Internet@Schools Recommends Pathways: Science

May 1, 2012

Internet@Schools: Product Review

Pathways: Science brings the full weight of Encyclopædia Britannica’s outstanding and extensive resources to bear in this supplemental tool for middle school science instruction. It consists of a guided discussion that helps students form hypotheses. Then, the hypotheses are checked with basic, multiple-choice quizzes and a follow-up activity.

  • Content & Features (Rating: A)

Britannica Pathways: Science relies heavily on the resources of Britannica School, an online encyclopedia. In case you’re not familiar with that, it includes four encyclopedias, an atlas, timelines, other learning materials, websites, and videos. It also includes journals, magazines, and more than 86,000 graphics, plus thousands of animations, audio clips, and videos.

Students work with commonly held misconceptions with more than a hundred possible lessons using an interactive, hands-on approach so that they learn by doing, participating, discussing, and concluding. Lessons begin with probe questions to help start the conversation about what students are thinking and why, and then the program follows a consistent progression guided by student responses.

After a discussion that includes formulating hypotheses and thinking about the evidence, students evaluate whether each hypothesis is correct. Then, they collect data in support of their hypotheses using articles, illustrations, and video. This inquiry helps them think about problems in new ways. Further class discussion ensures that students confront their original ideas. Then quizzes check student comprehension, and a “wrap it up” activity helps students apply what they have learned.

In a fairly standard one- or two-computer classroom, this could be especially useful for teachers with whiteboards. If available, students could be sent to a computer lab to complete online research or to a computer-equipped media center after initial discussion.

This program is intended for use by students and not just for demonstration. Schools need to carefully evaluate whether enough computer access is available for students to take full advantage before purchasing it.

  • Ease of Use (Rating: A)

Clear and intuitive navigation instructions and lots of support materials make this an easy program to use. If expected to work independently, students will benefit from some teacher instruction and guidance.

  • Product Support (Rating: A)

One especially appealing support feature is free online training and other materials for all subscribers. Other than that, technical support is available as needed by phone or online contact.

Recommended! This is an excellent curricular support service for the middle school, and I recommend it for schools with adequate computer or whiteboard access.

Reviewer: Charles Doe (charliegd@sbcglobal.net) is a 39-year teacher, including 10 years as elementary media specialist in Hastings Area Schools in Hastings, Mich. For the past 12 years, he has written articles and reviews for Internet@Schools. Review posted on 1/12/2014.

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