I’m constantly amazed at the quality of some of the educational resources I find online. As a homeschooling, internet-savvy parent, my list of educational bookmarks is long and growing all the time. Some resources are very specific in their content, such as literacy sites or math worksheet sites. Others are much more broad, such as the BBC school websites, which cover most every basic topic you’d study in school (at least in England).
Another very broad educational website is Discovery Education. It’s a pay site, but if you are homeschooling or teaching in a classroom with computers, it is a mindboggling resource. You can spend hours on the site, exploring and trying things out, and every time you come back, you’ll find some new feature you hadn’t realized was there.
In this multi-part series, I’ll explore what Discovery Education has to offer the school teacher and the homeschool family. I was recently given access to the site to evaluate and review it. Here is my quick summary: I could use Discovery Education for almost all of my homeschooling needs if I wanted or needed to. Enough topics are covered at every grade level that you’d never get to it all.
When I started exploring the Discovery Education website, I went to the site, logged in, and thought, Hmm.. Where do I start? I could tell right away that there was so much to the site that it wasn’t going to be fast and easy to figure out. How was I going to make the best use of the resources? How could I find what I was looking for?
I knew that there was a lot to learn when I saw that the help files themselves were broken up into beginner, intermediate and advanced. And if the online help screens weren’t enough, I could have also watched videos that teach about how to use the site. Lots of experimentation and reading the mini tutorials later, I dug in.
School teachers can create a class and have student logins and passwords. This is great for assigning work for each student. Since my kids still look to me to arrange our day, I haven’t used this feature. But if my kids were older and we want a more independent route, this would be perfect. I could do their weekly assignments and just let them go.
All users can use the resources right on the site, and classroom teachers can also download them for future use. Also, many kinds of resources have accompanying teacher guides, blackline masters and/or quizzes, adding more value to each of the topics.
While browsing the site and collecting materials for use in your instruction, resources can be stored in the My Content section. Materials there can be organized in folders, such as one for each school day, or one for each subject. Even subjects such as spelling are well-represented on Discovery Education, with videos, games and many other activities to do.
For classroom teachers, Discovery Education also has Builder Tools, which allow you to build and store assignments for your students, and create quizzes and writing prompts. The Discovery Educator Network is also a part of the website, which educators can use to connect with others using Discovery Education.
For classroom teachers, there are special sections on Science and Health that offer an even wider choice of materials. Science is divided up into elementary and middle school levels with virtual labs, videos, reading passages, simulations and more. Health is divided up into different grade levels, since each age group is naturally concerned with different health-related issues.
To make the most of Discovery Education, spend some time getting to know your way around and learn what resources are offered. The resources run both very wide and very deep, so take the time to prepare lessons. Once you know what kinds of topics are available, using the search field is the best way to get information from all the different parts of the site.
I wish I’d known about this site when I started homeschooling. I might have made some different curriculum material choices. Videos. Images. Interactive lessons. Teacher’s guides. Encyclopedia entries. All the information is instantly usable and comes from Discovery Education. Rather than spend all your time hunting on the internet for that applicable video or a quiz on that topic, Discovery Education has information you can trust all in one place.
Also, Discovery Education has recently become available for the iPad, so kids can explore on their own as well. The iPad experience is tailored toward the students’ exploration of the content. They can watch videos and do lessons as assigned, or they can let their whim take them to whatever topic they like.
There are different levels of access, from a family or homeschooling account, to teacher and school system access. Prices vary as well. Schools around the country are including Discovery Education in their curriculum.
In the next post in this series, I’ll cover my experience using the site, finding information and resources for homeschooling my elementary age kids.
Note: I was provided with access to the website for review purposes.