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Discovery Education streaming Plus

By Alice Kurtz - Posted Jul 1, 2009
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REPORT CARD
Overall Rating:5 Stars
Installation:A
Content/Features:A
Ease of Use:A
Product Support:A

Company: Discovery Education, One Discovery Place, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Phone: (800) 323-9084; Internet: www.discoveryeducation.com

Price: $2,600--annual subscription for grades K–8. $3,000--annual subscription for grades 9–12.

Audience: Grades K–12

Minimum System Requirements: A computer with internet access, a monitor with a resolution of 800 x 600, and sufficient bandwidth for playing videos.

Description: Discovery Education streaming Plus is a web-based subscription service that offers digital content and a media resource library service with thousands of learning tools selected to enrich school curriculum. All of the available materials are tied to state and national educational standards.

Reviewer Comments:

Installation/Access: Access is acquired by logging in with a username and password. I had no difficulties accessing the service for this review. Assorted plug-ins are available for download from the site. Installation/Access Rating: A

Content/Features: Discovery Education streaming Plus offers continually updated digital media for K–12 classrooms in all subject areas. The materials come from the Discovery Channel and Discovery Education as well as educational producers and publishers such as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), Scholastic, Clearvue, AIMS, Weston Woods, and others.

The service offers more than 9,000 full-length videos that are segmented into 71,000 video clips. Users can access English language learning (ELL) and world language content resources with materials in Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, and 30 other languages.

The newest version of Discovery Education streaming Plus provides an additional 3,700 titles and has vastly improved the video offerings for grades 9–12 (prior editions were more focused on the grades 6–8 range).

The titles available through the streaming Plus program include PBS programs directed and produced by Ken Burns, the Planet Earth series, and NOVA, as well as an array of speeches, audio books, foreign language instruction, and works of classical music and poetry.

The distribution of videos is greatest for science and social studies topics, but there is a reasonable array of titles for mathematics, health, and literature. More than 55% of the videos have a copyright date of 2000 or later. All of the selections have been reviewed for accuracy and appropriateness by a curricular team.

Each video comes with a description, a preview photo, and a clickable list of segments designed to enable educators to jump directly to the material relevant to curricular needs. Each video is tagged with its appropriate grade range and an indication of other available corresponding resources or help files. The most frequently found support materials are black-line masters and teachers’ guides that offer discussion questions.

Teachers can quickly and efficiently search a video library by curriculum standard, keyword, subject area, grade, producer, new releases, or all available titles. The Advance Search feature enables searchers to focus on a specific publisher, find segments that can be edited, select closed captions, identify Spanish versions of videos, and discover new titles.

Additional features include an image library with more than 18,000 images (including 2,000 geography images), lesson plans correlated to videos, and calendars of important dates in history linked to video clips in six core curriculum areas. The Lesson Plan Library offers hundreds of lessons for use with the videos.

Selected resources can be bookmarked using the My Content feature. This tool will collect and organize resources, quizzes, and writing prompts and save them for the next time the materials are needed.

Additional features such as the Assignment Builder, Quiz Center, and Writing Prompt Generator allow the customization of lessons for a variety of learning styles, subjects, and grades. With the Assignment Builder, teachers can design web-based projects and set up assignments. This tool makes it easy to create WebQuests.

Some of the newer highlights include the availability of the Ken Burns PBS productions. These videos are outstanding, especially for American history topics. Productions such as Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery, The Civil War, or Brooklyn Bridge bring so much life to a lesson—and a much richer understanding to the students.

There are many ways that classrooms can benefit from Discovery Education streaming Plus. A social studies enrichment project, for example, could use Google Earth with inserted hyperlinks to video segments illustrating aspects of the map. Another possible use would be to embed video segments in PowerPoint lectures. In addition, students can use editable video to enhance their own digital projects. Content/
Features Rating: A

Ease of Use: The digital media is quite easy to use. The material can be used as streaming video, embedded in other presentation modalities, or saved to the user’s computer.

Manuals for each segment of the Discovery Education streaming Plus service are available as PDF files that can be accessed online through the Support feature and printed for future reference. The "crumbs" icons at the top of each page make navigation back to Home easy from anywhere in the service. Ease of Use Rating: A

Product Support: Product support is offered through an FAQ found under the Support heading at the bottom of each page.

Support is also available via a toll-free telephone number (operated Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST and Friday from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. EST) and by email through a link from the website. Product Support Rating: A

Recommendation: Discovery Education streaming Plus is an absolute must-have tool to provide students with a richer, deeper understanding of topics under study. This is a great way to provide differentiated instruction, to allow for various styles of learning, and to enable students to become "eyewitnesses" to the events, places, things, and people studied in the classroom.

The flexibility of this resource can’t be topped. Educators can use an entire video or just a short segment to illustrate a point or to quickly demonstrate a concept. The latest version of streaming Plus provides two important features—the ability to differentiate instruction for ELL populations through the new world languages media and materials available in hard-to-find languages such as Mandarin Chinese and Arabic, as well as the opportunity to access comprehensive programming such as PBS productions, Planet Earth, Smash Lab, and more.

One recommendation I would make is to download the video resources to your computer desktop when a lesson is dependent on a selected resource. As we all know, there’s nothing worse than finding that the internet service is out of commission during the class period selected for streaming video! A simple right-click and "Save Target As" command puts the selected resource on the desktop.

Discovery Education streaming Plus is a service that will enhance curriculum, meet standards, differentiate instruction, and—most importantly—expand the academic achievement of your students. Highly recommended.

Reviewer: Alice Kurtz, 5/6 grade teacher, Irving B. Weber School, Iowa City, IA.  


 
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