Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978



Genomics Digital Lab

Genomics Digital Lab

Fall 2009 Website
Ages: 12 - 17 yrs.
Producer: Spongelab Interactive
Review:
For a youngster (middle- or high-school) taking biology and needing a boost in fascination, this high-quality Website mesmerizes users with soothing eco-New Age soundtracks and dynamically animated illustrations that bring to life plant biology from leaf surface down to cellular structure-and beyond to DNA!

"Genome" blends of the words "gene" and "chromosome," to give you an idea where this biological online learning center's headed. It's curriculum-aligned content is gorgeous to look at and the narrative informative without being teachy. At the heart of the progressive lessons are interactive simulations and engaging games and puzzles (some more difficult than others and all of them requiring users to pay attention) that focus on problem solving and drive home the basics of biology.

Lesson 1, for instance, is about what a leaf needs to survive and thrive. After a brief illustrated primer of leaf biology, users try their hand at choosing what natural needs a plant must have to live. By adjusting type of light, liquid and air compound, users help the plants live or die. At the intermediate level, it gets tougher. The Light Reaction game, for instance, about plants building sugar from CO2 and sunlight, requires users to position the cellular factors in the right order to succeed.

Once you succeed, it's on to the next fun, entertaining, and educational lesson and game. Plant Cells is the first in a series of games, modules, and interactive biology sims with more to come. Games don't sound much like regular videogames titles (among them, the Citric Acid Cycle Game, the Calvin Cycle Game, the Electron Transport Chain and the Light Reaction Game), though some of the gameplay elements will be familiar: In the Glycolysis Game, for instance, players fire a arcade-like shooter at glucose globs to push them up the conversion scale and turn them into energy.

The Anatomy Explorer takes users into a dynamic visual journey through the increasingly microscopic anatomy of plant life, right down to the cellular level using zoom lenses.

Users can keep notes on what they're learning and doing in the built-in notebook and they can sign in anywhere-at home or at school.

There are no downloads, no installations. Free trial users provide name and email address and receive via email a password good for seven days on this multi-lingual site (English, Spanish, French and Brazilian Portuguese).

If there's a knock on Genomics Digital Lab, it's that the site is a bit pedantic despite its best efforts to appeal to students willing to play competitive games even if it means learning something. The upside is that this is a smartly crafted learning site that proves, even to kids, that there is indeed intelligent life online.

Don Oldenburg   ©2009 Parents' Choice
A former writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is a freelance writer, editorial consultant and coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The father of three sons, he lives with them and wife, Ann, a writer at USA Today, in McLean, VA.

Look for this product at:
Spongelab Interactive
http//www.spongelab.com

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