Wednesday, March 16, 2016

EdTechLens: Rainforest Journey {Review}

EdTechLens sent us a one year subscription for Rainforest Journey for both kindergarten and fourth grade.

What is Rainforest Journey?
Rainforest Journey is a supplemental, online program that explores the rainforest while teaching essential science concepts for grades K-5. It is in the form of a case study that compliments other science learning through critical thinking, problem solving, and scientific thinking.

There are 5 units included:
  1. The Big Picture of the Rain Forest
  2. Adapt or Die!
  3. Animals
  4. Plants and Fungi
  5. Ecosystems
How to get Started
There are two resources that I highly recommend to get started...A Knowledge Base is provided that has information about how to get started, navigate the courses, course options, assessments, and activities. The Quick Start Guide also can help you get going and shows you how to log in, navigation essentials, how to access and control content, manage your class and add students, and where to access relevant resources. Reading over these before you get going will provide you with what you need to know to run with it.

The parent is given a log in (email and your own password) and the program assigns a login to each of the children that are using it. You can set up a password. To find the password initially, you look under the class the child is in and click on the Manage Students folder. The username is provided and if you click on the edit button beside of it you can change it if you'd like. For the program to track your child's progress, you will want to log them in to their account and not allow them to use your login.

There are different options that you can choose to make it tailored to your needs:
  • You can use it from mobile devices and computers. 
  • You can choose between guided or open controls.
  • Children can read the text or the audio can play it.
Teacher Account
For each child there is a progress indicator that shows how much your child has completed. By looking at the individual units, you can see what your child has finished within each unit: lessons, assessments, activities, vocabulary, illustrations, and primary resources (interviews, trip journals, videos).

There is an online version and a pdf version of the lesson that contains pictures, and text. The online content has unit: lessons, assessments, activities, vocabulary, illustrations, and primary resources (interviews, trip journals, videos).

Each student lesson has a section under teacher resources that tells the standards included the lexile level, and the word count.

Student Lessons
The units are broken up into lessons. Each lesson includes opportunities for children to look, ask, read, discuss, and summarize what they are learning. Depending on the grade level, the lessons vary in length of time involved. The Kindergarten lessons lasted about 10 minutes for Li and Jo-Jo took about 15-30 minutes per lesson for fourth grade (some of her lesson had additional lesson activities and experiments).

You can follow a lesson template that is provided to share each lesson with your students or you can allow them to work on the program at their pace (which is what we did). The lesson template provides teaching tips, ideas for creating questions, suggestions for how to summarize the lesson,  and questions you can ask about the first photo of the lesson, the captions, and connections.

The format of the lesson introduces a picture with the lesson concept. Then there is text and generally a primary resource to share with the children. There are lesson reviews. At the end of each lesson, there is and end-of-lesson activity.

Lesson and Unit Assessments
At the end of each lesson, there is a lesson reflection. This can be printed and the child can work on it with a pencil. (Sometimes, I had Jo-Jo give her answers orally and record them).  Then at the conclusion of each unit there was assessment in the form of multiple choice and short answer. The parent provides a grade for the short answers by filling it in from her/his account. There are sample answers provided by EdTechLens so the parent will know what an acceptable answer would be. The program grades the remaining questions.

Sample Kindergarten Format
At the beginning of the unit, a picture and overview are provided. Sometimes there are chapters within the unit.

Then the lessons begin. Each lesson has a picture or two with captions. There is text that can be read by the parent or child or can be played with the audio. There is additional enrichment text as well. Sometimes there are interviews, video, or field journals provided for the child to look at as well.

At the end of the lesson, there is a lesson review.

Fourth Grade Format Sample
We found that fourth grade followed the same format: however, it also included more detailed information. At the end of the unit there was a reflection that included an experiment as well.

Additional Materials 
We found it helpful to have the following items, although they wouldn't be required:

  • Handheld Device
  • Printer Paper
  • Writing Utensils
  • Experiment Materials
  • Three-Ring Binder
  • Hole-punch
Our Experience
Li worked with the kindergarten level. He really liked investigating the pictures, listening to the audio, and watching the videos. The short lessons held his attention and he looked forward to working on the program. He did one lesson a day for 3-4 days a week. We finished two units over the review period. Some kids may move much quicker, but we used this in addition to our typical day, so we wanted it to be short and sweet.

When we got to the questions, I found that for Li, he didn't always understand what the question was asking. I would sometimes ask him the questions and he would give an answer that didn't really match; however, when I reworded it he could easily answer the questions. This probably has to do with his question answering ability. If you ask him how he is, he'll answer, "6."

Jo-Jo worked with the fourth grade program. She worked a bit more slowly than Li and just finished the end of the first unit in the same amount of time with the same usage. As the fourth grade lessons were more complicated and required more thought and time when working with the questions and additional activities, it is not surprising.

Jo-Jo loved learning about the rainforest and was able to apply what she was learning to things outside of the program as well. One day she looked at me and said, "That is just like the food chain. I learned about that on Rainforest Journey."

Another thing we worked on together came to me after I read this by EdTechLens...

By contributing to a longer project bit by bit in every lesson, students gain an important understanding of how challenging feats are performed. At the end of each chapter, they can be justifiably proud of their completed project.

...and thought, "We'll make a book from what the kids have learned and their responses to the reflection questions, so they will see what they've learned when we are finished and have a keepsake."

I used some of the illustrations provided, answers to the questions, and basic information the children gave me to put this together. At the end of each unit, I plan to print off what we have, hole punch it and put it in the three ring binder. We will be able to put it in our library after it is all finished.

The kids have learned lots of information.

My Thoughts
I'm a sucker for primary resources. I want to see things with my own eyes. I like to analyze the facts in black in white, so to speak, for myself. One major component of Rainforest Journey is the utilization of primary resources. I love, love, love this.

The kids enjoyed the program and learned from the process.

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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