Monday, September 16, 2013

Shakespeare in Bits Review

Is your child struggling to learn Shakespeare?  Do you wish there was a way to make it easier and more engaging?  Enter Shakespeare in Bits.  The company, MindConnex, has fully animated five of William Shakespeare's plays.  Since my son, who is in tenth grade this year, has Macbeth on his reading list, I was happy to review this product.  Not only did I have a chance to view Macbeth, but I also had access to Julius Caesar and Romeo and Juliet.  The other two plays which are offered are Hamlet and A Midsummer Night's Dream.  

Shakespeare in Bits is unique in that it provides many visuals to engage the student.  Each play has a section that describes the characters in detail along with an animation so that the student will know the character when he/she sees him in the play.  A character map is also provided, almost like a family tree.  It lets the reader know how the characters are related to each other.  I found this to be an invaluable tool.  Shakespeare can be difficult.  There are a lot of characters in his plays, and it is helpful to know who is related to each other, who the friends are, and who the enemies are.

An analysis is provided which summarizes the plot, talks about the themes that run throughout the play, describes how imagery is used, and provides a wonderful explanation about the language in the play.  This language analysis is a very helpful section that aided our understanding of how to read Shakespeare and what the characters were saying.  Of course, the animation of the play provides the most insight.  It is cleverly animated and enjoyable to watch.  The actual words of the play remain on the screen so that the reader knows who is speaking and what they are saying.  The words of the one speaking are highlighted.  Some parts of speech are highlighted in green.  These words can be clicked, and a definition appears.  Notes are provided to the left of the speech that help the reader comprehend even more of what he is hearing and/or reading.  Notes are provided and scene synopses are given for each scene.

I don't think the makers of Shakespeare in Bits left one stone unturned when they created these online animated plays.  So much information is provided that it is hard to believe someone wouldn't understand Shakespeare after reading everything and watching the play.

Versions are available for PC, Apple Products, and Android for $14.99 per play.  I am honored to have been given the opportunity to review these plays.  I think it has definitely enhanced my son's understanding of Macbeth.  I asked him what he thought, and he said he felt it was better suited to people who are in middle school.  However, I enjoyed it immensely and was incredibly impressed by what I saw.  I think that anybody who is going to be reading Shakespeare should have this to supplement their learning.

DISCLAIMER: I received this product free of charge in order to provide an honest review.

PeopleKeys Review

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I was excited when PeopleKeys showed up as a vendor we were going to get to review.  I have three children, and I have a pretty good idea what career path two of them might choose.  I have NO idea for the other.  This was going to be my opportunity to, hopefully, help him focus his gifts and talents into a pathway for his future.  I was given the DISC Career Style Report online.  

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As soon as we received the email with our online code, I had Nate complete the questionnaire.  Through a series of questions, PeopleKeys was able to formulate a kind of portfolio of Nate's strengths and weaknesses based on his DISC personality - dominance, influence, steadiness, and conscientiousness.  It also gave suggestions for careers that might work with his personality style.

The report identified Nate's style and then described the characteristics of that style.  Many of them described Nate to a tee.  It also listed things that may motivate him.  There was a slight disconnect, however, since a lot of the report talked about a work environment.  Since it focused more on older individuals, some of the questions weren't easy to answer.  Examples of situations were not what he was used to.

He is described as a "governor" and is strongest in the "influence" personality.  Workplace descriptions aside, there are characteristics that I can see in Nate that can be applied at places like church or our co-op.  The "Interactive Workplace Style Characteristics" that most closely represent Nate are: desires to have fun and be spontaneous, desires to be friends with 'coworkers,' is not afraid to show emotion or be expressive, can be indecisive, values maintaining a good relationship, clever use of humor and creativity, can be inventive and resourceful.

"Tips for the workplace" is a page or two that gives characteristics and tips to manage them.  For example, it says, "I's tend to always be talking," but it also gives instructions to remember to listen and concentrate on what others are saying.  Another example which may help me to understand why he does or does not do something is "I's don't like to manage the details and are not particularly self-disciplined."  The instructions tell him to not procrastinate or have someone who can take care of the detailed tasks if he is not able to.  Of course, at this stage in his life he is not going to have someone to "take care of the detailed tasks."  He will have to learn how to do that.  So, some of what is in the report is not applicable at this stage of his life.

There are other characteristics that fit him as well: he fears rejection; he has difficulty finishing what he starts.  The latter characteristic describes me as well.  The suggestion is to practice following through and not beginning what he can't finish.  This is great advice whether a teenager or a twenty-something businessman.

While there are great tips on dealing with the characteristics of his personality, I was disappointed with the "Career Match" sheets.  I was hoping to have a narrow field of about five things that might give me a better idea what sort of job his personality is most suited toward, but his "Best Match" sheet listed 54 jobs.  Some of them I can't ever see him doing, but he is young yet.  His interests may change.  There was also a "Close Match Career Sheet."  It listed 93 jobs.  So, basically, he can do anything.  There are jobs that will be better suited to his personality and ability, but there is no best job out there.

PeopleKeys has several different products available for students.  I think it would be better for an overall understanding to have all the resources.  This particular one, the DISC Career Style Profile, sells for $32.00.  Judging by what I've seen in it, it seems most appropriate for seniors in high school or college students who are looking more seriously at career choices.  Even though, as a parent, I'd like to know where Nate's natural bent is, he is too young yet.  There are a lot of years and a lot of maturing that will happen before he needs to make any decisions.


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