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Monday, March 9, 2015

Review: Visual Learning Systems (TOS Review)

PicMonkey Collage

We have loved using Visual Learning Systems!  We were lucky enough to be able to review Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5) and Digital Science Online: Secondary Edition (Grades 6-12) for this review.

Digital Science Online is an online video based science program.  Each video also has worksheets and a project idea.  Worksheets vary from quizzes, pretests, posttests, vocabulary, writing, comprehension, etc.  The idea of this program is to watch a video and then complete the activities.  Wide arrays of science topics are covered.  They are divided by main science topic (Physical, Earth, Life, etc..).  There is a catalog on their website that shows the topics covered, and groups them into like categories (which videos go together by subject matter).  This is helpful if planning unit studies on specific topics. 

Since my kids are ages 4-8, we used primarily the Elementary Edition.  The Elementary Edition is actually divided into two sections, primary (grades K-3) and elementary (grades 3-5).  My oldest is in 3rd grade, so we used some from each. 

The Elementary Edition – primary video activities include (per video) 1 or 2 worksheets, a multiple choice pretest and posttest (fill in the bubble), video review & quiz, and some also include a hands on project.  The elementary video activities include (also per video) an application worksheet, a short answer/multiple choice pretest & posttest, video review, vocabulary, writing activity, read & answer and most also include a hands on activity.  Types of worksheets sometimes vary per video.  

The primary section is devised of 64 videos which compromise 17 units and the elementary section is devised of 62 videos which compromise 15 units.  Primary videos average about 10mins each, and Elementary videos average about 15mins each.  Also available for each video are clips, images, and teacher’s guides.  All of these features are what make up the Elementary Edition of Digital Science Online (K-5th). 

We found that many of the primary activities were more on par with my 3rd graders writing ability, but the elementary section had more hands on projects.  Since subject matter between the two groups was similar, we would use both videos on similar topics and then pick the activities that were most fitting to my children’s abilities.  Some activities we would do orally (such as tests and quizzes), others I had them circle instead of write, or I would print off pictures I found online and have them do cut and paste.  It was pretty easily to adapt the activities, if needed. 

My kids love to watch videos, and are very much visual learners; so, this program was great for them!  I loved the additional elements of application and hands on activities.  The only thing missing (but easily added) are a few real life books to go with the subject matter (and this is because we like to use a lot of books!).  A book suggestion list for the program would be nice, but is definitely not a necessity. 

How we used the program:

We spent 1-2 weeks on each video.  First, we watched the video (sometimes we used the pretest beforehand).  There was usually a worksheet to complete while watching; I had my 3rd grader do that.  There are always questions asked at the end of the video, I did these orally with my younger two, while my oldest wrote them down.  Then several days throughout that week, and sometimes into the next week, we would complete other worksheets and the hands on activity.  We used the program 3-4 days a week.  Sometimes I’d have my 3rd grader watch a video and complete on his own, other times I would cast the videos onto our TV and watch them together.

For this review period we hopped around a bit between the topics.  Topics we used were:  Electrical Circuits, Electricity, Magnets & Electromagnets, Landforms, and Desert Biomes from elementary and Magnets, Electricity and Landforms from primary.

PicMonkey Collage2

Some experiments and hands-on activities that we did with this curriculum during the review period were:  playing with magnets, making an electromagnet, making a circuit, making a salt dough landforms map, static electricity experiments.  Not all units have hands on projects or experiments, but many do! The only down point is that you have to get the materials yourself, many are simple materials to get…others may not be.  We were lucky and had all of the items already, and I think you would find that you have a lot of them on hand too!  A nice addition to the program would be a science kit with supplies an an option to purchase, or a list of materials needed listed in one spot (so you don’t have to go under each individual video to find them).

We really like this program and have added it to our plans for next year, as well as worked it into the rest of this school year!    It’s easily adaptable for a variety of learning needs, it meets multiple learning styles, you can use it in unit studies in a more organized and planned manner or you can jump around according to your child’s interests in a more child-led manner. 

Digital Online Science is an online subscription program.  You can subscribe to either the Elementary Edition or the Secondary Edition (or both).  The cost is $99 each edition for one year.  If you want a more organized method of using the program, I highly suggest downloading the catalog.  

Visual Learning Systems ReviewCrew Disclaimer

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