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Holt Call to Freedom

By Alice Kurtz - Posted Mar 1, 2005
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REPORT CARD
Overall Rating:5 Stars
Installation:A
Content/Features:A
Ease of Use:A
Product Support:A

Located online at http://www.hrw.com/.

Source: Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 10801 N. MoPac Expressway, Austin, TX 78759; Phone: 515/721-7811; Fax: 512/721-7833; Internet: http://www.hrw.com/.

Access Fee: $60.95, Premier Online Edition, 6-year subscription, single user.

Audience: Middle school, American studies.

Format: Online textbook.

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows Systems: Intel Pentium II or higher, 32-MB RAM, Windows 95/98/NT4/2000/XP, Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher (preferred browser). Note: Netscape 6 is not recommended.

Macintosh Systems: PowerPC Processor (G3 or higher), Mac OS 8.1 or later.

In addition, the following downloadable plug-ins are needed and provided: Shockwave 8.5.1, Flash 6, Acrobat Reader5, QuickTime5.

Description: Call to Freedom is a complete, online American history textbook covering pre-Columbian America to the present. It offers all of the features, content, and extensions of a traditional print textbook and includes a variety of tools that create an interactive environment for student learning.

Reviewer Comments:

Installation/Access: The online textbook is accessed with a case-sensitive password and user name. There was no problem getting to the opening pages. The textbook loaded in a reasonable time. Installation/Access Rating: A

Content/Features: The textbook's interactive features include timelines, maps, and various graphic organizers for organizing and scaffolding information. A notebook tool allows journaling about a studied topic. Comprehension questions that give immediate feedback are located at strategic points throughout the text. Also included are features such as online homework with immediate feedback, enrichment links to various sites on the Web that take the text content to greater depths, visuals, primary sources, and a host of interactive multimedia activities.

Teachers are provided with an online class and individual student management system. The online text can be accessed at the student's home, in school, or in the library.

A new feature of this text is a heavy emphasis on reading comprehension. A Skills Handbook section entitled "Becoming a Strategic Reader" is available. The online text also offers The Live Ink Reading Help, an optional modified reading format.

The text's 11 units of information are divided into student-friendly segments. At the log-in, the user can access a tabbed toolbar that navigates to Contents, Text, Practice and Review, Activities, Chapter Resources, and References.

Along with a hyperlinked and expandable Table of Contents, access to the text is available through pull-down menus. Menu one pulls down to the unit or chapter; the second menu lists the segments. The user can also put a specific page number into a third menu and click "Go" to access a specific page. The Previous and Next arrows allow sequential navigation through a unit, chapter, or section.

The pull-down menu in the upper-right-hand portion of the screen contains text marking tools including the ability to highlight, annotate text, and set bookmarks.

Each unit of the text begins with a unit preview, an interesting narrative focusing on young people in history, and a series of visuals and/or questions that activate prior knowledge for the user. The pre-reading activities work well to activate prior knowledge and to engage students in searching for broader themes within the reading material.

Each unit contains a varying numbers of chapters. The chapters follow a similar format of preview, information, and review. There are primary sources, pictures, paintings, realia, and excerpts from literature throughout the chapters. The notebook tool is strategically placed throughout the text so that students can jot down ideas and answer questions as they move through the material.

Students answer the questions posed in the text and can edit, save, and print them if they choose. Teachers have access to the student online journals through the classroom manager. The notebook can be assessed in a variety of ways: by individual student, by question, or by content.

The Reading Help Link (The Live Ink) comes into play once the user is in the text. This optional format, available by a click on "Reading Help," breaks the text from traditional block paragraphs to a poetry/prose style comprised of short phrasing and highlighted action words. This text is very easy to scan visually and, according to research conducted at the University of Minnesota, Center for Cognitive Science and Denver University School of Educational Technology, improves academic performance and reading proficiency.

Additional features designed to increase reading comprehension and acquisition of knowledge in this series include the linked glossary in both English and Spanish, the gazetteer, and the Holt Researcher. These tools allow users access to instantaneous word definitions and quick access to information about people, places, and things mentioned in the text.

Each section ends with a review comprised of comprehension questions and a chance for the students to write a notebook summary of the main idea presented in the reading. Additionally, a Homework Practice Online is provided for each segment.

Connections to Geography engage students interactively with maps, charts, and graphs that pertain to the topic at hand. There are also opportunities in this section for students to apply some of the knowledge they have gained about the topic as they answer application questions.

Practice and Review takes the user directly to online homework, Section and Chapter reviews, and some standardized test practices. Most of the questions are lower-level factual recall.

The Activities tab takes the user to Web sites to create projects ranging from the design of pamphlets, brochures, and newspapers to writing biographies. It also offers well-selected Web sites that add depth to topics covered in the text. After reading "Native Americans of the Southwest," for example, students can take a virtual tour of a kiva.

The Chapter Resources tab provides content updates, enrichment Web links of applicable materials for each topic, current events sites, maps, charts, graphs, an atlas, and a variety of helpful comprehension sections. The visual study guide provides chapter review information using graphic organizers. It is quite a powerful study tool. The Reading Support segment develops and offers practices of reading strategies for comprehending the text.

The References tab provides a glossary in English and Spanish (this is also accessible throughout the text by hyperlinked words); a gazetteer for terms and locations; fact tables about presidents, states, and the American flag; an index; and a segment titled "Foldnotes," which demonstrates construction of various study tools for learning information.

There is a great deal of information covered in the online text. For example, in Chapter 13, Section 1, Utopian Societies, Romantic period writers and poets, plus primary source materials and sidebars of various other bits of information, are covered in three text pages. As with any survey textbook, the online text has a superficial treatment of topics. Textbooks also tend to have too many concepts in each paragraph. At least with the online version of the text, a user can click the links and go directly to the glossary for a definition of the concept terms.

The activities segments are rich and engaging and offer good learning opportunities; the online homework segments are nothing more than factual recall questions that do not attempt to engage higher-order thinking. However, the text itself, including the geography and social studies skills segments, do try to offer higher-order thinking opportunities. Content/Features Rating: A

Ease of Use: The Holt online textbook is easy to use. The navigation tools are user-friendly and there are many of them. The Table of Contents allows easy access to portions of the material through its series of expandable arrows and hyperlinks.

Pages in the text are clearly labeled, with "click here" or "close" in appropriate places. The interface of the site pages is clean, but there is some scrolling for the user when reading the text to the bottom of the page.

The Reading Help feature is delivered in a pop-up window that uses a large font and no scrolling. It is clearly labeled and very easy to use.

The Previous and Next buttons allow sequential use of the pages of the textbook. There are easily accessible links to pertinent resources and the student notebook throughout the text portion. Ease of Use Rating: A

Product Support: Technical support is available toll-free by phone (800/323-9239) from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Central Time. Support is also available online at http://www.hrwtechsupport.com or by e-mail to tschrw@hrwtechsupport.com. Download plug-ins necessary for the performance of the programs are available on the opening page. The teacher support manual for this product was not available at the time of this review. Product
Support Rating: A

Recommendation: The Holt online textbook Call to Freedom offers a way for a standardized textbook to be electronically delivered. Students have the option to use the text at school and at home at any time.

The great benefit of the online version is its immediate links to some of the best Web sites for added information and enrichment. The activities designed for use with the Web links allow for active student involvement, and the linked sites selected to accompany the material in the text are rich and captivating.

Other benefits of the electronic version are the hyperlinks of concept words in the text to the glossary or gazetteer and the Reading Help that delivers a modified text format for improved reading proficiency. The interactive maps and timelines are a plus, as are the connections to other academic areas, such as the math connections available in strategic portions of the text.

I was a bit disappointed that the text didn't include video and/or audio clips. This would add to the multimedia experiences that make electronic media so rich and inviting to students.

Teachers can have an enormous amount of flexibility when using this online textbook as far as assignments and projects are concerned. The text suggests activities that have students working in pairs or small groups, a plus for discussion among peers. The class management feature is handy for checking student accountability.

If your school is one in which textbooks are used, this online version would be an attractive alternative to heavy survey textbooks. The information update feature and the links to current events and research tools are handy assets. When considering the purchase, decision makers will need to assess student computer access and the level of student computer skills.

This online text leads the way towards integration of text and technology while accommodating a variety of readers. Highly Recommended.

Reviewer: Alice Kurtz, 5/6 grade teacher, Irving B. Weber School, 3850 Rohret Road, Iowa City, IA 52246; Phone: 319/688-1170; E-mail: Kurtz.Alice@iccsd.k12.ia.us.


 
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