CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 27. . . .March 14, 2014
I had high expectations for the three books I was asked to review in Weigl’s “Simple Machine” series. It is difficult to find a variety of suitable books to supplement the teaching of physics topics in Early Years classrooms, and the “Simple Machine” series is one of Weigl’s AV2 Media Enhanced Books. These AV2 books come with a code and security question that enables access to animated and live action video, websites, worksheets, a matching word-definition activity, and quizzes. Unfortunately, the live action videos seem dated, and too many of the links lack an exuberance about learning that one hopes to see in on-line resources for young children and youth. The focus is more often fact-based assessment than scaffolding an understanding of simple machines that are used each day in a variety of occupations and the ways in which these simple machines make this work easier. Regardless, what will likely be beneficial for a number of students is the audio book feature of these audio-visual enhanced books. Children, who have logged on to the www.av2books.com website, can select any of the two page spreads they would like to hear, click on the headphone icon, and listen to a recorded passage from the text that is accompanied by a written transcription. I’m not convinced, however, that this feature alone is sufficient to make the books a worthwhile purchase.
As one would expect, each book in the series, whether by author Howse, De Medeiros, or Banting, follows a nearly identical form which begins with the table of contents on page 3 and ends with five pages that contain (a) facts bout the simple machine the book is focused upon, (b) 10 “Brain Teasers” with answers, (c) an action project for building a simple ruler and eraser lever, CD and colour marker wheel and axle system, or string and doorknob pulley, (d) a page with “Key Words” and “Index”, and (e) a full page illustrated description of how to navigate “AV2 Online.” Between pages 3 and 12, one encounters paragraphs of identical or nearly identical text (see excerpts above) about simple machines, force, gravity, mass versus weight, and work (“force over distance”). This changes between pages 12 and 20 given that the content is more specifically focused of the simple machine captured by the book’s title. Still, headings such as “Overcoming Friction” and “What is a Mechanical Engineer” are identical in De Medeiros’ Pulleys and Banting’s Wheels and Axles. I appreciate a series for children having an specified structure. When it comes to the content of each book in a series, however, my preference is to encounter little or no duplication, particularly when written information about scientific concepts can’t be well understood by reading or listening. It’s for this reason that I assumed the books would be media enhanced with some of the excellent materials currently available to teacher and learners with access to the internet. Unfortunately, they weren’t.
Recommended with Reservations.
Barbara McMillan is a teacher educator and a professor of science education in the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.