Discovery Education is a pay education service with tens of thousands of videos and other kinds of materials designed to teach kids in K-12 science, math, history and other topics. I described how to use the site in my first post on this topic last month. The draw to Discovery Education is in bringing technology to education, and expanding the sources from which kids learn. Books are great, but sometimes a video or other kind of material can get the teaching across better. Remember when we were in school and we’d rejoice when we got to see a video? Or even farther back, a film strip? Kids will enjoy learning about a great many topics through video or interactive programs.
For this second post in the Discovery Education series, I’ll take you on a journey of three different research topics that I have explored.
We recently studied cells in biology for homeschool, and I wanted to see just what kind of interactive experience Discovery Education could provide. I entered “cell” in the search field and hit enter. You can narrow the search down by grade level or other options, but I kept it open. This search brought up too many results, naturally, so I narrowed it down to life science. Then to cells themselves. This still gave 1233 results.
First lesson learned: Know exactly what you’re looking for, and specify it during your search.
Most of the results were full video or video segments, which at Discovery Education are all geared toward kids. I then narrowed down the search to just Grade 3-5 and then to Cell Parts. My daughter loves studying what is contained in a cell, though I figured this would keep her interest. So even with Science/Life Science/Cells/Cell Parts/Grade 3-5 and looking at just the DE Streaming results, there were still 35 videos and video segments. They were all fairly short, and all looked useful, so a quick pick and choose allowed us to watch some interesting material on our topic. We only studied cells for a couple of weeks, though, so I knew we wouldn’t be able to see all the available videos.
Second lesson learned: You can’t do it all, although you may want to.
It is very easy to perform searches on Discovery Education’s available materials for any topic. They also make it easy to narrow down the results, adding and removing constraints as you try to find what you’re looking for. And if you’re having trouble deciding what results to spend your time on, the materials each have a rating out of 5 stars, and you can see if any related materials are available, such as handouts or lesson plans. In addition, links to Curriculum Standards are useful for teachers, or homeschoolers in states with more rigid requirements. When you find what you’re looking for, either view it right then, or save it to your My Content area for easy retrieval later. Content varies from printable to interactive to audio and video. Some content just gives information, but much of it is made to be more fun for kids. Since everything is age-appropriate (assuming you narrow the grade level), kids should understand the material content and hopefully find it interesting.
To contrast our first search in life science, we next looked into what Discovery Education has to offer on Ancient Greece, another topic we’re studying this year. A search for Ancient Greece under DE Streaming gave 452 results. This time the media types represented in the results included not only full video and video segments but also audio, images, encyclopedia articles, events and quizzes. Most of the materials available in this topic are for grades 6 and up, so my Grade 3-5 constraint got me down to 34 results. Results here involve fun videos such as Horrible Histories (which is different from the British series), and Time Warp Trio. There are also many audio clips of Greek Myths.
For a third topic, I searched for resources on taking a trip to England. The search terms “travel England” brought up much more material than just on travel to the country of England. New England was also well represented, as were plenty of other topics. Still, this obviously isn’t a heavily covered topic, netting just 93 results before I constrained it further. Clicking Grade 3-5 brought it down to 11 results, but most of those weren’t actually about the country of England. So it seems that there are some topics that Discovery Education doesn’t have well covered. But if you’re looking for information on the Gettysburg Address, there are 17 very good results under Social Studies/American History/Grade 3-5. Since Discovery Education includes curriculum standards, perhaps their content adheres to what is actually taught in this country. Despite being my idea of a good time, “How to Plan a Trip to England 101” isn’t your usual K-12 fare.
Discovery Education has many other kinds of materials that I didn’t encounter in these particular searches such as games, teacher’s guides, theme pages, writing prompts, assignments, skill builders, reading passages and more. A video called “What is Art?,” for example, also has related materials along with it that include a teacher’s guide and two quizzes.
All the information and material on the site is instantly usable and comes from Discovery Education and other trusted sources. Rather than spend all your time hunting on the internet for that applicable video or a quiz on that one specific topic, Discovery Education has useful information of good quality all in one place. There is so much more there than anyone could ever do in the K-12 years, so you do have to pick and choose, but having a good selection is a good problem to have.
Note: I received temporary access to Discovery Education for the purposes of these reviews.