I have always enjoyed reading about and seeing pictures of rainforests. Seeing how the girls have responded to EdTechLens and their Rainforest Journey while we have been reviewing the program has been a joy. Miss J has been working in Grade 1 and Miss L has been working on Grade 5.
EdTechLens is an educational program developer. They are developing online curriculum to meet the needs to home educators, as well as public and private educators. Their age focus, for now, is at the elementary level. Rainforest Journey is the first of three science offerings they plan to have available. Other content areas are in development.
About Rainforest Journey
Rainforest Journey is just that – a virtual journey through the rainforest. Consisting of five units, this program uses beautiful photography, gorgeous videography, and first hand accounts from scientists and rainforest visitors to take you on your journey.
The units are:
- The Big Picture of the Rainforest
- Adapt or Die!
- Plants and Fungi
Each unit has several chapters, vocabulary lists, illustrations, and assessments all related to the unit topic. In the teacher’s account, there are also hands-on activities related to the unit.
Rainforest Journey includes some primary source material. There are some very short interviews with scientists: Expert Interviews. There is a trip journal. The last type is video footage of different sights and sounds in the rainforest.
There is a teacher side and a student side to the program. The teacher account has access to everything already mentioned but also has the ability to score assessments and track progress. Additionally, there are science standards, Lexile scores, and word counts for each passage.
Rainforest Journey is super appealing to the girls. There are vibrantly colored photographs and the videos are stunning. It draws the children right in. In fact, one of the girls claimed “It looks so alive!” And it’s true – the photos and videos draw you right into the place and make you feel as if you are there. They are unbelievable! This alone makes this program a joy to be using. In the very first lesson, Miss J hollered “I HAVE to draw this!” So she took the time to draw what she was seeing.
Additionally, it can be used fairly independently, which the girls like. There is a voice recording that can be chosen for each passage, if the student wants it read to them. The only place this is not true is in the primary source materials. If you have a student that can read pretty well, this is not an issue at all.
How We Use It
When it is Miss J’s turn, she and I sit down together. She logs in to her account and begins. She has the program do all of the reading when it is available. I read her the captions on the pictures if she cannot sound them out (which is often since they are commonly the names of the plants, trees, or animals). She follows all of the links. Then, depending on the lesson review, we may or may not print it.
Most of the time, we did not print it because it was not an age-appropriate activity. Most of the first grade reviews were to be written on a page lined with single lines, rather than the three-line set-up a new writer needs. Also, the questions were pretty high level for a first grader (and I have a pretty smart one on my hands). I reworded and reworked many of her reviews.
We often did the reviews verbally or I would do the writing. This is also how we did the assessments. There are three unit assessments, at least one of which is open-ended. We did have the option to print but it just didn’t make any sense to when her answer verbally would be much more thorough. So I typed her answers.
When Miss L is working, she logs into her own account. She navigates to the next lesson and begins. She reads, views the pictures, follows links to primary source materials, and then prints her lesson review. She logs out and completes her review.
Miss L’s reviews were fine because she likes to write. But it would often ask the same questions with minute variations for each chapter of a unit. For example, in the adaptations unit, the lesson reviews looked exactly the same for each chapter of the structural adaptations with only the type of adaptation changed. The final review then asked them to evaluate which ones was most interesting from previous reviews that were all so similar.
At the end of each unit, she completed the assessments on the computer. She typed her answers into the computer and then I went in later and graded how she did. It gives a sample answer to help the teacher in the grading.
During Miss L’s turn at the computer, Miss J is watching and asking questions because the two levels have completely different pictures, videos, and often times, information. Going through both levels allows the girls to get a much more thorough understanding of the topic.
What I Think
As I noted before we used both first and fifth grades. Neither of these are good level indications, though. Both levels needed more complete information in the lessons. We often had to go searching on the internet to find information to answer the review questions. I have noticed that there are many places where information from a later chapter would have helped in an earlier one.
In the first grade, the lesson review and assessments are completely off what is age appropriate: almost all writing essay-style answers. Fifth grade wasn’t too bad, though we had Miss L working a grade level up from her normal level because this appeared just too easy. I was hopeful that 5th grade level would challenge her some. It did not.
I really like the photography, the videography, and the illustrations.
I have enjoyed this journey and we will finish it out. I would like to see EdTechLens develop this more fully so that it acts as a life science course. At this point, it is just something fun. It is completely possible to complete Rainforest Journey in a couple of sittings if you don’t do the reviews and assessments. It would serve well as a supplement to a life science course.
Read more reviews from others on the Review Crew.
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