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Britannica Pathways: Science

By Charles G. Doe - Posted May 1, 2012
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Company: Britannica Digital Learning, a division of Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., info.eb.com or (800) 621-3900. The company makes its headquarters in Chicago.

Price: A subscription for Britannica Pathways: Science is free for a year; the pricing is then determined by number and nature of access. Contact sales for specifics.

Audience: Britannica Pathways: Science is for grades 6, 7, and 8 within the context of the existing science curricula.

Format: Britannica Pathways: Science is a new standards-correlated online tool that targets common misconceptions held by students. All of Britannica’s resources, including articles, illustrations and video, are available for their guided use.

System Requirements: This program will work on any relatively current computer with full, speedy internet access.

Description: Britannica Pathways: Science brings the full weight of Encyclopaedia Britannica’s outstanding and extensive resources to bear in this supplemental tool for middle school science instruction. It consists of a guided discussion that helps students form hypotheses, which they research. Then, the hypotheses are checked with basic, multiple-choice quizzes and a follow-up activity.

REPORT CARD
Overall Rating:4 Stars
Installation:A
Content/Features:A
Ease of Use:A
Product Support:A

Reviewer Comments:

Installation: Since this is a web-based program, installation is a matter of buying the service and ensuring all computers are equipped with proper supporting programs, internet connections, and settings. Installation Rating: A

Content/Features: Britannica Pathways: Science relies heavily on the resources of Britannica Online School Edition, an online encyclopedia. In case you’re not familiar with that, it includes four encyclopedias, an atlas, timelines, other learning materials, websites, and videos. It also includes journals, magazines, and more than 86,000 graphics, plus thousands of animations, audio clips, and videos.

With Britannica Pathways: Science, students work with commonly held misconceptions with more than a hundred possible lessons using an interactive, hands-on approach so that they learn by doing, participating, discussing, and concluding. Lessons begin with probe questions to help start the conversation about what students are thinking and why, and then the program follows a consistent progression guided by student responses.

After a discussion that includes formulating hypotheses and thinking about the evidence, students evaluate whether each hypothesis is correct. Then, they collect data in support of their hypotheses using articles, illustrations, and video. This inquiry helps them think about problems in new ways. Further class discussion ensures that students confront their original ideas. Then quizzes check student comprehension, and a “wrap it up” activity helps students apply what they have learned.

In a fairly standard one- or two-computer classroom, this could be especially useful for teachers with whiteboards. If available, students could be sent to a computer lab to complete online research or to a computer-equipped media center after initial discussion.

This program is intended for use by students and not just for demonstration. Schools need to carefully evaluate whether enough computer access is available for students to take full advantage of Britannica Pathways: Science before purchasing it. Content/Features Rating: A

Ease of Use: Clear and intuitive navigation instructions and lots of support materials make this an easy program to use. If expected to work independently, students will benefit from some teacher instruction and guidance. Ease of Use Rating: A

Product Support: One especially appealing support feature is free online training and other materials for all subscribers. Other than that, technical support is available as needed by phone or online contact. Product Support Rating: A

Recommendation: This is an excellent curricular support service for the middle school, and I recommend it for schools with adequate computer or whiteboard access. Recommended.

Reviewer: Charles Doe (charliegd@sbcglobal.net) is a 39-year teacher, including 10 years as elementary media specialist in Hastings Area Schools in Hastings, Mich. For the past 12 years, he has written articles and reviews for Internet@Schools.


 
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