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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Insight Technical Education Review

Wow! This is another product I had never even heard of, but when I did, I figured it would be right up my son's (and my husband's) alley. Insight Technical Education offers a series of books and/or CD-ROMs that guide students in an introduction to, and a honing of, technical art. They also offer products that teach accounting, drafting, and graphic design, but I did not look over those.
The first product we looked at was called Vision-Dexterity-Focus. It was developed at the request of parents and teachers specifically for challenged learners. It features thicker lines and less detail than their higher level products and is recommended for ages 5 and up. I can't say enough good things about this. Not just because the kids produce some really cool drawings, but because it provided a tremendous boost in my son's self esteem. He kept saying things like, "I can't believe I did it. It looks great. I'm going to show all my friends." To hear my eleven year old son say those things is amazing. To thing it is all because of a little sketch is even more dumbfounding. My son had done chalk pastels before, and produced some really nice work, but when it come to pencil and paper, he is limited to stick figures...and not good ones at that. To see him flourish as he did these technical drawing was great. The Vision-Dexterity-Focus book is a great introduction to this type of art whether your child is challenged or not, and it provided an introduction to basic shapes as well as orthographic projection, isometric projection, and perspective; all things that are vitally important to drafting and graphic design. But they are introduced by way of having students complete the sketch, so while they SEE the difference in the projections (2 dimension vs. 3, and differences in how many faces of the object you can see), they don't have to figure it out themselves, so it's not intimidating.

The other product we reviewed was the Advanced Complete-A-Sketch. This one is for ages 10 and up/middle school, and it is a CD. It does everything the Vision-Dexterity-Focus book does and WAY more. As you can see from the cover of the CD (above) the students learn to draw some really cool, and really intricate, designs. The sample page doesn't show up as well because the guide lines on these really are smaller and thinner. In addition to lots of cool machines and structures to draw, there are also 3-D models to print out and assemble. And the CD has bonus features with over 100 files to look at related to CAD (Computer Aided Design) technologies.
I can't think of any "cons" for the products that we tried. The products are non-consumable (unless you chose to consume the book). You are allowed to make copies for personal use and your child is encouraged to practice completing the shape free-handed, drawing the shape free-handed, and also drawing it using tools like a ruler, protractor and compass. My son preferred using the tools to complete the sketches. I figured he would :-).

Scott working on his sketch of a boat.

Scott's completed Blimp. The target image is in the upper left corner so they know what it "should" look like.

The bottom line for me on this one is easy. Technical art is a side of art most students never learn, or if they do, they aren't introduced to it until high school. But the fields they can go into with drafting, design, CAD, and CAM experience are almost limitless. To have an exposure to those skills at an early age is a wonderful opportunity, and for my son it has been a confidence booster like no other. I wholeheartedly recommend Insight Technical Education's products for anyone who is looking to develop their student's technical art skills, reach a reluctant art student with a genre that may appeal to them like no other, or help a challenged student build confidence, hand-eye coordination, and attention to detail. Vision-Dexterity-Focus is available HERE for $18 and the Advanced Complete-A-Sketch is $28.
To play off a popular commercial slogan, for me, it's like this:
Purchasing Complete-A-Sketch Vision-Dexterity-Focus $18
Hearing my son say, "I did it mommy! I finally found something I'm good at!" Priceless :-)
Go HERE to see what other TOS Crew members had to say about these products and some of the others that Insight Technical Education offers.
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