Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Visual Learning Systems- Schoolhouse Crew Review

I am so excited to share this review with you!  And trust me when I say that it is a big deal, but because quite frankly, science is not always my favorite subject to teach.  Three cheers for a company that has changed my mind!

For the past 6 weeks, we have been blessed to review an online science program by Visual Learning Systems (VLS) called Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5) and Digital Science Online: Secondary Edition (Grades 6-12).   VLS is an online program for ages K-12, and based on series of videos covering all aspects of Science.  Yes, Earth, Life, and Physical Science are all covered as well as Health and Biology, in hundreds of videos.   When you access a level, you then choose which area you would like to study, (physical, earth or life) and then which sub category under that.  The sky is the limit with hundreds of videos available.  Don't see a subject you are looking for?  No problem!  There is a search button for each level that will help you locate a specific subject quickly.

A little about the videos-

  • For ease, the videos are grouped according to level- Primary, Elementary, and Middle/High School.
  • Primary videos are about 10-11 minutes in length.  Elementary last about  14-15 minutes and the Middle/High School levels are about 20 minutes.
  • Each video is broken down into shorter segments, so that you can watch them like "chapters."
  • The videos are narrated by a female in a clear and easy to listen to voice.
  • Each video begins with an overview, teaches a concept, reviews, and then ends with a video quiz.
  • Throughout the videos are areas that allow you to pause the video to answer questions that are presented, or discuss a concept.
  • The videos are mostly live action, but there are also animated sections as well, like how the digestive system works.
  • In case it matters to you, this program does meet state science standards as well as Next Generation Science Standards.

When you are done with a video, you have only just begun!  On the side menu of each video are several other options.  One of those options is a student activity tab.  Here you will find numerous worksheets you can print off.  Worksheets include pre and post tests, experiments and other hands on materials, and activity worksheets like fill in the blank and puzzles.

A little about the worksheets-

  • Just like the videos, the worksheets are age specific.  Worksheets for younger levels have larger writing and fewer questions.  Tests are the same.
  • You will find more than several worksheets per video to print off.
  • Activities encourage reading comprehension, writing skills and listening comprehension, as well as creativity.
  • Other tabs on each side bar include animations of each video and still pictures.  I would assume these would get used more in a public school setting, but we did look at them in a few cases.
  • Worksheet answer keys, as well as full teacher guides are available in a separate teacher's account.

So, how did we use this program?
We are currently in the middle of  2nd grade science so I went into this review thinking this would be "just" an extra fun bonus program.  Plans change, right?  (oh, the glory of homeschooling!)  As soon as we watched ONE of the videos we were hooked!  For the first two weeks, we chose a video to watch one day and then picked several corresponding worksheets to do the following day as a review. We did not do the pre tests, but we did choose to do the post tests to see how much CJ was comprehending.  He scored 100% every time!  Because we had just finished studying animals we used those two weeks to watch as many animal based videos as we could, both at the primary AND secondary levels.
After two weeks, I decided I should move on with our full time curriculum so we changed things up a bit.  You will be surprised at what happened.  Instead of doing less with Visual Learning Systems, we ended up doing more.  After our regularly scheduled science EACH day, we would use the search button to find videos on what we had just learned.  My son and I would sit together and watch the video, with his 7th grade brother even joining us occasionally.  After that I printed out the post test and at least one other worksheet to do.  Yes, it added more work for him. No, not ONCE did he ever complain.  I stand amazed!

What did we think?
We clearly love Visual Learning System's online program.  It is a perfect fit for our son who loves to use the computer in his school day.  While he is not an auditory learner per se, the reinforcement that he is getting each day with a different mode of teaching is helping to solidify the information he is learning,  The videos, of course, just make it more fun.  I would highly recommend this program if you have auditory or visual learners, for sure!

While we found that yes, you can see and hear a difference in the first two levels, CJ, as a 2nd grader had no trouble or preference watching either level.  He did however prefer the worksheets for the primary level, due often to less writing  requirements.  He IS a 7 year old boy, remember!

The activities have made it fun as well.  Our third week we began a unit on the human body and he loved the assignment of tracing his body and drawing in the organs he had learned about that day.  Since we already had a set of x-rays, it was a perfect tie in to our other science.  If your child likes hands on activities, you will find lots to choose from to keep them busy!

For those of you who do not love worksheets, not to worry,  They are comprehensive, but not too much to take up tons of time.  You also of course, can choose not to use any of them if so you desire. The videos can stand alone.  The advantage, of course, to using the worksheets offered is that I believe, you could use this as a complete science program, particularly at the two lower levels.  We did watch a few of the highschool level videos but did not do any of those worksheets, for obvious reasons.

A note to you- Visual Learning Systems is not presented from a Christian point of view.  I think I heard one reference (in 6 weeks worth of usage) about the age of fossils that I did not agree with, coming from a young earth perspective. While at this time, that would not deter me from using this program, you should be aware of that if it would bother you.

Would I change anything?
The only thing I think homeschooling moms would LOVE is if there was a checklist of sorts so you can easily see which of the videos you had already viewed.  We are type A bunch of gals you know! There is a catalog you can access which will show you all of the videos available for each of the levels.

Where do we go from here?
Continuing on, just like the past few weeks!  I am so thrilled to have been introduced to this amazing online Science program.  Already I have seen my son's knowledge grow by leaps and bounds, and my anxiety in teaching science diminish.  Can you believe it- science is actually fun!

Visual Learning Systems has a free preview you can sign up for to see what you think.  The homeschool edition can be purchased for $99.00.

Visual Learning Systems Review

Crew Disclaimer

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