Magazine article American Libraries

Multimedia Programs to Reach an MTV Generation

Magazine article American Libraries

Multimedia Programs to Reach an MTV Generation

Article excerpt

Two new multimedia products from IBM illuminate history better than any computerized learning tool I've seen, and should be considered historically significant advances in information technology

The forum for the products' public unveiling was the World Expo Corporation's CD-ROM Expo '91. At a press conference followed by a general session for conference attendees, IBM, not unexpectendly, pulled out all the stops to wow us. Before I arrived, I steeled myself--stay objective, remain on your guard-deep-pocketed IBM will put on a show and use extravagant statements designed to impress, even to overwhelm. Top IBM brass were present. James A. Cananvino, corporate vice-president and general manager of IBM's personal systems business, said Big Blue is making major investments financially and philosophically in multimedia.

Cannavino introduced Jim E. Dezell, Jr., corporate vice president and general manager of Educational systems. Dezell was the driving force behind IBM's successful literacy tools, Writing to Read and PALS, and now, the two new multimedia products being introduced, Columbus: Encounter, Discovery and Beyond, and Illuminated Books and Manuscripts. During his presentation, he introduced software developers and special consultants who contributed their expertise to the subject matter contained in the two titles.

Visually stunning voyages

Interactive multimedia learning products have been around for a while; so what makes the new IBM products newsworthy?

Several things:

* They are interdisciplinary.

* They are multicultural in scope.

* They are large and complex (two of the most massive databases accessible via personal computer-based navigational tools, each containing over 180 hours of interactive video).

* They are visually stunning.

* Both are non-graded, meaning the content can be used at virtually any level, from elementary grades through college.

In Columbus: Encounter, Discovery and Beyond, the voyages of Columbus become a metaphor for a changing view of the universe, for the human adventure of learning, discovery, and change. Presenting Native American as well as the European perspectives, the title provides navigational tools (aptly enough) for exploration through many paths of inquiry. Teachers and students may look at Columbus's life, family, and voyages; examine the world of his time; probe the economic issues; or consider other heroes and heroic events. Users can leap from subject to related subject to go where their curiosity takes them.

Special consultants to the Columbus project had flown in from Europe for the debut: Enuciada Colon, a professor at the University of Madrid and a 14th-generation granddaughter of Christopher Columbus, and Italian biographer of Columbus Paolo Emilio Taviani.

Inspirational illumination

The second title, Illuminated Books and Manuscripts, explores the interrelationship among five diverse literary works and history, science, the arts, and social issues with a rich, in-depth database of multimedia information. The use of the word "illuminated" is inspired. Just as medieval monks illuminated both sacred texts and historical documents, the five texts in this title are "illuminated" by tools such as word definitions, analyses of the social context in which the works were written, and dramatic interpretations by actors and scholars. Included in the title are: "Ulysses," by Alfred Lord Tennyson; Hamlet, by William Shakespeare; Letter from Birhimgham Jail, by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; the Declaration of Independence; and Black Elk Speaks. On hand to represent the consultants whose expertise helped produce Illustrated Books and Manuscripts was Andrew Young, a close co-worker with Dr. King, and his teacher wife Jean, and Chief Randy Plume, an Oglala Sioux from Wounded Knee, S.Dak.

It is difficult to describe the impact of good multimedia without actually using it. …

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