Friday, July 27, 2012

Schoolhouse Review: Zane Education


I had the opportunity to review Zane Education's Visual Learning Solution created by Nicholas Tee.  Do you want to know more about the creator, Nicholas Tee.  You can read the interview I found here written by Ed Tech Digest.  I was given a premium 12-month gold online subscription to Zane Education.  This resource is suitable for grades K-12th and can also be used by college students or even adults.  The online educational videos contain narrated text underneath pictures that are in slide format.  The video presentation uses still pictures or photographs of both cartoonish characters and real content in a slideshow format.  The font size and font style increases readability and ease for most users.  There's a lot of flexibility with the videos allowing an educator to pause the video for discussion or to replay (move back) to repeat information from a video.  The topic menus are easy to navigate and are organized into categories leading from broad to more specific topics.  The subscription service includes access to online quizzes, online educational videos for a variety of content topics, interactive video study tools, and FREE lesson plans.  The video library consists of 260+ topics containing over 1500 subtitled, quality educational content videos covering 11 different subjects.  The most important words or relevant terms are highlighted in green or blue for each topic in hopes to engage a child in further research or exploration in a topic using the video study tools.  Zane Education makes it easy to use their subscription, they even provide free downloadable user guides covering a range of student and homeschooling needs.  Click on one of the colorful tabs related to your situation: "Classroom," "Home Education," "Special Needs," "Extra Curriculum." Each section is broken down further enabling you to print the exact user guide(s) specific to your homeschooling needs.

Subjects Covered       
  • Art and Music
  • Biology and Science
  • Social Studies (History and Geography)
  • Health (including Sex Education)  
  • Literature
  • Library Skills  
  • Religious Studies 
  • Social Science
  • Math (Provided FREE through Khan Academy)
  • ESL and Foreign Language (Possibly Coming Soon!) 
Initial Reaction
Alyssa and I both enjoyed watching the videos.  However, she immediately asked me to make the screen larger so she could see the video better.  Her favorite videos were about birds, fishes, and library skills.  We also were distracted by the screen tools on the sides of the video.  It was frustrating because they not only distracted us but they didn't work. I personally thought the videos were informative and educational.

Getting Started
The website was easy to navigate.  First, I downloaded and viewed The Zane Learning Catalogue which made it easier to browse the entire range of topics and video titles in advance from the enormous video library.  This 270 page product retailing $49.95 is made available to you FREE if you upgrade to a 12-month subscription. Alyssa and I usually started with the video tab since the quizzes and lesson plans didn't seem age appropriate for our circumstances.  I always looked them over just in case there was something that could be done or easily adapted for her age.  Let me tell you about the quizzes and study centre before explaining how we used Zane Education.
Zane Education provides online interactive quizzes for each topic unit.  You must watch several videos at times before have the opportunity to take a quiz on a particular topic.  This means that your child will need to retain information learned from videos over time. Videos may need to be viewed more than once before completing a quiz.  The 20-25 multiple-choice format questions used for the quiz are chosen from a large pool of 100 questions.  Do you know what the benefits are for multiple-choice questions?  Click this link to read Zane Education's perspective on multiple-choice format of questioning when testing children. A new set of questions is given each time the quiz is taken - this means that children are not retaking the same quiz.  They can learn from their mistakes and taking new quizzes enables the child to learn the material repeatedly since incorrect answers are explained. The parent also has the ability to track quiz progress provided that you e-mail the quiz results to yourself. You may choose to print the results for tracking purposes instead of e-mailing them. The questions on the quizzes are scored as correct or incorrect. Additionally, the results are displayed and provide the reasoning to incorrect responses.  The quizzes lean more on the difficult side geared more for older students that retain information easily.  

Study Centre
An annual subscription includes helpful and useful interactive study tools found in the study centre.  These resources assist children with further exploration of specific topics of interest.  The study centre contains educational publications worth reading including the user guides and "The Christian Home Learning Guide."  It also contains features that will help children study topics of interest further including Zane's thesaurus, encyclopedia, dictionary, and glossary. The World Fact Book is another one of the resources available giving children access to maps, facts, and flag information.  The study centre is currently being updated with additional resources and features.    

How We Used the Videos
I tried to incorporate or integrate the use of Zane Education videos into our lessons as often as I could this summer.  I wanted to expose my 4 1/2 year old daughter to educational materials in a fun, visual way.  The quizzes and lesson plans are bonuses in our case and will be used more hopefully in the near future.  Due to Alyssa's age, we focused on one to four elementary video titles at a time ranging for the most part from 2-20 minutes.  This curriculum was used mainly as a supplement to our current studies.  Zane Education recommends that your child views the videos at least two times if not more.  They suggest turning off the sound and having the child read the captioned text for the second viewing.  Planning prep time consisted of about 20 minutes or less because I chose to preview the videos before allowing Alyssa to view them.  At the end of a video, I would give her an exit card question to assess her knowledge of specific topics.  She would either verbally respond or try to write a minimal amount with assistance when needed.  We also made use of notebooking pages to record information learned from several videos.

1.) Composer Study
Alyssa and I studied one composer per week.  Composers included in the study so far are Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Haydn, and Brahms.  We also focused on string instruments and the orchestra. Zane Education has videos about the different instruments played by the composers - we recently watched a string instrument video.  A picture of each composer was posted for the duration of the study. We read about the composers in library books. We also used The Story of the Orchestra and Stories of Great Composers to compliment the study.  We always watched a Zane Education video about the composer after reading biographical information in books. We are working on a composer timeline and she completed several composer notebooking sheets. We listened to music compositions for each composer several times throughout the week via the internet and CD's. After viewing the video about Ludwig Beethoven, Alyssa yelled, "Mommy, his music is beautiful! I like the slow ones but I don't like the fast ones."  However, during the "Choral Symphony" she was kicking her feet to the music in the video.  She then proceeded with saying, "I want to practice now on my piano so I can be like him."  She ran upstairs to play her kid piano (very loudly I might add).

2.) Ancient History
Zane Education "Ancient History" videos were used alongside our history curriculum, Ancient Civilizations and the Bible by Diana Waring.  The videos were also used during my review of the product, Map Trek.  Zane Education video library was a great supplement to both our geography and history studies.  Alyssa viewed videos titled, "The Gift of the Nile," "The Fertile Crescent," "Pyramids," and Egypt of the Pharaohs."  She loved viewing videos and making connections to what was read and studied.  She was thrilled when she saw King Tut in an "Ancient Egypt History" video and reminded me about our field trip where we saw an exhibit about King Tut and other well known pharaohs.  The three screen shots below jogged Alyssa's memory and started several conversations about her Ancient Egypt studies.

3.) Library Skills
I feel it is important that Alyssa knows how to use reference resources and which ones to use for certain circumstances.  Zane Education has four library skill videos in their library.  When I saw this, I immediately wanted to use them on Wednesday after library story time.  I aimed for one library skills video a week.  We didn't always watch them on Wednesday as intended, but we did watch all four library skill videos.  After viewing each video, I placed the available references in front of my daughter to explore.  She would spend up to 45 minutes applying the skills learned from the video to the actual reference researching topics of her interest.  She learned how to use a dictionary, encyclopedia, almanac, and an atlas.  It was difficult at times stopping her when she was in her research mode. I will say that there were a few high pitched and irritating voices used in the videos.  Alyssa would say that certain voices hurt her ears and she would cover them until the volume was turned down.  The robot voice was annoying to us both. I hope to see more videos related to library skills in the future.  She really enjoyed this activity!

4.) Science
At this time the science videos we have watched have been based on Alyssa's interests.  She LOVED watching the animal classification videos especially the bird and fish videos.  After she viewed a bird video, I asked Alyssa, "What did you learn about birds today?" Alyssa said, "Birds have wings; some birds can't or don't fly because their wings are too heavy ... like ostriches - they can't fly.  Oh ... and a long beak bird is a stork."  I know that we will use the science videos a lot more later this year in conjunction with our Apologia Exploring Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day curriculum.  We will also use it to supplement other science concepts explored including those related to nature studies.  Additionally, Alyssa viewed videos on rocks and minerals (after a rock unit), stars (after visiting the star lab), plants, and insects.  I asked her, "What did you learn about rocks and minerals?"  She said, " There are three types of rocks igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary"  Of course she said them with her own lovely pronunciations and errors but she had the just of it.  It was so cute!  I couldn't type it exactly the way she said it even if I wanted to.  

5.) Geography and Social Studies
We watched several videos about the geography, climate, and statehood of Texas during our mini unit study of our state.  Not to mention, she insisted on viewing the "North America" video after hearing it mentioned in a book during our geography mapping lesson.  We viewed a video titled, "Columbus Finds a New World" after studying Columbus using our TruthQuest American History curriculum. She wanted to pin the locations mentioned in the video on her maps.  We also watched a video about our nation's freedom titled, Winning Independence" during our Independence Day unit around the Fourth of July. Last but not least, Alyssa watched several videos exploring communities.  She found out what a community was and about the different types of communities with the help of Lollipop Dragon.  Check out the learning objectives for the "Community" videos in the screen shot below Columbus.  I love the fact that the company states the learning objectives for each video!  Isn't the second screen shot awesome?  My daughter asked me to take a picture of it.  She learned how to take screen shots on my computer after listening to me during one of my learning endeavors.  I told her not to do it unless she had my permission.  I can see it now ... a desktop full of Alyssa's favorite Zane video screen shots.  Yikes!

Current Pricing
There are two types of membership services for homeschooling families (Schools Page and Pricing Here):

1.) Free SubscriptionThis is the basic free membership which includes access to Khan Academy's Math videos (not subtitled) and other online resources at Zane Education.  This does not include access to the subtitled video library.  You must register for a free basic account or membership to gain access to free resources.

2.) Premium Subscription
There are three options for a premium membership:
  • Gold (Access to ALL subjects and topics - ALL videos) $17.99 monthly and $197.89 yearly
  • Silver (Video access to ALL topics for one age or grade level) $12.99 a month or $142.89 a year
  • Bronze (Video access for ALL topics for a particular subject) $8.99 monthly and a yearly cost of $98.89
NOTE: By purchasing and upgrading to an annual subscription or membership, you actually save the cost of one month if bought monthly.  You will also receive an e-book titled, "The Christian Home Learning Guide" as a bonus gift (retailing $49.95) which guides Christian homeschooling families on how to use Zane Education videos and resources with a Christian view of world history, literature, and science.  Don't forget you also get the Zane Education Learning Video Catalogue with an annual purchase. Wow - what a deal!

Other Products of Interest
Topic Taster - The company offers a topic taster in order to try out their services for $5.00.  The topic taster provides you access to all videos within a single chosen topic including lesson plans, free math videos, and online resources. The selected topic will be accessible for 30 days.  

There's more ...
Zane Education is currently launching their first ever promotion through the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  They are offering a very generous discount off the purchase of an upgraded annual subscription (Gold, Silver or Bronze membership).  The case-sensitive promo code that will take 35% off your purchase is ZE773HSM.  Did you hear me?  I said, "Thirty-five percent off." Enter and apply the promo code in your cart at checkout.  Mark those calendars because this code is only available until the end of August 2012.

  1. You have 24/7 access to resources and a video library containing more than 2500 videos covering 260+ topics and 11 subjects.
  2. Subtitled or captioned videos with learning objectives for each topic help improve literacy and reading skills.  The video lengths were short and sweet - most of the videos we watched were 2-20 minutes long.     
  3. Annual subscription includes the downloadable 424 page Christian Home Learning Guide companion to Zane Education written by Marshal Foster and Ron Ball. This guide is written with an evangelical christian worldview retailing for $49.95 but is received as a bonus gift for annual subscribers.
  4. The video library subscription is a user-friendly tool or resource that encourages independent study and learning while promoting parental involvement. Parents or educators can involve themselves by watching the videos with their children and discuss any questionable content that should arise.  Which leads me to my next point.
  5. There are hundreds of free lesson plans that correlate with each topic and video minimizing teacher or parent prep time for some families.  These activities thoroughly enrich topic studies.  These lesson plans further involve the parent or educator in the learning process.  The lesson plans include a variety of activities including debate, discussion, writing, and research.  
  6. The cost effective learning solution or program is based on 30 plus years of research.
  7. Children can study at their own pace or speed in order to reach their potential to the fullest.  
  8. A variety of learning modalities or styles are addressed in the lesson plans and through the use of the videos with a special emphasis on audio and visual styles.  The child can watch, listen, and read about new information and process the information in their preferred and most effective learning style.  Alyssa has been drawn to visual learning modalities lately.     
  9. The company provides access to the FREE downloadable getting started guide introducing you to and explaining their online visual learning solution.  The user guides are also free and downloadable.  They are arranged to meet a variety of specific needs.  
  10. The company is continuously adding more content to the curriculum-based videos.  Through website exploration, I noticed that they are currently working on adding foreign language videos.   
  11. The video library can be used to supplement existing curriculum, as an enrichment activity integrated into your child's curriculum, or to further explore topics in their subject studies.  There may also be homeschooling families that choose to use Zane Education as an affordable standalone curriculum since it covers many subjects and the single price subscription per family is the same regardless of how many children will use it.  I personally can't see myself using only Zane Education as my main curriculum - I see it more as a supplement to our current curricula.          
  12. Zane Education gives subscribers access to online interactive quizzes for each topic unit and the study centre interactive tools to research topics further.  See information above for more details.     
  13. Zane Education's informative videos and resources are aligned with state, regional, and national standards.
  14. The company provides 24 hour tech support for annual subscribers.  Customer service was great!  I received a quick responses to an e-mail sent with regards to subscription help.  Nicholas seemed genuine in wanting to help make the process smooth and easy as was the case for me.  
  15. Parents can track the videos watched within your subscription. If your child views one of the videos then it is indicated by the color of the star - the gray star turns into a gold star if video was viewed.  
Possible Cons
  1. We were unable to view videos full screen.  I think having a full size screen feature would make the videos more user-friendly.  
  2. The FREE Math videos were not subtitled and created by Khan Academy.  I am thankful that we have access to the free math videos through Khan Academy, however I feel there should be math videos created by and representative of the company with subtitles. 
  3. The parent or teacher may need to preview the videos before allowing the child to watch them.  This is a very time consuming process.  There may be content on some videos that Christian families or any family for that matter will deem inappropriate for children to view.  For example, for older students there was a video depicting teen pregnancies and deliveries.     
  4. The activities in the lesson plans seemed more appropriate for older students with the ability to write and think more critically.  I would say maybe ... maybe 1st grade and up depending on your child's abilities.  First grade may be pushing it and lesson plans will possibly need adaptations. Not all of the activities seemed age appropriate especially with regards to K-1 learners.  
  5. The videos may load slowly depending on your computer connections.  
  6. The clickable icons inside video are not working.  They tend to interfere with the screen view and are very distracting to users. 
Improvements Needed
  • My biggest complaint was that I was not able to enlarge the screen.  This improvement would make it easier for individual, large family, or classroom use.  It is better on the eyes if the screen is larger eliminating the necessity to "squint" to view the videos.  A full screen option would improve product usability.
  • Create subtitled math videos for the library making use of concrete items for children in manipulative stage.
  • Include more hands-on activities in the lesson plans for the younger children (K-1) using Zane Education.  It would be more beneficial to all users if lesson plan activities were divided into age ranges such as K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12 and if more activities were added to each age range for the specific skills including activities for discussion, debate, writing, research, etc.  
  • Find a way to remove screen tools or icons to right and left of videos if not in a workable condition. 
  • Could there be a safety feature added with parental controls that limit access to particular videos when children are exploring the video library independently?  I love having access to the gold membership, being able to view all videos and topics; however, it would disappoint and upset me if Alyssa came across an inappropriate video meant for older children.  I would like to allow her time to explore the video library without worrying about particular topics.    
  • Another suggestion would be to highlight words as they are narrated to help younger children follow along or track reading.  This is especially beneficial to new readers.  
  • I would love to see our account video logs divided by grade levels to make it easier to track videos previously viewed.  I am homeschooling one child and since I have access to all of the videos it makes it difficult to see at a glance what we have already viewed.   
  • I can't wait to see what new videos will be added the library!  I hope to see more Math, Library Skills, and Geography videos.  There are several areas that are not comprehensive and in need of additional video content such as the geography videos.    
Final Thoughts and Results
I plan to continue using this this resource throughout the year.  The videos maintained my daughter's attention and interest. She was able to learn curriculum content in a visually fun way while improving skills.  She has been known to watch several video topics in one day. She remembers some information learned through the videos and makes connections during her other subject studies.  We will continue learning about composers and I might even slow the pace down a bit for further exploration.  There are many other geographic locations we intend to explore and we hope more videos will be added to this section in the fall.  We will also continue learning about animals and their classifications, explore communities again, appreciate great art works, learn about first americans, and see how native americans lived. I am still exploring the video catalog as I plan our fall curriculum so I am sure that I will find more videos that correlate with our curriculum.        

Yes, I would recommend this resource to everyone if funds are available (please read warning note).  This subscription can be used by all home educators imploring a variety of educational methods or approaches including but not limited to Charlotte Mason, Classical, Eclectic, Traditional, Unit Studies, and Montessori methods.  I would recommend this service to all types of schools such as Montessori, Secular (Traditional) and Private schools.  This product not only addresses the needs of all types of learners but may be especially beneficial for children with special needs including ESL, dyslexia, reading difficulties, hearing or visual impairments, ADD, and ADHD and so forth. This is a wonderful educational resource for auditory and visual learners. Children that love computer-based learning may find this resource interesting. Zane Education could also be used for after school care or tutoring specific subjects.

Warning: I feel obligated to recommended this product with some caution or reservations due to the particular nature of several sex education and evolutionary videos that may not be appropriate for younger children or families with a strong Christian worldview.  Use this product at your own discretion since we all have different views on what is and is not appropriate for our children and at what age. Now that you are aware of the presentation of possible controversial videos; I recommend previewing all videos related to your curriculum or subject before allowing your child to watch them.  The video library does contain an immense amount of information that could be beneficial to your child's learning so please consider carefully.  You could also eliminate those subjects or topics.         

Please be sure to check out Zane Education's Facebook page for community discussions on experiences using Zane Education.  This is a place or resource in which 10 contributing home educators share information and their knowledge about how to use this service effectively under different circumstances and situations.  Make sure you like Zane Education's Facebook page and check out their current competitions and contests here.  Company representatives can be contacted here with questions and concerns about subscriptions.  If you would like, you can also follow Zane Education on Twitter.  They have searchable hands-on learning activities in their latest news section of their blog that you may find interesting or fun.  Here's the free video of the day.  Are you ready to sign-up for an account (free or annual)?  If so, click here.  Click the Zane Education button below to go to their website for more information.      

Many other Schoolhouse crew members reviewed Zane Education. To read about their experiences with it and how it was implemented in their homeschool day, please click here.

Disclaimer: I received a premium 12-month subscription to Zane Education's Visual Learning Solution, at no cost to me, in exchange for an honest, professional review on my blog.  All opinions expressed are my own and are not influenced by the product or company.  

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review. I loved how you talked about the way you used the resource with Alyssa. My children enjoyed the videos, too, and we will continue to use them with our TruthQuest and nature studies, as well.