Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Alabama Virtual Library: Britannica Learning Zone

Another of our gems in the Alabama Virtual Library is Britannica Learning Zone. Though it is not searchable, it is a great database for the early childhood years. The interface is very simplistic and user-friendly. Once students "click to enter," they have four main categories from which to choose: Explore, Play, Read, or Draw. 

There are also several other content categories students may select. They include First Steps, I Can Read, Numbers, Sounds, Time, Words, etc. These scroll slowly across the bottom of the page, marquee-style to ease students' process of selection.  

One interesting feature is that once students enter BLC, the task bar as well as any additional open tabs are removed from the internet page, making it very difficult for the students to leave the site. I have a few little angels who like to click their way around the universe before I can stop them, so this is another very desirable feature for working with young children. :)

If students choose the "Explore" category, they can choose continents to learn about. Once they choose a continent, they can pick a specific area and one click will display a short video of life on that continent. This is an excellent feature for English Learners, as we work to build up their background knowledge about various topics. 

"Play" will take them to simple literacy and math games (instructions read aloud). 

"Read" will provide various words and definitions, with sample sentences (also read aloud). 

"Draw" is a more simplistic version of Microsoft Paint, but will permit printing so students can carry their work out of the library or computer lab. 

The only improvement I would suggest for BLC is to enable searching. Searching is the heart of information literacy, and even our youngest should be learning how to recognize and use search boxes. 

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