Friday, October 8, 2010

Digital Frog International Virtual Field Trips

Looking for a new approach to nature study? Hop on over to Digital Frog International at Famous for their innovative virtual frog dissection interactive video computer program, Digital Frog now offers virtual field trips for all ages. I received the entire virtual field trip series ,"The Wetlands, The Rainforest and The Desert" as a member of the Homeschool Crew in exchange for this review. Although my first initial reaction was "a bit pricey for an educational computer program", Digital Frog's programs are not average!

Digital Frog International describes themselves at their website as: "an innovative, enthusiastic, software company, dedicated to creating high-quality educational, multimedia CD-ROMs with an ecological focus. Our corporate headquarters is a converted barn surrounded by frogs, dogs and bogs in rural Ontario, Canada."

Always in need of an assistant, I asked my Kindergarten son Aidan to assist me with this review. Aidan is a Jr. computer geek, Lego afficiando and lover of animals. He is the biggest nature enthusiast of all of my kids, so I was sure he would definitely enjoy a virtual field trip.

Aidan was very excited to click through the different options of this program while I read the excellent, in depth text aloud. The field trips are multi-layered adventures filled with clear, bright photography, easily read, yet extremely informative text, and interactive opportunities within the virtual world.

Aidan and I chose to visit, "The Wetlands" first. We selected this from our initial screen choices of Wetlands, Rainforest or Desert. Next, the program directed us to a bog in Canada and we were asked if we would like to locate the bog before our visit. Choosing "yes" the next screen challenged us to click on North America on a world map, then Canada, then the Province of Ontario, then Algonquin Park, until finally we arrived at Cloud Lake. Throughout our virtual journey short, detailed descriptions of our destinations were provided in text which I read aloud to Aidan.

Once we arrived at Cloud Lake a series of 8 different posts, or specific sites of the bog, to visit were presented. We chose to travel to in order so as not to miss anything on our visit. Clicking on a mini map took us directly to the post marking where we investigated various plant and animal life at each location. The visuals have a 360 degree effect (think Google Earth) which is very fun for a six year old. We spun around in circles and happened upon a wood duck, a wolf and a beaver at various moments. Besides the fun of spinning, a small virtual notebook located to the right of the viewing area for the bog presents "field notes"for areas encountered. The text for the field notes is very concise, informative and intelligently written. I'm not sure of the grade level of the writing, but it is definitely appropriate for high school level nature study and if read aloud with explanation, appropriate for young nature enthusiasts too.

Spinning in circles in the "great outdoors" is fun, but for educational purposes, I asked Aidan his favorite animal so we could investigate the variety of information available in the text. He chose "Wood Duck", we clicked the link within the program, and were taken to a close-up photo of the wood duck at the lake. Within this screen were options to read an "Intro" about the duck, "Habitat", "Behavior", "Life Cycle", "Food Source", "Size Ranges", "Latin Name/Classification", "Trophic Level (ie. Consumer), and "Food Source".We could have spent hours just investigating the wood duck and all its related components, but the great thing about a virtual field trip for nature study is that you don't have to do it all at once. Older students can benefit with longer visits to study the in depth nature of the text and visuals, while young ones can glean brief snippets of information and enjoy "spinning" in the great outdoors.

I asked Aidan, for his honest opinion of "The Digital Field Trip Series" and he said, "I liked seeing the beaver, the frog, the wolf and the bald eagle in the wetlands!" When asked if he had any suggestions for improvement he added, "I wish there were games to play".

Digital Frog International's "Digital Field Trip Series" can be purchased at the company website for $199.00. Individual trips (ie. Desert only) can be purchased for home use for $60.00 each. Digital Frog is used in classrooms, but is a perfect product for home education as well.

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