Monday, March 9, 2015

TOS Review - Visual Learning Systems - Digital Science Online

Visual Learning Systems Review
Every homeschool mom has a subject that either they don't feel comfortable teaching or just simply don't like it. Science is that subject for me. It doesn't interest me and I don't have a strong background in the subject materials. Anytime I can find a good product to help me in this area, I latch on to it. We were given this very opportunity to use and review Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades k-5) and Grades (6-12) from Visual Learning Systems.
I tutor three fifth grade girls three days a week and felt it was time to switch things up a bit in the science department when the opportunity to review Visual Learning Systems came about. I decided to stick with the appropriate age level (K-5) . We also picked one subject to delve in to and that was Earth. Choosing this subject area has so far led us to learn about: Earth's nearest neighbors, Earth's rotation and revolution, Exploring the Earth, Sun, and Moon, and Exploring Fossils.
Digital Science Online is a completely online product. We were given free range in all age areas (primary, elementary, and middle/high school) for one full year for this review. With having three fifth graders I concentrated in the elementary area. This is a supplemental science product to enhance your science curriculum that you are currently using. I used it as my spine of information then just added more activities, books, etc. as I needed them. As you can see all grades K-12 can use and benefit from this online program.
What is included:
In the elementary section there are three subject choices: physical, earth, and life. Each subject has 17-25 different topics available. Primary has four subject areas, including; physical, earth, life and health. The high school section has even more with, physical, earth, life, integrated, health, and biology. Once a subject and topic are chosen you will be brought to four main resources.
Videos - Each individual topic has a video ranging in time of up to 20 minutes long. The younger the child the shorter the video. The video is also broken down into sections. This means it can be watched one time all together or can be sectioned off and introduced to your child in smaller bites. We thought the videos were professionally orchestrated, provided loads of vital information, and were enjoyable to watch. This section along with the worksheets were the most used in our family. The one and only thing that I didn't like was that the videos started automatically without you pushing play which meant if you were only there to go to another resource you would have to take the time to pause the video each time. I have learned that just today the Vendor has corrected this issue (can you say great customer service) and it is no longer an issue.
Visual Learning Systems Review
Images - This section provides still images. Many are images seen in the video but others are available for each topic as well. Beautiful images of the subject matter studied.

Animations - Each topic has multiple animations that run for as short as a few seconds to a couple of minutes. For example in the Fossil materials there are animations depicting how fossils form, how a mold is created, and the process of petrification.
Teachers Guide - Here you will find all the resources that make life easier for teachers and parents. The parent is given the option of downloading and printing the entire teachers guide that includes answer key, worksheets, activities, video script, and more. The first week I did this, then discovered I was not really using every single item in the packet. Now I print one item at a time when I need it.
What Type of  Worksheets
Pre and Post Tests
Video Review
Writing Activity
Hands on Activities
My favorite worksheets to use were vocabulary, writing activity, and hands on activities. I liked the way the same information for each topic was covered on every single worksheet and activity just through different ways to help solidify the material in the child's mind.
How We Used the Product
I think the best way to explain how this product works is to take you through a typical week of how we used it in our home. On Mondays we would watch the new video topic of choice all together. These videos are usually in the neighborhood of 15-20 minutes long, The same day I would follow up the video with the corresponding video worksheet for review. On Tuesday we would do one of the activity worksheets or writing activity. Wednesday would find us reviewing the information provided through either a book I chose to share on the topic, another hands on activity or one of the worksheets provided. I also added a couple of extra projects and activities along the way. We were able to cover about one topic per week.
The video that discussed the moon waxing and waning inspired us to take Oreos to show the different phases of the moon. Of course Grace had to join in this day - because who doesn't love Oreos.

Hands on activity directly from the program creating a fossil.

Another fossil created from one of the hands on activities.

The videos on the Solar System got the girls thinking creatively and each of them created a representation of the Solar System in their own creative way.

The girls definitely liked this program. Since the review period is coming to a close I gave them the option of continuing through the Earth Topics or going back to our previous materials. They unanimously agreed to continue with Digital Online Science. I do also plan on incorporating some of the biology videos with Grace's high school biology study as well.
Visual Learning Systems has created special prices for homeschool families. This pricing will allow up to 8 students to use the product. Please contact Visual Learning Systems to see if this would work for your home and students. Follow the Demo Link to see tutorials and demos of the product. Also visit TOS Review Crew to find out what other homeschool families thought of this product.
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