High Tech New Read-Only Memory Disc Is Popular with Children

Article excerpt

A new computer technology is becoming as popular among schoolchildren here as pizza.

It's called CD-ROM. The CD stands for compact disc, the same technology that we use to play music, store photos or run computer software. The initials ROM stand for read-only memory, which means that the information on the disc cannot be edited or erased.

A CD-ROM disc packs more information than 454 ordinary floppy discs. An entire encyclopedia will fit on one CD-ROM disc.

Christine Yueger, manager of Babbages software store at St. Clair Square in Fairview Heights, says that memory capacity appeals to parents. "They can get the equivalent of 30 volumes on one disc," she said.

Computer companies developed CD-ROM for indexes, telephone directories and maps for adults. Now companies are beginning to develop children's programs that combine video and sound effects with the words of a book, and often let kids control the action.

In Angela Brown's kindergarten class at Glenridge School in Clayton last week, four boys watched as the words, "Silly Noisy House," appeared on a computer monitor.

With a plastic mouse, Chris Strong, 5, moved an arrow on the monitor. He clicked on a blue toaster, and the toaster tossed toast, click by click. He clicked on a scoop of vanilla ice cream and stuck it on the face of a bear. Then he moved the arrow to the refrigerator, opened it and clicked on an egg. He raised the egg and released the mouse button. The egg fell and broke, spilling yolk inside the refrigerator.

Then Chris clicked on a book. A recipe for animal crackers appeared. Amid roars of lions and grunts of bears, a man's voice reads the recipe.

"This is easier than a book," Chris said. "All you have to do is press on the book, and the computer reads the book."

Chris' teacher, Angela Brown, said that what she likes most about the new technology is to see children exchange ideas to make things happen on the computer.

"This will not take the place of a teacher's reading list, but it is a learning option," Brown said. "It is a game, but it also is so much more."

Michele Treacy, of St. Ann, says she chose CD-ROM programs over video games for her son, Jacob, 6. "If he's going to sit there and play games, I wanted him to play learning games, and learn how to use the computer."

Last year, many area school districts had a handful of CD-ROM equipment scattered in buildings throughout the district. This year, some districts have the equipment in each library and some classrooms.

At Central Elementary School in the Francis Howell District, students do library research using a CD-ROM drive that a parents' organization bought for the school.

Students and teachers use CD-ROM versions of the Compton's Multimedia Encyclopedia and the World Book Information Finder, said Warlene Reed, the librarian at Central.

On a CD-ROM encyclopedia, a student can tap out the word "heart" on a computer keyboard, hit a few more keys and see an animation of a heart pumping blood through the body. …