Friday, October 8, 2010

Review: The Digital Field Trip Series

When I first started homeschooling, our family loved to do field trips.  What better way is there to learn than with direct, hands-on experience?  In those early years, with a preschooler and an early elementary student, I made it a point to do as many field trips as possible.  One year I had coordinated over 20 field trips.  Unfortunately, now that I have two in middle school, the field trips have dropped off the schedule and have been replaced with more demanding academics and a plethora of other activities.  In addition, we've pretty much exhausted the field trip opportunities in our area. Then, we discovered digital field trips!

Digital Frog, known for their virtual and interactive dissection software, provided me with a copy of The Digital Field Trip Series on DVD to review.  Having never heard of this product before, I first thought it was more of an educational program to watch, rather than what it is - an exploration of three ecosystems through an interactive CD-Rom filled with animations, written narration, video, quizzes, games, photographs, and more.

Three separate virtual field trips, which can also be purchased individually, are included on the DVD.

With The Digital Field Trip to the Wetlands, students explore Cloud Lake in Algonquin Park, Canada - all without getting their feet wet, of course! 

The five modules,  Field Trip, Study of a Bog, Wetlands Types, Mechanisms of a Wetland and Our Endangered Wetlands are integrated into one fully interactive learning tool. Thirty-three wetland plants and animals are profiled.

My son particularly enjoyed the Wetlands Quiz that has students identify what type of wetland (marsh, carr, swamp, or peatland) in each picture.

The Digital Field Trip to the Rainforest takes students to the Blue Creek Rainforest Reserve in Belize, Central America.

Similarly, five modules are also included: Field Trip, Rainforest Types, Rainforest Study, Mechanisms of a Rainforest, and Our Endangered Rainforests. There are 30 rainforest plants and animals covered and 29 movies.

The Field Trip module was a favorite for this particular topic.  The rainforest Field Trip includes 28 stops where the student can have a 360 degree view of actual footage.

The Digital Field Trip to the Desert lets students experience five North American Desert locations. Virtual Field trips for each desert are included, as well as modules on Desert Types, Desert Study, Desert Mechanisms, and Human Impact.

Of the three, my son claims this was his favorite virtual field trip of all. We spent some time together taking the Landform Quiz.  Of course, my oldest was wanting to get in on the program too.

Aside from being able to do a field trip from our schoolroom, the appeal of multiple ages is one of the things I really appreciated about this DVD series.  My personal favorite feature was the Field Trip modules, where you could "look around" the area with your mouse, as if you were really standing there.

The text feature is great for younger kids.  Almost every word is defined and a click of the button will provide a pop-up box of the definition of a particular word.  Audio of the pronunciation is even provided for some of the words.  There is map feature that when clicked, gives you an overview of all the screens within the field trip.  I found this very helpful to get back to a particular area already visited in previous explorations.  Because the program doesn't follow a particular sequence, it wasn't always easy to remember how you arrived at particular videos or quizzes.  A quick look at the map feature helped with navigation.

The program is designed to explore, much like a real field trip.  It doesn't have a set way to go through it and the user just goes off in various directions to click, listen, watch, or play as interest leads them.  There aren't unnecessary sound effects. Some screens are silent, some have appropriate background noise, while others have simple narration or video.  The overall presentation is excellent and really draws in the user.  Both of my kids enjoyed the DVD and my youngest has asked on more than one occasion to go through it again.  It doesn't surprise me, because much like a real field trip, you really can't take it in all at once.

Each Digital Field Trip (Wetlands, Rainforest, Desert) can be purchased individually under a home license for $60 or combined on the Digital Field Trip Series DVD for $125, an over 20% savings. If you would like to try before you buy, limited demo versions are available of this product and others offered by Digital Frog.  Visit the Digital Frog website for more information or to purchase.

Disclaimer: This review was provided as a result in my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Crew. I was provided the product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. I have received no other compensation.

I strive to give a balanced overview of each product, detailing my opinion of both pros and cons and how the product worked for my family. What works for one family may not work for another. I encourage you to read reviews of other Crew members and research sufficiently to determine if any product will be a benefit to your homeschool.


Diane said...

Looks like a great product. Wonder if they will start adding more field trip choices.

One Mom said...

Great post. I did not get to review this one. :o( I tagged you in my post today!