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Friday, October 8, 2010

Digital Frog's Digital Field Trip Series Review

Digital Frog Intl Logo

While we still are a year or two away from any science that involves (gulp) the dissection of animals, as a mom who is not keen on recreating THAT particular lab experiment at home, I had already been exposed to the fact that a company called Digital Frog makes a very well acclaimed digital Frog Dissection software. It's on my "must buy" list for high school home schooling ;-). So when I saw Digital Frog's name on the list of TOS Crew companies, I was praying I'd be chosen for this review.

And I was!

But not for their Digital Frog software.

You see, Digital Frog is branching out into other digital science products, and the product we got to take a look at is their Digital Field Trip Series.

Digifrog Wetlands

The Digital Field Trip Series currently consists of three different Digital Field Trip experiences; The Wetlands, The Rainforest, and The Desert. And they are like nothing you've ever seen before. It's almost like having virtual reality in your house-just minus the cumbersome, and multi-million dollar, equipment. Since each trip works generally the same way, let me describe the Wetlands one, since that's that we did most recently. When you put your CD in your hard drive, it immediately offers you several options to explore regarding your ecosystem. There is , of course, the actual digital field trip, but there are also several supplemental activities too. We began with the field trip, so I'll start there. The trip is "way cool" to quote my kids. Each trip consists of real footage from real places, and you make your way through those places by moving from post to post. You can literally look up, down, and 360 degrees around at each of your posts along the way. To enhance the experience, there are plenty of ambient noises to make you feel like you are really there. And each post has plants or animals to spot. When you find them and click on them (or when you click on their name, if the actual subject alludes you), another window opens with TONS more information about that subject-what it eats, what eats it, how it survives in that environment, etc. Sometimes there are even movies to watch about whatever you've found.

Digifrog Desert

When you're done exploring, head back to the main menu for supplemental activities. For the Wetlands, there are informational "movies" about how bogs form, games to play about the food chain, activities for identifying the different types of wetlands, the study of a bog, mechanisms of wetlands, and lastly information about endangered wetlands. Plus each ecosystem has teacher information and printables to go with the lessons. You could spend hours and hours to fully glean every tidbit of information if you wanted to!

The pros: If you can't go there, these are the next best thing. They have painstakingly researched and thought up everything you could possibly want to know, and then put it into a format even my 5 year old enjoyed. The kids wanted to control the mouse and find the things at each post. They LOVED the food chain game and wouldn't stop until we had ALL the connections right. They also loved the videos that enhanced some of the animal/plant information screens, especially the one of the "water vines" in the rainforest. In fact, any animated screen drew them in ;-). Digital Frog certainly lived up to its reputation.

The cons: Price. The field trips are available individually on CD for $60 each or as the Digital Field Trip Series, which is one CD with all three field trips, for $125. That's just a LOT of money for a product that augments a curriculum, but is not a curriculum in and of itself.

The Bottom Line: I am SO conflicted here, because unlike many, many other products that are expensive for no good reason, I am SURE these field trips were incredibly costly to produce. Being able to pan 360 and up and down at each stop on the field trip? That HAD to be expensive to make happen. And I understand that. I really do. So for once, I feel like the company is probably quite just in charging what they do for their product, and the quality speaks to that. But the bottom line is I just don't have an extra $125 lying around, so as much as I LOVE it, and as much as I understand that there was a very real, and undoubtedly very high, cost involved in making these field trips, I just would not be able to buy them myself. And many of the homeschoolers I know are in the same position....
If money were no object, I'd say everyone would enjoy owning these Digital Field Trips. And I learned long ago that everyone has different levels that define "affordable", and so I definitely think you should visit their website and check it out for yourself. To check out what other members of the TOS Crew had to say, go HERE.

Legal Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received the Digital Field Trip Series CD for free so that I could provide my honest review. That CD is the only compensation I have received.
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