulary – a teacher can lead the song and use larger illustrations taped on the wall or on a SmartBoard, as well as demonstrating movement words and having children participate kinesthetically.
  • Small group instruction – As above
  • Independent study – Particularly after the songs have been introduced in class, children can practice with the songs and the booklet at a listening center.
  • Class karaoke – Children can sing their favorites by themselves or with small groups (or even as a whole class) with no support from the native speakers.
  • Modified instruction – teachers can use the instrumental tracks to alternate English with Japanese verses for added support if needed.

Video Evaluation

Selection Rubric: Video

Title: Bill Nye, the Science Guy: Phases of Matter                Format: DVD

Source/Location: Disney Educational Productions, www.Edustation.com

©Date: 2003                                     Cost: $29.99                         Length: 26 minutes

Subject Area: Science                 Grade Level: 3 – 8

Instructional Strategies: This video can be viewed by the class, either in segments as the instructor deems appropriate per the lesson content, or in its entirety.  Clips could be pulled, such as the rap song, for interactive and repeated use with the class.  Experiments presented in the video can be replicated in the classroom.

Brief Description

One of the highly popular Bill Nye series, this DVD teaches the three different phases of matter: solid, liquid and gas.  To do this, Nye takes his viewers through a series of experiments, demonstrations, and real-world explorations, including the following: a visit to a steel mill, a visit to the Coca-Cola plant, boiling liquid nitrogen and water, freezing objects in liquid nitrogen, experiments with dry ice, making rock candy, a discussion of absolute zero, and a phases of matter rap and poem.  Nye performs his science demonstrations and explanations with a zany, over-the-top approach and a lot of humor.  Children often perform and explain demonstrations as well, many of which can easily be replicated in a classroom.  The DVD also contains extra features including a recipe for fudge tied to the topic, a quiz, teacher use materials, and a brief explanation of some substances that do not fit into any of the three major phases of matter like liquid crystals and gels.

Standards/Outcomes/Objectives

Earth and Space Sciences

Grade 4                    1. Explain that air surrounds us, takes up space, moves around us as wind, and may be measured using barometric pressure.

                                    2. Identify how water exists in the air in different forms.

                                    3. Investigate how water changes from one state to another.

Physical Sciences

Grade 4                    1. Identify characteristics of a simple physical change.

                                    4. Explain that matter has different states and that each state has distinct physical properties.

Prerequisites

The teacher will need a DVD player of some sort, a projector, and a projection screen to show this video in class.  The students need very little background because the video assumes they do not know anything about the topic.  It discusses the three states, what each is, and the various conditions under which each occurs.  Some sections do mention atoms, so a basic understanding of an atom would probably be helpful; for young children, this could simply be something along the lines of “atoms are the tiny little bits that make up everything around us.”

 Strengths

The information is accurate and extremely well-presented.  Bill Nye is a champion at making science fun, understandable and highly engaging.  The information is presented in a wide variety of ways, many of which can be used multiple times or recreated in class.  Nye engages almost all of the learning styles and uses humor and real-world scenarios to keep children engaged.  The information is simple enough for younger children, but contains some more in-depth information for older students, making it an extremely versatile resource.

 Limitations

Nye does a very good job of providing a variety of examples of the states of matter; however, older children particularly may find this installment in his series somewhat repetitive.  Nye’s series includes a video on atoms, which may be why that information is not presented here, but those sections of the video are slightly disjointed, and the concept of atom is not well addressed.  The way Nye presents the topic makes this omission less significant than it might otherwise be, but it does still exist.  The information in the video generally pertains to the fourth-grade standards, and also a first grade standard, but the video is not suited for first grade students, and some information, like the section on absolute zero, may not be particularly relevant to fourth grade students. 

 Special Features

The video contains a bonus features section with a visit to the Coca-Cola factory, bloopers, a discussion of semi-liquid and semi-solid substances, a recipe for fudge, and a closer look at the steel factory.  It also includes a quiz, a wallpaper and screen saver, and an extensive teacher’s guide complete with student handouts.

 Selection Rubric: Video

Rating Area

Quality Rating

Rationale

Alignment with Standards, Outcomes & Objectives

Medium

The video does a great job at defining and illustrating a couple of the major fourth grade standards, which is likely who it was intended for.  However, some information, such as the clip on absolute zero, seems slightly advanced for fourth graders.  The video is really too old for first graders, and too young for ninth graders, both of whom have standards that are addressed in the content.   So while the suggested age range is broad and the content educational for many within the age range, standards-wise, the material’s use is relatively narrow.

Accurate and Current Information

High

Our understanding of the way matter works is more in-depth perhaps than it was in 2003, but the basic information required by schools and the standards has not changed.  The video is still quite accurate in spite of its age, and I particularly appreciated that it included a special section on substances that did not fit neatly into any of the three categories, like Jell-o and liquid crystals.

Age-Appropriate Language

High

Nye has a fabulous ability to break a concept down into simple language and relevant analogies without sounding patronizing – in fact, often he sounds like he is addressing an equal.  The added use of children to explain and demonstrate the concepts makes the information even more accessible.

Interest Level and Engagement

High

First, Nye is funny – he has the ability to go over the top in his presentation, making him extremely enjoyable to watch.  The individual sections are short, making certain students do not have time to get bored by anyone droning on at them about science.  The explanations include lots of demonstrations and experiments, addressing a broad array of learning styles (more if the teacher chooses to re-create the experiments in the classroom). Nye also uses several songs and parodies as well as poetry, giving children something they can remember easily and enjoy.  The oldest students may find the video a trifle young, especially if they have seen it in several prior years, but most students can find lots of reasons to stay engaged – the number one being simply that the show is a lot of fun to watch.

Technical Quality

High

I think in spite of the slightly older copyright, the DVD still represents  very high quality media.  The format is one still widely used and easily accessible in most schools.  The video quality is good, and Nye goes to great lengths to create high quality demonstrations and experiences.

Ease of Use (user may be student or teacher)

High

The material is extremely easy to use.  It functions as a normal DVD, but DVD-ROM components are easy to access and use a .pdf format.  The video also contains a series of national standards and links each to the part of the video pertaining to that standard, making it simple for teachers to be selective.  The quiz is in both a written and interactive format for ease of use, and the experiments use common household items and can be replicated relatively simply.  The only minor changes that might be made are these: 1. The quiz uses an elevated vocabulary compared to the video, and many questions felt like “trick” questions.  2. The DVD menu table of contents seemed to have fewer titles than the video had clips, and the titles were somewhat vague, making it difficult to use for showing selected clips.

Bias Free

High

One of the things I most appreciate about Nye’s videos is his commitment to using all different types of people in his videos.  In this one, the two major children presenters were a boy and a girl, one white, the other black.  The video, like the series, consistently demonstrates that girls can as good at science as boys, and that people of all ethnic backgrounds can enjoy and be good at science.

User Guide and Directions

Medium

The user guide is decent and contains some resources to help teachers, both general and specific to the lesson.  The written version of the quiz matches the interactive one and answers are provided.  Flashcards are provided, a nice supplement if a teacher chooses to use them with the class.  Having the alignment to the national standards is a great help for teachers who need to justify the video to administration. However, the implementation directions are very long, and use generic examples from one of Nye’s videos, not from the video in use.  Since all files are combined in one .pdf, teachers may be confused or frustrated looking for material they want.  The document could stand to be split into several documents, some for implementation of the videos in general, and one for content specific to the video in question.  I felt also that most of the student sheets were a bit generalized; graphic organizers for notes might be more effective if they were set up for each specific episode.  The directions for some of the extension activities not shown in the video were also slightly vague and confusing; I am uncertain if I could replicate them all or what the intended result of some of them are.

Pacing Appropriate

Medium

Nye’s highly segmented style is great for classroom use; most clips are short, but long enough to provide one or two solid pieces of information.  This tends to be very effective at helping children learn because it makes the focal point very clear.  I did feel that this video tended to be repetitive.  While some repetition is good, it seemed a little excessive as though the director did not have quite enough material to fill 26 minutes.

Use of Cognitive Learning Aids

High

The material was organized logically, making it easy for students to follow the information and absorb new information as it is printed.  Nye intersperses main content clips with review clips, usually in a different style of learning.  He summarizes frequently and often gives a basic overview of the clip before moving into the demonstration itself.

 

Recommended for Classroom Use: YES

 Ideas for Classroom Use

Show as a whole for fourth grade students learning about the states of matter.  Show segments as appropriate to other grades.  Replicate the experiments in class, particularly the one in which a child demonstrates that gases have weight.  It was impressive in the video, but would be even more so if children were able to see it in the real world, or even carry it out.  Teach the rap segment to students as a learning aid.  Give children the written quiz, and use the interactive version to go over answers with the class.

Multimedia Software Evaluation

Ryn Lewis                                                                                                                                                            February, 2011

Media Evaluation                  Selection Rubric:  Computer and Multimedia Software/Web Resources                      

 Title:  The Magic School Bus Explores Inside the Earth     Format: CD-ROM

Hardware Required: Minimum 486 PC with Windows 3.1, runs well on Windows 7

Source/Location: Scholastic in conjunction with Microsoft

©Date: 1996      Cost: $12.97        Primary Users:  Students and Teachers

Subject Area: Science   

Grade Level:  Listed ages 6-10 (1st through 5th), probably better suited for 3rd or 4th based on gameplay and content

******************************************************************************

Instructional Strategies:  This software can be used in a variety of ways: teacher-led whole group instruction, small group learning centers or workstations, independent learning as an educational filler or in a computer lab.  The content can be used for delivering instruction to some extent and certainly for expansion, supplementing and supporting textbook information or teacher-led instruction.

Brief Description: This is a CD-ROM based on the fact-packed Magic School Bus book series.  Players begin the “game” in a classroom with several of the Magic School Bus children who have just completed their science reports.  Each student has a display of their report and gives an interactive presentation on their topic.  While moving through the classroom, we learn that Arnold’s rock collection is in disarray and several of his samples are missing.  Players then head to the bus to begin their adventure.  Once inside the bus, students can journey to six different zones of the earth: a canyon, a fault, a volcano, under the sea, inside a geode, and into a cavern.  At each place, Magic School Bus kids talk about the features of the earth and players can collect rock samples.  The interface is clickable, and often players can travel deeper into a zone or cause an event chain which produces a new scene and more information, such as a volcano eruption.  Inside the bus, a TV screen gives X-ray options and will recall the classroom report associated with the zone the player is visiting.  The transformer will test different rock samples and determine their uses, while the Geo-Table allows players to take unknown samples, wash them and test them to identify them using acid tests, hammers, streak tests, hardness tests and magnified views.  The Earth Kitchen allows players to use recipes (which are often simple chemical formulae) and combine different “ingredients” like elements, salt, or swamp plants and bake them to form different rocks or minerals.  A variety of mini arcade-style games occur throughout the larger world, most of which are also accessible on the bus control panel.

 Standards/Outcomes/Objectives:  

Ohio Academic Content Standards

Earth and Space Sciences Benchmarks

By the end of the 3-5 program:

            B. Summarize the processes that shape Earth’s surface and describe evidence of those processes.

            C. Describe Earth’s resources including rocks, soil, water, air, animals and plants and the ways in which they can be conserved.

 Grade Level Indicators

Grade Three, Earth Systems

1.      Compare distinct properties of rocks (e.g. color, layering, and texture).

 Grade Four, Processes that Shape Earth

10.  Describe evidence of changes on Earth’s surface in terms of slow processes (e.g., erosion, weathering, mountain building and deposition) and rapid processes (e.g. volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and landsides).

 Grade Six, Earth Systems

1.      Describe the rock cycle and explain that there are sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rocks that have distinct properties (e.g. color, texture) and are formed in different ways.

2.      Explain that rocks are made of one or more minerals.

3.      Identify minerals by their characteristic properties.

 NETS for Teachers

I.                    Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity

a.      Promote, sup port, and model creative and innovative thinking and inventiveness

II.                  Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments

a.      Design or adapt relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student learning and creativity

III.                Model Digital-Age Work and Learning

c.       communicate relevant information and ideas effectively to students, parents, and peers using a variety of digital-age media and formats

 NETS for Students

  1. Creativity and Innovation

c.       Use models and simulations to explore complex systems and issues

  1. Communication and Collaboration
    1. Interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media

d.      Contribute to project teams to produce original works or solve problems

  1. Digital Citizenship
    1. Exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity
    2. Demonstrate personal responsibility for lifelong learning
  1. Technology Operations and Concepts

a.      Understand and use technology systems

b.      Select and use applications effectively and productively

Prerequisites: Students will need a basic knowledge of computer and mouse use; typing is not necessary because the interface is point-and-click.  Although the content appears to be designed for someone who does not know much about the topic, students would likely benefit from a basic overview of the subject before beginning OR teacher guidance through the main content sections to allow for discussion and clarification, particularly if the software is used for third grade or below.  Students may require demonstration as the interface is not always intuitive.

 Strengths:  Students will be engaged by the technology, the game elements of the software and the many entertainment-style additions.  For instance,  the bus both flies through the air and tunnels through the earth, complete with animations and sound effects.  The children make corny jokes that eight- to ten-year olds will probably find humorous.  The software is very inexpensive.  Several of the simulations, particularly in the Geo-Lab are interesting and replicate real-life testing scenarios that might not be possible in the classroom.  If they are possible, the software would be a great introduction to the process before children carry it out in the classroom.  The software is packed with content that is still current in spite of the software’s age.  The software could easily be inserted during introduction or coverage of the topics it contains as part of the whole class instruction and would generate more enthusiasm than a straight lecture.  Other parts of the content could easily be used in small groups.  The puzzle of the missing rocks requires some thinking, testing and use of the available tools to solve.  Several other game features have ties to the objectives and could be used in learning stations or for children who finish their work early.  The software is versatile and could be applied in the classroom in a variety of ways.

 Limitations:  Probably the biggest limitation is that the content really seems to be at a sixth-grade level; however, sixth graders may not be as engaged by the presentation.  Though the older students will enjoy the games and possibly the puzzles, they may be turned off by the age of the graphics and the “Magic School Bus” theme.  The software is also limited by its age.  Although it runs perfectly well on Windows 7, it is old enough that it could easily become outdated at any time; further, game graphics today have advanced far beyond the ones in the CD.  Another limitation for small-group use is the myriad of games in the program that do not have much educational content.  Some do, but several do not, and monitoring would be necessary to make sure students stayed on track if this were part of a learning station.  The games might be used as a reward though and turned to the teacher’s advantage if careful rules and boundaries were set out at the beginning.  Another limitation is that the interface is often not intuitive.  Though most screens contained “hot spots,” not all were defined by cursor changes, icons, or other popups, so might be easily missed or cause frustration.  Some elements of the puzzle seemed to appear randomly, making it difficult at times to use any real problem-solving skills.  Further, only four rocks were missing and two were able to be created in the Earth Kitchen, making exploration of all the zones unnecessary.

Special Features:  Most of the content is accessible at various points throughout the game as it is appropriate, so if it is bypassed in one section, the chances are that the students will run into it again at another place.  I thought the student reports in themselves were a nice feature; they appeared as reports with narration and pictures or videos at the beginning, then again on the television screen in the bus.  Another feature that added content was a small tab at the top of every game giving information about the topic presented in the game.  For instance, in the fossil puzzle, the tab gave information about fossil formation.  In the cave painting activity, the tab gave information about cave paintings.  The ability to cause random occurrences like earthquakes and volcano eruptions (by clicking the hidden hotspots) and cause the characters to respond was also a neat feature.

 Selection Rubric:  Computer and Multimedia Software

Alignment with Standards, Outcomes, and Objectives

High quality: The software is packed with information that aligns to the content standards at several different age levels, giving it some versatility.

Accurate and Current Information

High quality: The information is correct and up-to-date

Age Appropriate Language

Medium quality: The software specifies that it is targeted at ages 6 to 10.  The content and vocabulary is well beyond that of a 6 to 7 year old, and some may even be appropriate for 13 to 14, well beyond the specified range.

Interest Level and Engagement

High quality: The storyline is engaging, and so are the testing and exploration labs inside the bus.  The zones are full of resources, games and informational content narrated by children, which should interest students and give teachers a tool to deliver content without lecturing.

Technical Quality

Medium quality: Though the interface is clickable and a variety of multimedia is included, the graphics are somewhat out of date and the software is designed to run on a much older PC than is currently available.  While this did not cause problems with the latest operating systems, it could limit the longevity of the resource.

Ease of Use (User may be Student or Teacher)

Medium quality: For the most part the software was easy to use, with a point and click interface and clear signals indicating interactive components.  Although some hotspots were hidden on purpose, many times necessary click points were difficult to find and promoted random clicking.

Bias Free

High quality: The software includes elements to appeal to both genders, and has major characters of several different races that appear to guide and narrate different parts of the player’s adventure.

User Guide and Directions

High quality: The guide contains easy-to-read visual maps to all the major game elements: the front and back of the bus, the classroom, the different experimentation stations, and the maps outside the bus. 

Stimulates Creativity

Medium quality: The major puzzle in the game does require some thinking, experimentation, and problem-solving in order to discover the missing rocks.  However, the designers could have really maximized this opportunity by providing fewer clues up front, lessening random happenings that made no sense, and matching solutions to clues more closely.

Fosters Collaboration

Medium quality: Collaboration is possible and certainly small groups of two to three students could discuss options and attempt to solve the puzzles together.  Some elements of the software, such as the mini-games, are probably more appropriate for an individual user.

Practice and Feedback

Medium quality: Particularly in the experimental areas like the Geo-Table, correct choices and solved puzzles are rewarded by explanations and praise.  Wrong answers, while given a signal that they are incorrect, often do not give much information about what went wrong, making it difficult to decide how to achieve the right solution.

 Recommended for Classroom Use:   Yes, with reservations.  I would contact Scholastic to see if an updated version of these materials is scheduled for release or publication (No updates are currently available according to Amazon, although this is listed as the “old version.”)  If one is not forthcoming, I might possibly look for a similar resource that is more technologically current.  However, if I could not find anything else, I would probably add this to my collection for classroom use due to the wealth of information and interactive elements.

 Ideas for Classroom Use:

I would use this software to either introduce or supplement whole-class instruction.  I think, due to the story aspect, some of the content could get lost, so I would plan to review the textbook or my other instructional materials either before I used this software or after, most likely before as an overview.  I would use the main zones with my entire class to watch, interact with and discuss.  I would probably use this as a learning station later for small groups to search for the rock samples and experiment at the Geo-Table and the Earth station – depending on my classroom setup, my whole class might do it in groups or I would set it up as one learning station, with another being the testing and comparison of actual rocks, and others being other experiments related to the topics covered in the software.  I would also keep it installed on my classroom computers to offer some of the mini games as a reward to children who finished work early.  I see this software being most appropriate at fourth grade, although it fits the sixth grade content standards best, and sixth graders might enjoy the “break” from book work.  Select pieces of it I might even be tempted to use at higher grades where it fits the standards (plate tectonics, geological events and forces, and Earth’s inner structure).  The format is young, but seventh and eighth graders would also enjoy the “break” from school work, and, if used selectively, would still be learning content relevant to their academic standards.


Comments