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all reviews > > > science software

## Virtual Labs: Electricity

#### Ages 12 to 18

 Rating Scale 5 = great,    1 = poor Educational Value 5.0 Kid Appeal 3.5 Ease of Use 4.0

System Requirements

Virtual Labs: Electricity teaches kids about electricity by presenting them with simulations of how pieces of electrical equipment work together. The lessons begin with basic circuits but become more relevant to complicated systems found in real-life as the program progresses in difficulty. Eventually the software program allows students to develop models of circuits found in doorbells, holiday lights, and cars.

Virtual Labs: Electricity uses several strategies to teach kids. If students are independent and familiar with electric circuits, they can put together their own simulations of circuits by clicking and dragging labeled icons that specify types of equipment -- wires, ammeters, resistors, batteries and more. Less experienced students can work through an exhaustive list of experiments that Edmark has placed in the school-version of the program. These lessons include thinking questions and challenges. The program also includes a "Sci-Clopedia" that teaches students about the physics of electricity and articles on electricity from the World Book Encyclopedia.

 Educational Value
Virtual Labs: Electricity helps students discover the basic properties of a circuit, the purpose of devices such as switches, fuses, and capacitors, and methods for controlling and channeling current in a circuit. Kids using the program also learn concepts such as voltage, resistance and power. Students think about Ohm's and Kirchoff's Laws while learning about electrical safety and logic. Kids can discover all this using Virtual Labs: Electricity before they work with real circuits, which are less reliable than a computer simulation and more dangerous.

The school-version of the program provides students with clear instructions for exploring important concepts. For example, to understand parallel circuits, kids must build a simulation of a parallel circuit by following detailed instructions. After they build the circuit, kids must answer questions about what happens when one light in the circuit is turned off. Virtual Labs: Electricity also includes hidden assessments for students -- one activity, "Broken? Fix It!" requires students to remedy two circuits that do not work and were supposedly put together by "amateurs." The binder accompanying the school-version software provides teachers with solution sets to questions in such activities.

 Kid Appeal
Though Virtual Labs: Electricity delves into important scientific topics, kids who are not passionate about electricity may not be willing to try the software without adult guidance and feedback. The subject of electricity is daunting for many young people, and the colors and icons on the screen may not be engaging to a kid searching for a relaxing recreational experience. If an adult works with the kid and supplements the computer simulations with hands-on experience with electrical circuits, a student may be far more interested in the material.

The software, particularly the school version, is a treasure chest for teachers. A teacher could use these virtual experiments throughout a unit on electricity. The software is especially useful to a teacher because lesson plans are included, as are assessments. Teachers can refer a student to the "Sci-clopedia" if the kid wants to research the physics of electricity. The school-version binder also describes "Away-from-the-Computer" activities that supplement each experiment presented in the software.

 Ease of Use / Install
For a sophisticated, flexible program, Virtual Labs: Electricity was exceptionally easy to install. A Macintosh user simply inserts the CD, registers himself with the software company and follows instructions from the program tour or school-version binder. The process for a PC user is only slightly more complicated.

Kids will most likely need help navigating through the program and will also need an adult to pace them through the lessons and activities.

 Best for... / Bottom-Line
This program is a learning tool for middle- and high-school students with any background in electricity. Kids can use this program to develop models of simple and complicated circuits, which they can later test with real electrical devices. Exposure to Virtual Labs: Electricity will increase a child's understanding of the electrical devices that surround her and support her life.

#### See SuperKids' comparisons with other Science software titles, and the Buyers Guide for current market prices of the PC and Mac versions.

 System Requirements
PC: Windowss® 95/98 or later, 486/66 or faster cpu, 10 MB hard drive space, 16 MB RAM, 640x480, 256-color display, 2X or faster CD-ROM, Windows-compatible sound card .

Mac: Macintosh® System 7.0.1 or higher, 68040 or PowerPC cpu, 16 MB RAM, 640x480, 256-color display, 2X or faster CD-ROM .

Reviewed on:

• Apple G4, System 9.0.4, Memory 192 MB