Technology & Learning Software Awards of Excellence

Article excerpt

For the 17th year, we bring you "The Best of the Best" in School and Home Learning products.

Zeroing in on the best educational CD and Internet products these days can be a real challenge. Consider the vast range of personal preferences, philosophies of education, attitudes toward the role of technology in schools and other factors influencing a given reviewer's evaluation of a product. In the first years of our program, when Xerox's Stickybear ABC, Scholastic's The Bank Street Writer, and the irresistibly titled Adventures in Flesh (Krell), were among the winners, controversies centered around such things as which version of LOGO was best, and whether drill was truly the root of all evil. Today we' re taking various stands on the value of Internet filtering, Web site advertising, the effectiveness of simulations, the role of logic and strategy-based offerings in the core curriculum and ... whether drill is truly the root of all evil. So, taking into account this range of somewhat liquid influences, we strive to separate the truly remarkable entries from the merely good by applying an open mind and a couple of practical rules of thumb.

First, we applaud initiative. We want to recognize well-done, unique products that are the first to stick a tender toe into the cold sea of Something We Haven't Exactly Seen Before. APEX is pioneering efforts in packaging online AP classes, and Stage-cast's Creator empowers kids with a label-resisting environment for building multimedia "worlds." Relate for Teens (Ripple Effects) plunges bravely into the tough issues of sex, violence, personal loss, and other sensitive topics for teens. These are firsts.

"Best of breed," though a rapidly fatiguing phrase, still pretty much sums up the difference between a good product and an excellent one. Educationally sound and thoughtfully crafted offerings such as Sunburst's Tenth Planet's Vowels Short and long, Science Court Explorations: Pendulums (Tom Snyder) and KaleidoMania! from Key Curriculum Press will always find a welcome home on our winners list. For details on how the winning products were picked, see "How the Best Were Chosen" on page 15. To conduct your own mini test-drive of the titles honored here, boot up the CD The Best of the Best, packaged with this month's T&L.

Among this year's winners are a number of large, networked management tools, such as Top Winner Open District from Chancery, designed to help schools get a handle on the numerous disparate resources and data they must deal with on a daily basis. Web products continue to burgeon with offerings--such as The Learning Company's Classroom Webivore and [MC.sup.2]'s Zebu--continuing to define and refine what is most useful for students and educators. We're also happy to report that we're seeing a continuing trend toward powerful, imaginative and sophisticated tools such as HIP Mathematics from The Center for Image Processing, Coda's PrintMusic! and Top Winner Web Design 101 (Macromedia), a package of professional-level applications that is finding a comfortable fit in the school setting.

And now, the winning titles.

RELATED ARTICLE: The Top Three Award Winners

Encarta Africana (Microsoft)

All of our reviewing judges were enthusiastic about this powerful addition to Microsoft's existing suite of reference products, terming it "long overdue in our libraries and classrooms." The two-disc multimedia encyclopedia (which is also a Home Learning winner) focuses on Africa, Africans, and people of African descent, with commentary by Maya Angelou, Whoopi Goldberg, Kwame Anthony Appiah of Harvard University, and other personalities of note. The resource includes interactive maps with detailed projections of the African slave trade and legacies of African cultures in the New World, thousands of articles accompanied by photos, sound, and video, and sidebars with scholarly perspectives. Users can also take 3-D virtual tours of Goree Island, Senegal; Havana, Cuba; Bahia, Brazil; and other spots; or visit six historic sites in Africa via video. …