Magazine article Technology & Learning

Four Multimedia Atlases

Magazine article Technology & Learning

Four Multimedia Atlases

Article excerpt

These four lively atlas programs take your students far beyond the basic geographic facts to let them see other cultures up close, compare and interpret data, view our planet from a range of perspectives, and more.

What dreamer hasn't paged through a printed atlas, imagining faraway places? This particular type of reference has always provided a wonderful, motivating, "real life" starting point for further research about the countries, people, cultures and natural wonders of our world. Today's multimedia atlases not only inspire the same sense of curiosity as their printed predecessors, but also offer a broad range of features and tools that let users instantly learn more via fingertip access to encyclopedia-like statistics, diverse maps and views of the globe, and music, photos and videos that attach a tangible, human face to the unknown. In this roundup we take a look at four multimedia atlases -- two newer versions of established product lines, and two single-product releases -- that offer your students impressive collections of interesting data, powerful navigating and organizational features, and enlivening multimedia.

3D Atlas (Creative Wonders)

Perhaps the most visually stunning program in this roundup, 3D Atlas '97 is packed throughout with fabulous images -- from the main screen with its beautifully colored Earth floating in the blackness of space to the carefully selected animated videos. The program includes less text. and briefer, more-to-the-point articles than the other offerings here, but does an excellent job of using detailed graphics, and compelling video to deliver information of all kinds.

As with the other offerings here, 3D Atlas covers geography, geology, climate, environmental issues and diverse cultures. Thousands of high resolution satellite images offer detailed topographical maps. Users can easily pick out a specific mountain from a chain -- a certain lake from a group of lakes, or an island in the middle of a river.

Quick and easy data displays will appeal especially to visual learners and browsers. Clicking on a city immediately brings up its latitude and longitude, and a special "as the crow flies" measuring tool will show the distance between any two points when users drag the mouse from one place to another.

Also very effective are the narrated video segments which establish a context for the wealth of information included on the CD. Nine biome videos explore the world's environments, and seven movie stories look at topics such as ozone depletion, habitat destruction, and pollution. Students can also view some fascinating processes via time lapse photography. In one, they can watch the plume form over a volcano; in another, they explore the effect of time on a climate.

Among the new features offered in 3D Atlas '98 (released too late for review here) are detailed maps of more than 200 cities, full text search capabilities, twice as much copy and paste text, and the ability to navigate the globe at nine levels of detail. Both '97 and '98 editions are available with well-done printed teacher's guides.

Cartopedia, The Ultimate World Reference Atlas

(DK Multimedia)

With a good deal more text and statistical information than the other entries we look at here, Cartopedia qualifies as much more than just an Atlas -- it's an encyclopedia of information and a current events resource. Included are a vast number of facts, summaries of political problems, and graphs and charts on a multitude of universal topics, such as literacy and standard of living.

The major area of the program is the Political World, which features more than 600 zoomable computer-generated maps, and 500 photographs and video sequences. Users can check out specific countries by zooming in to the level of a road map or out far enough to see a country's relationship to its neighbors. Easy access icons also let them quickly see just major highways, or statistical information. …

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