Friday, October 8, 2010

The Digital Field Trip Series

Digital Frog is an innovative company that creates natural science software. Their product line includes: Digital Frog 2.5 (dissection), Sciencematrix (cell structure and function) and The Digital Field Trip Series which is the topic of this review.

The Digital Field Trip Series is a combination of three software programs:
Whether purchased individually ($60 each) or as a combination ($125 for the set of 3), the content is identical. Each field trip provides a virtual trip with interactive photos and field notes that bring natural science, ecology and geography alive to students. By joining Digital Frog's free Frogger Club, you can access demo videos of the field trips (as well as their other software titles). On the website, you can also view a listing of specific topics and find out which product covers that material. Read on for a snapshot of what each trip covers.

The Wetlands
This field trip is comprised of five parts: Field Trip (to a bog in Ontario, Canada), Study of a Bog, Wetlands Types, Mechanisms of a Wetland and Our Endangered Wetland. Within these areas, students will learn about bog food webs, adaptations of plants and animals, concepts of formation and succession, photosynthesis, nutrient cycles, erosion & flooding as well as topics such as conservation and pollution. Digital Frog calls their material "multi-layered" meaning that you can use the program on varying levels. For example, an elementary student can learn about the simplest form of photosynthesis whereas a high school student can delve into the more complex world of photophosphorylation. And any of the topics can serve as inspiration for a more in-depth research.

The Rainforest
Experience Blue Creek Rainforest Reserve in Belize, Central America through The Rainforest Digital Field Trip. Along your journey you'll learn about various tropical rainforest types, plants and animals that live there and the processes that foster their survival. You can experience a 360 degree view of your surroundings. Play a game about niches or a rainforest riches game. According to Digital Frog, this program has something for anyone ages 3 to 90 (sorry, we didn't have anyone in that upper age category--unless you count the combined age of me and my husband).

The Desert
Do you think all deserts are just dry, barren wastelands? Check out this field trip and be amazed at the diversity of deserts. This trip provides a lot of geographical information by providing an overview of deserts throughout the world and a more detailed field trip of five specific deserts in North America. Some of the topics within this program include: rocks & minerals, landscape effects of wind & water, and adaptations made by plants and animals to survive in the desert. Once you've learned about deserts, have fun playing the Build-a Desert game where you can try your hand at creating a desert ecosystem.

Age Range
There are elements within the programs that can be used with any age level from elementary (with some parental assistance) all the way up to high school. I worked through parts of the program with my 5 year old (Kindergarten) and 7 year old (2nd grade). My kindergartner especially liked the sections about animals, frequently cycling through her favorite photos and video clips. My 10 year old daughter was able to fully navigate the program with almost no assistance from me (and she discovered aspects of the program I hadn't even found yet).

Installation was a breeze. You can either pop in the CD or DVD (material can be purchased in either format) and just play from the disk or you can download the software to your hard drive (just follow the prompts). Tech Support is available for their product; some common questions are handled directly on their website.

Free Resources
If you aren't quite ready to purchase the software, I highly recommend taking advantage of their freebies. By joining the Frogger Club, you can access some resources for teaching science (whether or not you are using Digital Frog products); discounts are also offered to club members at various times. You'll want to check out the suggested links for recommended sites and also images you and your students can use for projects or presentations. Take some time to just explore the site as there are many neat resources available.

What We Thought
This program unfolds like the layers of an onion. When I did a first quick through of the program, I was not entirely impressed. With each new viewing, however, I have uncovered new gems. It was especially fun watching my 5 year old navigating quite well through the various aspects of the program on her own. It is a really very unique combination of learning and fun that will not be quickly outgrown. Instead, this is a tool that I can introduce on a surface level to my younger kids and yet still find ways to challenge my older ones.

Don't expect a gaming experience--one of those video products loosely disguised as "educational." Instead, this is the real deal--serious scientific knowledge made accessible to a variety of ages in a unique eyewitness fashion. You feel as though you are experiencing these places through the lens of your own camera. Kind of like tagging along on a production of Public Television's "Nature" but from the safety and comfort of your own home.

Features we especially liked:
  • Word definitions (for virtually all the words within the program)
  • Word pronunciations
  • Ability to have material read aloud
  • Video clips
  • Quizzes
  • Games
  • Printable student worksheets (teacher pages with answers are available too)
  • Overview map with screens marked as you visit them
  • Fast find feature to quickly access a particular topic
This product can serve as a great tool for either student collaboration or independent study of natural science. It also is a great resource for reviewing previously learned topics or to stimulate ideas for further exploration. It definitely gets a 2-thumbs up from me! Additional reviews for this product can be read at the TOS Crew Blog.

Contact Information
Digital Frog International
Trillium Place, RR #2, 7377 Calfass Rd.
Puslinch, Ontario, N0B 2J0, Canada
Phone: -1-800-621-FROG (3764)

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of The Digital Field Trip Series for the purpose of reviewing the product and sharing my experience with it. No other compensation was received. The opinions expressed are my own.


Denise said...

So true about a true learning experience- not a video gamey feel. My kids all loved it! We spent a long time going through the trips and still find so much we haven't explored. I enjoyed your review!

Dawn said...

Very well put together review - you covered A LOT of info in a "small" amount of space and made it so easy to understand! Have a wonderfully blessed day!

Angie Vik said...

Looks like a neat program. I love educational software.

Thanks for following my blog. How do you know Michelle? I met her at the camp her husband works at. Which week of camp at VCBC did your daughter go to? That's neat that you're familiar with Village Creek. My kids like it there and that's where my son Andrew met his wife. Blessings on your homeschooling.

Wendy said...

Hi Jill,
Thanks so much for checking out my blog and for your comments. I'd love to have you follow along (you can learn more about my love hate relationship with zumba among other things; yes, I've written about it before-disasterous, of course).

Love yor blog. I will be adding it to my blog role. This software sounds really cool. Can't wait to check it out.

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