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?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Have Drums, Will Rock!

The Sound X SMI-1458 Digital Drum Machine will provide countless hours of fun and education to the beginning drummer, but that's not all. This drum set is going to be the center piece to the greatest rock and roll band in the world! My sixth grade students have been beating up on this for over a week now, and it's holding up well. It comes with a 90 day manufacturers warranty, but I bought a two year extended warranty through Sam's Club because by this time, next year... who knows.

This drum set includes a dual zone snare drum, 3 tom pads and a bass drum pad as well as the standard hi-hat, crash, ride, crash, drumsticks, headphone and a stool. Dual zone means that when you whack the drum, it has two levels of sensitivity. For example, if you strike the ride cymbal hard, it sounds like the bell of the cymbal; if you strike it softer, it sounds like the warm ride.

Here are the specs:

  • 4 drum pads
  • 3 cymbal pads
  • 1 hi-hat control dedal
  • 1 bass drum pedal
  • Drum sticks
  • Stool
  • Headphone jack & USB ports
  • Metronome function
  • 1 headphone
  • 108 voices
  • 10 pre-set drum kits
  • 5 user drum kits
  • 40 pre-set patterns
  • 1 user pattern
  • AC Adapter(DC 9v)
  • Connecting Cables
  • Output Jack(Stereo)
  • Dimensions: 33.5"L x 47.2"W x 49.2"H
  • Pros: The lightweight, yet durable frame allows me to set up in a small area near the back of my classroom. The red cymbals and frame accents make this drum set stand out. The metronone is an educational feature that allows players to practice in time to develop their groove. A headphone jack and USB ports round out the professional features of this kit. I have the kit hooked up to my Fender 15 watt amp and it provides plenty enough volume to jam with a couple kids on their own electric twangers.

    Cons: Drum pads are limited to a small degree of movement. This forces drummers to conform their own playing style to fit within a tight, predetermined space. This can be frustrating to some drummers who like their drums a bit more spread out. Sometimes, the dual zone sensitivity feels inaccurate. You have to strike the drum with just the right velocity to get the sound you want. Strike it too soft, and it won't even register. Strike it too hard, and it triggers the louder of the two zones.

    Overall impression: Professional level features such as the open/closed hi-hat control and dual zone snare capabilities are unheard of on an electronic drum set at this price. I'm a drummer, and although it's not anywhere close to the Roland V-series line of drum kits in overall quality, it's a fraction of the price! I got ours for under $300 at Sam's Club. It's sturdy, fairly responsive, and perfect for those about to rock!

    A great big shout out to the Corona (CA) Kiwanis Club for helping us attain this capable electronic drum kit! Bands are forming at Coronta Elementary, and we are looking forward to rockin' the district in the coming months!