A million years ago, when I was a young person, our teacher would give us monthly projects. One major project was the dreaded geography report. Students were assigned a place in the world, or country, or natural landmark and had to write several pages about it. These projects were big deals, you had to include pictures, hand drawn illustrations, and then present it all to the class. Needless to say, everyone stressed out about them. The biggest drawback of completing a geography report 45 years ago is you had to make trips to the library, lug home a stack of books, and sift though giant encyclopedias in order to find your topic. Not fun at all. Luckily, all that has changed.
The Internet is a fascinating and extremely useful tool. Now, when my kids have science projects or have to write a report on Chile, they simply surf the net for information. And then there are websites like Cosmeo.com, self-proclaimed the “Homework Help Toolkit,” that is the Discovery Channel’s answer to every students academic need. According to their about page “Cosmeo brings together a deep , interactive games, reference content, and tutorials to help kids stay engaged in learning.” Sounds pretty good to me, are there any downsides?
One of my neighbors has young children, ages 10 and 11, and they use it off and on throughout the week. She volunteered to give me her stance on the site. Overall, she likes it, but I was able to dig up some potential problems.
• The site is safe for kids, which is always a plus. There is even a parent account that allows parents to monitor their child’s progress, block keyword searches, and check their child’s viewing history. Overprotective parents, rejoice!
• Cosmeo covers k-12 subject areas, mapped out to your specific school region, includes lots video lessons and an encyclopedia, games, and links only to teacher-approved sites. There are also different types of learning tools to appeal to different learning styles. Some of the subjects include math, science, English, social studies, health, art, music and more.
• According to my neighbor, students can take notes online and then print the notes out. I think that’s a fantastic feature.
• My favorite part of the site are the reference articles for studying and writing reports. Where were these when I was a kid?
• Brilliant photography.
• They offer a free 30-day trial, which you can cancel at any time.
• Each subscription includes access for 4 student accounts (each with a separate screen name and password) and one parent account.
• Students can access over 30,000 video lessons and step–by–step tutorials, 15,000 quizzes, 27,000 articles, and over 200 links to teacher–approved educational websites. That’s insane.
• The service is related to the Discovery Channel and Discovery Education, therefore a subscription includes access to selected video from Discovery networks, including Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and Discovery Kids.
• Cosmeo requires an ongoing subscription. You have to pay $100/yr to use the service, which is billed every month.
• Requires a broadband connection and you have to install various plugins.
• My neighbor complained that there are often video glitches.
• Families have to download the Cosmeo software directly from their website. You will need a high-speed Internet connection and some additional software. If you can’t upgrade to Flash, you can’t use Cosmeo.
– Dr. Drew