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Smart Science, from ParaComp, Inc.

By Charles G. Doe - Posted Sep 1, 2011
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Company: ParaComp, Inc., (310) 802-1600, ed@paracompusa.com, www.smartscience.net

Price: Smart Science is available by subscription, depending on the market. Contact ParaComp for specific quotes, but a rough idea of cost is that online schools can purchase bulk subscriptions for any number of labs for $10 per student per course. Individual subscriptions are available in age- and subject-appropriate labs for $49.95 to $89.95. For a free demonstration, call toll free at (855) 4-SCIENCE.

Audience: Smart Science was developed for students in grades 6–12 and teachers in four markets: traditional schools, online schools, colleges and universities, and home schools.

Format: Smart Science follows a cloud computing model in that all content is available and used on the internet. It uses video and Java applets with supporting material. Students record responses online where teachers can comment on and grade them.

System Requirements: Minimum computer requirements are a Pentium 166MHz or faster with 64MB of RAM or a Mac with OS X 10.5 or 10.6. Supported operating systems are Windows Vista, XP, or 7; Mac OS X 10.5; Linux 5.5+; or Solaris 10u9+ and up. Supported browsers include Firefox 3.6+, Netscape 7.1, Internet Explorer 7.x, Safari 5, and Mozilla 5 or later.

Description: In Smart Science labs, students interactively collect data from real-world videos. Students predict results and then compare the results to their predictions. Teachers review the students’ work.

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

Reviewer Comments:

Installation/Access: Installation is a matter of arranging subscriptions, setting up classes, and doing the work on appropriate computers with internet access. Access Rating: A

Content/Features: Smart Science creator Harry Keller wanted to develop a program that would improve science education, enable poorer schools to have good science education, and teach good thinking skills. He wanted to de-emphasize class size, teacher training, and school budgets. With Smart Science, Keller created a quality program that effectively achieves all of those goals.

Smart Science online labs are correlated to state or national standards. It consists of more than 150 labs in 18 subjects, from biology, chemistry, and physics to molecular biology; it is suitable for grade levels from sixth through college. The curriculum for a course may include any number of Smart Science lab units, typically 15–25 units, and teachers may create their own content.

Lab contents includes an introduction, procedure page, vocabulary, experiment videos, data graphing, hypothesis and predictions, scientist biography, further explorations, postactivity assessment, customizable report forms, answers to questions, solution strategies, and a for-teachers-only set of activity plans. Each of these sections has three to a dozen or more components, including complete instructions.

Teacher features include review of students’ actual work, entering comments and grades on reports, and downloading complete reports in PDF files. Teachers-only pages enable registration of classes and students, choosing differentiated reading levels, and customizing labs as desired. Teachers can report on classes or students, and an Activity Plan page includes fully worked-out solutions, answers, models, etc. Content/Features Rating: A

Ease of Use: Student sections of Smart Science labs have clear instructions, and with some help from teachers, students should have few problems. Labs are detailed and sometimes complicated, but instructions and explanations are clear. With advanced preparation, teachers should have no problems. Ease of Use Rating: A

Product Support: Online support is limited to a demo, brief FAQs, and a contact form. Each lab has complete instructions, and subscriptions include support. Product Support Rating: A

Recommendation: Smart Science online labs are excellent products that I recommend, especially for schools with limited budgets and/or lab space. 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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