Monday, February 18, 2008

Microsoft Student with Encarta - Review and Giveaway!

Lately I've been looking for internet resources on a variety of topics for our homeschooling. Roman history, eclipses, biographies of mathematicians...You name it and I've been googling it. It's been taking up a lot of time, too much time, but for some reason I never thought of the obvious solution which was to purchase some sort of encyclopedia so all that I needed was right on the bookshelve or hard drive. I can be a bit slow. Fortunately, in a wonderful coincidence, I was asked if I would review Microsoft Student 2008 with Encarta in exchange for a free copy. Hell yes! I was also asked to give away a copy...But more on that later.

Microsoft Student includes a whole bunch of neat stuff but what I opened first was Encarta Kids 2008.

Right after I opened the program Catherine (who has impeccable timing) came into the kitchen and asked, "What's that?" So I didn't get a chance to look it over first. In fact, the computer was hers for the next couple of hours as she explored the animals and science sections. When I finally kicked her off I asked her if she liked it.

"It's awesome! Now that's the kind of softwhere I like!"

She's enthusiatic about it to say the least. I got a chance to watch her use it and it did seem to offer a lot of what I was trying to find with my hours of googling. Lots of articles, videos and audio files that Catherine found informative. It was a little shallow, I couldn't find a diagram or animation on lunar eclipses for instance, but it's an encyclopedia and not meant to offer in depth coverage of any subject. What it seemed to do well for Catherine was whet her appetite for more information.

Encarta Kids also includes games. They are all simple matching, sorting and quiz types games. I did notice a gaffe or two. A question on prehistoric people should not be in an ancient history quiz category. That aside Catherine enjoyed them and kept calling me in to play with her.

Next I tried out Encarta Premium. It has a similar interface to Encarta Kids where you can navigate folders by subject matter but that seems to really limit what you find. Much better was the search function. Euclid was nowhere to be found when looking through the biography folders but whe I simply searched his name I was treated with a nice article.

Other tools which were included were Microsoft Math, report templates, writing help and foreign language dictionaries. I didn't spend too much time looking at most of those as I don't have much use for them at this time. I did however look at some of the reports because I had one worry. They were all MS Office or MS Works documents. Not everyone runs those programs so I set Open Office (the very good and very free alternative to Microsofts offerings) as my default, went into Student and attempted to open them. Success! Open Office did the job perfectly.


- While Open Office will open MS Documents, Encarta will not use my default browser, Opera, to access the web. Instead it handcranks old Internet Explorer until the thing decides to start. Granted, even if it would use Opera I probably couldn't access Microsoft sites with it so I guess that's not a big deal.

- Why on earth can't all the text in Encarta Kids be accompanied with an audio track of the same? Not all kids can read or read well and often even when they can it's not how they best learn or retain information.

Good Stuff:

- My daughter loves it. Enough said on that.

- It has cut down on the time I spend googling. I really appreciate having so much information at my disposal without all the work.

- There's so much included! I may not have explored the templates, MS Math or language dictionaries too much but these are things we'll definately have use for in the future and it will be so much easier to have it sitting on the computer rather then searching the web for a lab report or french translation.

I'm quite happy with Microsoft Student 2008. Despite some minor problems it fills a gap in our homeschooling resources and has become an often used piece of software. My daughter enjoys Encarta Kids, I'm glad to have Encarta and just those two features alone would have been worth the price for me.

NOTE: Contest is now over.

On to the giveaway! I have a code availible for one lucky person to win a free download of Microsoft Student 2008. Just leave a comment (that includes some way for me to contact you) and I'll consider that your entry. I'll have Catherine pick a name out of a hat next Monday and I'll announce the winner then! Good luck!

NOTE: If you leave an email address please make sure to put in spaces or write out 'dot' or some such thing to protect yourself.


Anonymous said...

Well I think I deserve this freebie, cuz I'm still waiting for my crystal growing christmas tree! :-) (and resisting the urge to post all those pron links btw)

Dawn said...

Oh boy. Could you email me your address again Lorraine? Because I know you're just going to keep calling me out in public (as you should) until I send the crystal tree. :)

Public shamings work!:D

molytail said...

i remember my aunt & uncle having something similar to that (maybe an older edition?) on their computer (I used to babysit their kids at their house and saw them on it) a few years ago - it was quite neat, a little encyclopedia...

i hate things that automatically run IE as well (i'm a firefox fan)...

and heck ya, contests are great things. *grin*

Not June Cleaver said...

It sounds pretty neat. If I could get the kids off Runescape long enough to do something else, I'm sure we would use it!! :-)

I think you already have my email address.

Lori said...

Saw your post at Homeschool Spot. This looks great! Count me in!!!
I can be reached at the Spot or my blog.


Dawn said...

Not June Cleaver - I do indeed. Even if I didn't I think I could find you. :D

Actressdancer said...

Hey girl! Count me in. I'd love this for my boys. I'll pm you my email address at the Spot.

yofed said...

It really seems awesome! Count me in!

Anonymous said...

Wikipedia has eclipse stuff: I usually end up there these days rather than google. I seem to recall hearing that google is doing their own 'pedia, that'll be a help.

Heather said...

Woohoo, I love free stuff! My email addy is in my blogger profile. Can't wait to see who wins!

The Cloar Clan said...

What a great giveaway! Count me in! I can be reached either at the Spot or through my blog.

Jo said...

I am just about to start homeschooling my 3 kids down here in Sydney, and am learning lots from your blog. Thanks.
That Encyclopedia would be great!! Please put my name in the hat!!

Heather said...

We use the program online and I LOVE IT! I love how easy it is to just pull off info and also like using it for Today in History info to pass along to the boys. You can reach me through my google email: imachicke1@gmail dot com. ;)

Dawn said...

Welcome to the homeschooling life Jo!!

Dawn~ said...

Ok, I need this with three kiddos that I homeschool. =c)

Besides, we have the same name!

aka MartysPet(at)aol(dot)com

Anna said...

You should have seen my eyes grow to saucer size! ajtroyer(at)gmail(dot)com

elsie deluxe said...

OOh! I just found your blog, and I'm interested! Count me in. elsiedeluxe at gmail dot com

Dawn said...

In just under the wire! :)