Thursday, January 15, 2009

Can Your Globe Talk?

Have you ever laughed at someone (or yourself) for not knowing the location of a particular country? Sadly, geography skills among school children in the U.S. are no laughing matter. That's why I was particularly interested in reviewing the GeoSafari Talking Globe by Educational Insights. Assembly was quick and easy. Once assembled, the globe spins freely and the entire unit feels very sturdy.

In the base of the globe is an interactive geography quiz game with dazzling lights and sound effects to guide and reward young learners. One to four players choose quiz categories (USA/ Canada, World, All) and answer response times. It's an effective teaching globe, as well as a fun quiz machine. Clear speech, fun sounds, and international music add entertainment and educational value.

The Talking Globe features a 12-inch geopolitical globe, automatic scoring, adjustable volume, question repeat, help button and jacks for optional AC adapter and headphones (not included). Measures 14" x 14.2" x 18.9". Four size C batteries may be used instead of the AC adapter. It comes with a one year manufacturers warranty. The globe lists at $124.65, but I've seen it for as low as $95.05 at Amazon.

Pros: The GeoSafari Talking Globe has a seemingly endless number of geographical questions to maintain students' interest. There are over 10,000 questions for third-graders and up. Question repeat is helpful, especially when hearing the name of a country for the first time. The option for AC or battery power offers flexibility and portability. Assembly couldn't be easier: just one spring and nut to screw the base to the frame and globe. No tools required. The entire unit is durable.

Cons: On occasion, the voice sounds unclear. This is likely due to the fact that some locations are unfamiliar to the average learner. The Talking Globe is not upgradable. As political boundaries change, a USB port would allow for expansion with a PC. Also, a "hint" button would give the learner a much-appreciated clue, such as, which continent or body of water to begin searching when faced with a particularly difficult question.

Overall impression: If you are a teacher or parent who wants to increase your young learners' knowledge of Earth's geographical names in a fun and interactive way, consider GeoSafari Talking Globe by Educational Insights. If you balk at the hundred dollar price tag, consider that even a decent classroom globe is over $50. That's more than half way towards a globe that can play games and talk! In today's media-rich age, doesn't a talking globe sound far more engaging than one that just spins?

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