Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Digital Science Online: Visual Learning Systems {A Review}

Visual Learning Systems gave us access to Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5)  and Digital Science Online: Secondary Edition (Grades 6-12) to review.

About Digital Science Online
Digital Science Online is an internet based program designed for all grade levels. There are 5 components:
  • video sets: hundreds upon hundreds of videos available, narrated by a very pleasant sounding woman's voice, review and assessment provided at the end of each video, and interactive questions asked throughout the lessons
  • animations: provided in a stand alone format from the movies
  • images: from the movies are provided in a section of their own
  • student content: preliminary assessments, post-assessments, video review, vocabulary, questions, charts, and lab experiments are included
  • teacher content: admin and teacher sections containing everything in the student sections (videos, animations, images, and student activities) and an introduction, learning objectives, and video scripts (this is especially helpful if you would rather pre-read the movie content instead of previewing the actual movies)
Example of Crazy Cold Fronts Lab paper.

Grade Level Content
The elementary edition includes grades K-5 and is in two separate sections. The primary section contains physical, earth, life and integrated sciences. The elementary section contains physical, earth, and life sciences. Some of the topics include: animals, space, living things, measuring, plants, seasons, understanding science, weather, human body, energy, matter, action, earth, water, rocks, minerals, biomes, living things, chemistry, machines, sound, and light.

The secondary section is for grades 6-12 and includes: physical science, earth science, life science, integrated science, health, and biology. Some topics include: earth, geology, rocks, minerals, weather, climate, astronomy, natural resources, nutrition, human body systems, scientific processes, metric systems, tools, genetics, ecology, biomes, microorganisms, plants, classification, light, sound, waves, electricity, magnetism, matter, chemistry, motion, energy, force, fungi, bacteria, protists, and animals.

Our Experience
All of the kids (expect baby Wheel) used the program. Li worked in the primary section. Jo-Jo did the intermediate section. Ceesa worked in the middle school/high school component. I would set the videos up for the kids. Then provide the printed resources for them. With Li, I hung by him, helping him as needed. For Jo-Jo, I would get any lab materials she requested. Ceesa worked independently, only requiring my assistance for lab materials that she does not have access to herself (i.e. rubbing alcohol).

At the beginning of the week, we would watch a video set. Each video is a few minutes. We chose to watch an entire set of videos on a topic at once. This way the viewing time would be anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes.

Then a couple of days a week, we would use some of the activities, vocabulary pages, or lab sheets provided as a download. These would take about 30 minutes for each one we chose. The materials needed for this portion varied greatly depending on what was studied and what types of work was asked of the child. Some activities are simply pencil and paper. Printing the pages would be entirely up to you, but we found that we really wanted the directions and activities in front of us in physical form.

What Should I Wear Today? worksheet, accompanies the video Winter.

Li matching clothes to boy for winter weather.

Example Vocabulary Worksheet from Weather Around us.

Jo-Jo's experiment with lab page Model of a Front based on video Weather on the Move.

Important to Know
Digital Science Online uses an evolutionary model, so be especially alert to the video sections on origins and fossils.

There is a section that deals with reproduction and development. It does not explain the actual act, but instead diagrams the internal processes.

Due to this content, I would recommend parents both watch chosen videos ahead or read the scripts located in the teacher section and stick around while your children are watching the videos so a video you may not want your child to view doesn't accidentally play.

Li working on What Should I Wear Today? after watching the primary Winter video.

Trouble Shooting
I found that sometimes I would be unable to log in or would be on it and then I would no longer have access to the page. By simply deleting my history, I was able to log in again and resume my work.

When we log in to our account, a movie in the open section plays automatically (from the computer on the iPad it doesn't download automatically). To prevent downloading a video we weren't wanting to watch, we would click on the button called "teachers guide." This component has the printable materials, so we could look at the video titles without playing a movie until we were ready.

Ceesa's work with the Crazy Cold Fronts lab.

How we Recommend Putting it all Together
After working on the program for several weeks in an interest lead drop in and work method, we have devised a system that works for us that we would recommend based on our experience.

Start by printing off the Catalog. It contains the list of topics available with the titles of the videos that fall under each topic for the grade levels.

The grade level sections are split into bands: primary (k-3), elementary (3-5), middle (5-9), and high school/early college (9-14).

So for example:
Ceesa wants to study botany. We would use The Plant Series with the videos:  Plants in Our Lives,  Photosynthesis and Plant Responses, Plant Structure and Function, and Plant Reproduction. After each video set, she would work on the activity, vocabulary and lab sheets.

Using the catalog in this way, we are able to work in a progression and are sure not to miss any sections under the topic.

Ceesa extracting pigment from fern leaves that she collected, following directions from the Leaf Pigment Lab: Introduction to Chromatography for video Photosynthesis and Plant Responses.

Future Use
Many of the experiments and observation sheets we chose to work on turned out to be for any season but winter. For one, we needed a collection of leaves. For another, we needed to observe insects, birds, and animals. I will need to look more closely at what activities are planned when choosing sections. I have saved a couple of the pages we've completed to be worked on again in the spring.

Ceesa's record of her experiment of Crazy Cold Fronts.

We recommend checking out the Catalog and the Tutorials to see if the videos would be a good fit for your family. Families with children in several different grade levels may especially find this would fit your needs and co-ops may wish to look into this as a resources as well. There is special pricing for homeschool families.

Jo-Jo completing a vocabulary worksheet.

Wishing you homeschool blessings,

Click here to read more reviews from Schoolhouse Review Crew. *Our review was in the Top Ten on pinterest!! To see all ten click here.

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