Enhance Your Science Curriculum with Visual Learning Systems #Review
We love to energize our science curriculum with a variety of tools, and we’ve discovered an engaging resource, Visual Learning Systems. Provided as an online digital science subscription, there are two levels available:
- Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5)
- Digital Science Online: Secondary Edition (Grades 6-12)
There are various components to the online subscription, including videos, animations, still images, and teacher’s guides, spanning the science spectrum. The number of videos, animals, and images vary depending on the topic. Each teacher’s manual is for a specific topic, and while you can view the contents of each page individually, I find it easier to use the complete PDF file download.
For each unit, the teacher’s guide includes a list of the learning objectives, recommendations for introducing the video, a complete script of the video, a pre- and post-viewing assessments, vocabulary, and a video review, intended to be used while watching the program. Other activity sheets are usually included, but these vary in type and quantity to best fit the information that is being taught. A complete answer key is also provided.
There are tutorials and demos for Visual Learning Systems, which should help give you a better understand of what the online subscription is like to use, but in reality, if you’ve ever used any online video, it’s going to be relatively straightforward. The material is organized in a logical manner that makes it easy to find the topic that you’re looking for, the site is fast, and the video player offers the normal play/pause and full screen options. Captions are also provided, and while they default to off, they’re easily switched on, essential to those with hearing challenges, or helpful to those who use captions to help with reading practice.
As all of my kids are in middle and high school, we’ve focused primarily on the upper level subscription during the review period. Two of my boys (9th & 11th) are currently taking a biology class with a local alternative learning (public) school, and my daughter (7th) has been tagging along for the labs. As a result, the majority of our viewing so far has been biology.
To use ALL the provided assessment materials for each unit seems a bit like overkill to me. I just can’t quite see myself giving a test, having them do an assignment during the video that covers the same questions, and then doing another test afterward. Instead, I choose to approach those worksheets in this way: I’m offered three different options, presented in a slightly different manner, to complete the same task, and I use whichever ONE I decide I like the best for that lesson. (Usually, it’s the video review.) Both the pre-and post assessments are then available for later when I want to refresh their memories.
Because the boys have a fairly heavy workload in biology already, I haven’t wanted to pile on too much more paperwork, so we’ve lightly used some of the accompanying worksheets with them. My daughter, has more “science time” available at the moment, and the website is simple to use (and a student login is provided). This has allowed me to assemble a packet of worksheets for her, and assign her a video to work on. (This is LOVELY, and allows for independent work, and with headphones, doesn’t (usually) distract her siblings.)
When we’re all watching a video, it’s a fairly simple matter to connect the computer to an HDMI cord that is plugged into the TV, and get a much larger viewing screen. While it isn’t quite the “Yay! A movie in class!” that I remember from public school, it’s a little bit closer. [grin]
Science videos are also popular in my household for those “let’s just watch educational TV, veg out, and yet learn something” moments. Visual Learning Systems has one nice little feature that makes it work perfectly for it – a “PLAY ALL” button. (Let me assure you, those days when everyone is miserably sick, PLAY ALL is an unexpected blessing.)
For elementary and middle school, Visual Learning Systems would work quite well as a complete topical science curriculum, merely by methodically working through it. I’d hesitate to recommend it as a complete curriculum for high school, simply because I haven’t compared it, topic by topic, to a standard high school course for each of the subjects. Instead, I’d call it a very strong supplement; it’s comprehensive, easy-to-use, and visually appealing.
Because Visual Learning Systems is offered to both the public school and the homeschool markets, finding the homeschool pricing on the Visual Learning Systems website might be a bit of a challenge. At the time of this review, the cost of Visual Learning Systems (either, not both, levels) is $99/year for the online digital science subscription.