Product Review (School Library Journal) – Britannica School
Overview The minimalist home page features ample white space and three encyclopaedia files: “Elementary, “Middle,” and “High.” Additionally, “Britannica Learning Zone” is offered within the Elementary interface for preschool students. A distinguishing feature of the material is that within each file there are three reading levels to choose from: Level 1 (Elementary); Level 2 (Middle); and Level 3 (High), so that whichever option is purchased, users of varying reading levels will find accessible material.
Resources include more than 140,000 current and expertly written informational articles and countless multimedia items including video and audio files, maps, illustrations, photos, primary source documents, ebooks, recommended websites, and much more.
The versatile databases adapt to users’ choices. For instance, middle and high school students reading at “level 1” (elementary level) will not be presented with an elementary-style database. Likewise, elementary students can gradually move toward a more advanced interface depending on what is clicked, even if they are reading on level 1. The options are suited entirely to the user’s selections and growing interests and abilities.
Educators can search Common Core State Standards for their state and subject and specifically align database content with curriculum standards. Lesson plans and numerous learning tools (games, animated lessons, etc.) in multiple subjects are offered and purposed for clear instructional targets.
How it Works Under each database category are a few bulleted, attention-grabbing content details in the drop-down menu that explain what a user will find in that database, such as “Look for People, Places, Things” in the elementary category, or “Find Fast Answers and Homework Help” in the middle-school area. The “Let’s Go” menu option takes users to the database homepage for that category, which is loaded with age- and grade-level appropriate content, hot topics, and hyperlinks to browse. There is also an easy-to-use search bar option on the menu for more specific searches. Once a query is entered, users can choose a reading level, and specific content type to search further. Whether browsing or specifically searching a topic, the content is accessible, customizable, and eye-catching.
The homepage for each file features a “Discover Britannica!” section with clickable broad topic searches of high interest, such as “Subjects,” “Animal Kingdom” (in the elementary options), “Biographies” (in the middle- and high-school areas), “World Atlas,” and “Comparing Countries.”
Users can choose the “Explore” option within each file to view browsable topics. “Elementary” offers a subject search and an animal kingdom search. Subscribers to the “Middle” and “High” options are offered subject and biography search options.
Special Features Information can be retrieved on devices with Internet access and a Web browser, such as smart phones, tablets, and laptops. Text-to-speech and built-in translation, a read-aloud feature, font-size changer, and double-click dictionary will support all learners and in particular those with special learning needs.
Each file also offers a “Tools” section that allows users to email articles and change font size, though the “Middle” and “High” options present a “Resources and Tools” section with additional resources for higher grade levels. The “Help” page offers solutions that are easy to understand so areas of need are quickly identified for troubleshooting.
Verdict These highly interactive, pleasingly simple and inviting, and easy to access grade level resources work with and for users. Those with limited search skills can still navigate through the material and customize the experience to individual need. The differentiated instruction and PreK through 12th grade Common Core content-rich, lively material make Britannica School a highly recommended database that is relevant in the digital age.