Common Sense Review
Updated November 2012

Britannica Kids: Ancient Rome

Images, maps, and games somewhat overshadowed by heavy text
Common Sense Rating 3
  • Entries like “Who Were the Romans?” make up the bulk of the content.
  • Kids can turn any of the images into jigsaw-type puzzles.
  • An image “Brush Off” game lets kids test their knowledge by revealing parts of an image and then guessing.
  • All of the landmarks and events appear on this neat map.
Pros
Articles are well-written and pop up difficult vocabulary words.
Cons
Not much chance for critical thinking, as it's mostly articles and pictures.
Bottom Line
Britannica Kids: Ancient Rome is an uncomplicated reference tool for looking up facts and vocabulary.
Amanda Finkelberg
Common Sense Reviewer
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 3

You can't get lost: The slick navigation makes it easy for kids to explore a range of topics. The large amounts of text could turn off some kids, but the images and just-for-fun puzzles will boost their interest.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 3

Content is written mostly in the same form. Multimedia components are limited, although the interactive map helps kids connect history to their lives. Kids could more actively process information if they could annotate or highlight it.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 2

It's not a complicated tool. Still, audio support would make the materials more accessible to kids with diverse learning needs.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

Teachers looking for a kid-friendly reference tool might find Britannica Kids: Ancient Rome helpful, but it's best used as a supplement to more involved activities. You do get a few fun activities that encourage kids to spend more time interacting with the material. For example, a satellite map of the world lets kids explore Ancient Roman landmarks and historical locations by tapping tags to see images. A multiple-choice review quiz includes questions like, "What does the emperor Caligula's name mean?" and "What were the Roman household gods called?" Unfortunately, kids get no constructive or informative feedback on quiz results -- that's up to you.

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What's It Like?

Britannica Kids: Ancient Rome contains articles adapted from the Britannica Student Encyclopedia on ancient Rome. Articles are broken down into subsections, and key concepts are highlighted with pop-up definitions. Articles, which are concise and digestible, cover topics from "The Rise of Rome" to "Art and Architecture" to "Roman Mythology." Each one has illustrations and highlighted keywords, which pop up definitions when they're tapped. Kids can turn any image into jigsaw or sliding puzzles and map landmarks on an interactive map to get a more realistic sense of the Roman Empire's size. Seventy-five color images of gods, architecture, and other aspects of Ancient Rome enliven things a bit, and there's a video showing scenes of Roman landmarks.

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Is It Good For Learning?

The Play menu lets you interact with the content in fun and familiar ways. For example, in addition to the puzzles, kids can "brush off" sand to reveal an image, then name the image. They can also test their memories with an Ancient Rome image concentration game.

Britannica Kids: Ancient Rome is a handy reference tool, and kids can read a wealth of historical information, but there's little support for students to make connections to events in their own lives. It's also heavy on text and light on interactivity. More features that allow kids to bookmark articles, highlight and annotate text, or connect to more rich multimedia content would be ideal.

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