The hands that rocked the cradle of Western civilization thousands of years ago built monuments, religious temples, and socially complex urban communities. Cultural treasures from Egypt, Greece, Italy, and other world centers remain with us today in large part because of the wealth of artifacts, written records, and carved inscriptions left behind. Thanks to the efforts of archaeologists and the significant discoveries of the last 200 years, we have a better understanding of the achievements of people who lived long ago.
Today's students are fortunate recipients of these legacies, especially the ones who are given the opportunity to experience this already intriguing topic in the exciting, interactive way made possible by technology. Recently released CD-ROM-based studies of ancient Western cultures contain pictures, video clips, animations, voiced narrations, music, and other elements that bring home the past to those in the present. Here, we examine four of the best new titles, each of which takes a different approach to the study of ancient cultures.
Microsoft's Ancient Lands is entertaining, informative, and easy to use-everything a kid's multimedia introduction to ancient civilizations should be. There are articles to read, animations and movie clips to watch, interactive scenes to explore, and games to play. Every screen is a large color picture with labeled hot spots inviting students to experience life in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome.
The program does an especially good job of placing information in context and offering a variety of perspectives. Children can listen to narrated legends and stories to learn about culture, religion, and politics. They can see monuments and other architectural wonders; examine maps for geographical context; and view timelines for summaries of who was doing what and when. Guided tours let visitors experience the daily life of a Spartan boy, a Greek actor, and others. Key figures of the times are also on hand with their points of view. Alexander the Great discusses military strategy, for instance, and Homer talks about the feats of mythic heroes and gods.
Five separate pathways through the material, an index, and numerous links are a few of die ways users can explore the large body of information found in this user-friendly title. And over 1,000 interactive fact screens serve as motivating rewards for the curious explorer.
In addition to its wonderful use of multimedia and easily navigable body of detailed data, Ancient Lands offers a lighthearted entertaining approach to learning that is sure to be an irresistible draw to kids.
Archibald's Guide to the
Mysteries of Ancient Egypt
Designed for young children, Archibald's Guide to the Mysteries of Ancient Egypt is a straightforward, narrated program with photographs, stories, maps, and games to engage kids as they journey to ancient Egypt. Sections include an explanation of how mummies were made, an exploration of the myth of Osiris, and a study of hieroglyphics.
For many children, the hieroglyphics activity will be the incentive that motivates them to learn more about the times. In this component, early reading skills are reinforced as kids study hieroglyphic picture symbols, learn their sounds, and practice pronouncing the same sounds in familiar English words. There's also a special word processor for writing hieroglyphic inscriptions using the symbols, as well as a feature that makes it fun and easy to stamp, print, and save coded messages.
The myth of Osiris is presented as an interactive storybook, in which youngsters hear text read aloud, click on page-turning icons and hotspots, and try to uncover the 14 hidden pieces of the magical mask of Ra.
Although Archibald's Guide includes informative content, the vocabulary level and method of presentation at times may seem too advanced for the target audience. …