Friday, October 8, 2010
Digital Frog Field Trip Series - Product Review
I received this product free of charge in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was received.
Being Canadian, I was excited to have the opportunity to review a Canadian product made in my home province. According to their website, Digital Frog International "has been creating great educational natural science software [sic][since 1995] that is in use in classrooms around the world. It started with a simple virtual frog dissection program, and grew to create award-winning programs covering all aspects of natural science, from ecosystems to the inner workings of cells, all with an interface unique to Digital Frog International."
My family and I have had the opportunity to play with "The Digital Field Trip Series" Home License Edition. I'll tell you right off the bat that our exploration of the product has been somewhat limited by the fact that the computer on which the software was installed fried its motherboard -- for the 4th time since February -- and the only other computer to which I have access is incapable of running the software, even though it CAN be run from the disk itself. But DD13, DS11, and I all spent some time exploring The Wetlands, The Rainforest, and The Desert and were able to formulate some opinions about it. Bear in mind that not one of us is a real science buff, though we enjoy it and recognize the tremendous value of learning about the world in which we live. (Well, OK *I* do. Them -- not so much. I had to "require" them to spend the time they did exploring the program.)
Once I got past the toxic smell of the open case (I only mention that because EVERY time I open it, the odour gives me a sharp headache!), I was impressed by the ease with which I was able to install and begin to navigate the software. All three field trips are housed on a single CD, compatible with both Windows and Macintosh using QuickTime technology. I was also impressed by the organizational structure of the program, including a very detailed web-map that enables the user to get a visual of all the places that can be explored on the program. (My intent was to show you a screen shot of what I'm talking about. But, alas, I cannot without my fried computer. I feel like I'm missing a limb. Seriously!)
The Wetlands section of the software is broken down into the following categories:
* The Field Trip enables you to explore nine posts at the Cloud Lake bog in Algonquin Park (So cool! I used to live near there!), Ontario, Canada.
* Wetland Types teaches you how to tell the difference between a swamp or a marsh or a bog.
* The Study of a Bog allows you to time-travel and see how bogs form. It also offers an examination of the roles of plants and animals in a wetland habitat.
* Mechanisms of a Wetland allows you to study how a wetland works.
* Our Endangered Wetlands addresses conservation, habitat, and pollution of wetlands around the world.
The Rainforest section of the CD includes the following:
* The Field Trip takes you to the Blue Creek Rainforest Reserve in Belize, Central America.
* Rainforest Study looks at the characteristics and interdependence of plants and animals in the rainforest.
* Rainforest Types looks at the classifications of different rainforests.
* Mechanisms of a Rainforest examines the things that keep rainforests alive.
* Our Endangered Rainforests offers information about biodiversity and the importance of rainforests to our environment. It also looks at threats and protection plans.
The Desert Field Trip has the following features:
Field Trips lets you explore five North American deserts.
Desert Types offers information about the various types of deserts around the world.
Desert Study addresses organisms, adaptations, and homeostasis. It also enables you to build your own ecosystem in a desert setting.
Mechanisms of a Desert discusses issues surrounding climate, landscape, and water.
Human Impact examines the influence of people on desert environments, and explores the significance of our interactions with the desert landscape.
Each easy-to-navigate Field Trip is RICH with information and visual stimulation. My children and I were disappointed that there was no audio to accompany the abundance of text, but according to the Digital Frog International website, the program features "built-in text-to-speech [which] supports blind and visually-impaired as well as slow readers and auditory learners" -- so I'm thinking that we must have somehow missed a significant component of the software. DD13 did discover that when you click on words in the text they are defined for you, which she thought was a cool feature. It was also neat to see things move when your mouse hovered over them, and to have 360 degree panoramic views of different landscapes. All three of us noted a lack of video clips in our exploration of the field trips, which was disappointing -- and yet materials provided by the company make reference to projector icons and "many movies," so I'm guessing again that we just didn't dig deep enough. My daughter indicated in her notes that the field trips were "not very intriguing," but I wonder if that has more to do with the fact that she would have preferred to be doing something else at the time rather than a fault of the program. Sadly, none of us has a particularly keen interest in deserts, rainforests, or wetlands, so I suppose it is to be expected that we might be a bit ho-hum about using a computer program about them.
Having said that, if we were doing an intensive study of these areas as part of our curriculum, The Digital Field Trip Series would be a tremendous tool for our studies. The virtual reality technology takes the study to a level that cannot be achieved with books, and is likely the next best thing to a live, hands-on experience of these regions. I feel blessed to have received the product because it is something that will very likely enrich our learning at various times in the future, especially given that I have two other children coming up the ranks that might have a greater passion for science than the older ones have.
If you have any interest in the subject area, I would encourage you to visit the Digital Frog International website and take advantage of the free demo versions of the software to see it for yourself.
All three Digital Field Trips (The Rainforest, The Wetlands and The Desert) on one DVD
Home License $125.00 4DV2
Family Use Home License (3 computers) $135.00 4DV2F
Home Co-op Lab Pack (5 discs)
(call 1-800-621-3764 for custom Lab Pack pricing) $298.50 4DV2-5
Thank you TOS and Digital Frog for the opportunity to use this product!
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