America the Beautiful. (Middle/High School Software/Web Sites)
Kurtz, Alice, Multimedia Schools
Located online at http://go.grolier.com.
Source: Grolier Educational, 888/326-6546.
Access Fee: The subscription price is based on the combinations of Grolier databases in use and the size of the user population. As an add-on reference to other Grolier products, subscription prices start at $209.
Audience: Publisher recommends grades 4 and up; reviewer recommends 4th-6th grade students.
Format: Subscription Web site with text, graphics, multimedia.
System Requirements: PC: Pentium 90 or better with at least 32 MB RAM, 15-inch monitor with 800x600 resolution, and 16-bit color.
Macs: System 7.5 or better on PowerMac or higher; 15-inch monitor with 800x600 resolution, and "thousands of colors" selected.
America the Beautiful will run on Internet Explorer 4 and higher and Netscape Navigator 3.x and higher, but the publisher does not recommend running it on any Netscape 6.x browser.
Description: America the Beautiful Online is a spin-off of the America the Beautiful book series from Children's Press. Through text, photos, maps, and multimedia students access the geography, history, economics, government, culture, people, and places of the 50 states, Washington, DC, and major U.S. territories.
The site also provides timelines of state histories, interactive puzzles, and games to challenge students' knowledge about the states. A teacher segment provides learning strategies, suggested lessons, and projects. An almanac ties together up-to-date statistics and facts from each state.
Installation/Access: The Web site is accessed by a password log-on procedure. The home page loaded quickly. Installation/Access Rating: A
Content/Features: America the Beautiful allows students to easily research and learn about the United States and its territories. Students access information by clicking on the state of their choice from a large U.S. political map.
Each state page includes an Introduction, Fast Facts, multi-part History of the state, Geography, Economics, Culture, Government, Cities, a Spotlight that focuses on the most important features of the state, Profiles of famous people from the state, Timeline, a Word Find, and What Do You Know?
Each topic provides text with accompanying maps and illustrations or pictures. The text has limited links. For example, when reading about the Aleuts of Alaska, the only hot-linked word in the text was Inuit. In the description of Louisiana, the word "parish" wasn't hot-linked.
A dictionary and atlas are available at the bottom of each page for easy reference, but students do not usually take the time to look up a concept word. It is more likely, however, that they will click on a link.
Students also have the option of selecting three Internet links that provide more information about a selected state. The Maps and Media button provides a series of interactive maps including political, topographic, historical, natural resources, and economic maps, along with illustrations, photos, and a few multimedia panoramas.
Occasionally, the maps tended to be somewhat blurry. Each state has only one panorama or slide show and some states have none.
Print and e-mail are also options from each state page. Each state page also provides a Search-a-Word challenge and a quiz on facts about the state.
The site also contains a set of tabs across the top of each page that takes students to other resources. The U.S. Topics tab offers biographies of all of the U.S. presidents. It was a bit surprising, however, that these biographies weren't linked to the Presidential Libraries readily available online.
This tab also allows research on cities, historical sites, natural wonders, and famous places throughout the United States. Students can read about selected Native American tribes from this tab. There is one link here to an Internet source for more information on Native Americans.
The Timelines tab provides an overview of U.S. history described in a text-only, timeline format. The timeline tab covers political history and includes timelines for arts, science, and literary achievements. Students have the option of selecting two states from a pull-down menu to compare and contrast the selected state timelines.
The Profiles tab is described as the American Hall of Fame. It is a collection of the biographies of Americans past and present found in each state database. Pictures accompany most of the short biographies found here.
The Game tab offers students a chance to test their knowledge about the U.S. Games include a states and capitals challenge, presidential questions, and picture puzzles.
The Almanac tab compiles all sorts of factual data for the student. Most of the information is in chart form or plain text with no illustrations or pictures. This area offers diverse statistics in an easy to read format that covers topics ranging from government to population, to state information, to features of state parks, to First Ladies' names.
The Almanac has limited links. For example, the almanac provides a link to a picture of each state flower, but it does not have an audio clip of each state song. Content/Features Rating: A-
Ease of Use: The window interface of America the Beautiful makes it quite easy for students to use. The Features bar across the top of each page allows easy navigation to the tabbed sections of the program. Clearly marked buttons take the student home or to the list of states.
Many of the pop-up windows and maps have a close button at the bottom that allows the student to return to the original page without using the back button. The table of contents located on each of the state pages makes navigation to specific information quite easy.
Students also are provided with the option of a Keyword search and a more advanced Boolean search for the entire program or the state under consideration. Searches can be title or full text. At the completion of the search, a list of resources appears for the student. It was easy to link to the online sites recommended by the program. Ease of Use Rating: A
Product Support: A help button is located at the bottom of each screen. This gives the user frequently asked questions and an overview of the features of the program. Grolier Online provides technical support through e-mail and voice. Product Support Rating: A
Recommendation: America the Beautiful offers a solid interactive reference for learning about the states. It is well organized and easy to navigate. With a thoughtful project assigned by the teacher, students could be successful in completing a limited Internet search for information about selected states and territories.
The materials in this program would be richer if there were more links in the text and more links to Internet sites that support the topics. For example, the presidential sketches could have been linked to the Presidential Library sites. Short sound clips of the state songs could have been linked to the list of state songs found in the almanac. Picture or graphic links could have been strategically placed on the timelines.
The multimedia aspect of the Web is only touched on lightly in this program. However, the content of the program is very up-to-date. The addition of timelines, maps, photos, and biographical sketches greatly enriches the state and territory information. The games, puzzles, and quizzes will engage students and will help reinforce information learned.
Overall, the program would be a nice reference tool for an elementary school, especially for fourth and fifth grade students. Highly recommended.
REPORT CARD Overall Rating **** Installation A Content/Features A- Ease of Use A Product Support A Maximum rating: 5 stars
Reviewer: Alice Kurtz, 5/6 grade teacher, Irving B. Weber School, 3850 Rohret Road, Iowa City, IA 52246; Phone: 319/688-1170; Kurtz@iowacity. k12.ia.us.…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: America the Beautiful. (Middle/High School Software/Web Sites). Contributors: Kurtz, Alice - Author. Magazine title: Multimedia Schools. Volume: 8. Issue: 6 Publication date: November-December 2001. Page number: 62+. © Not available. COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group.
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