General Interest software/Web Sites (Encarta Reference Suite 2000; Month by Month for HyperStudio; Online Reader CD-ROM and Web Editions; the Year 2000 Grolier Multimedia Encylopedia, School Edition)
Marge Congress, and others, Multimedia Schools
Encarta Reference Suite 2000
Company: Microsoft Corporation, One Microsoft Way, Redmond, WA 98052; Phone: 425/882-8080; Fax: 425/93-MS-FAX; Web: http://www.microsoft.com/.
Price: $100--Windows only, consumer price with a $35 mail-in rebate available through August 31, 2000; $88--education price. Site licenses are priced in groups of 10, $32.45 for each. Discs and licenses should be purchased from a reseller, not from Microsoft.
Audience: Middle school, high school.
Format: CD-ROM: text, graphics, animation.
System Requirements: Pentium 90, Windows (95, 98, or NT 4.0), 24 MB RAM (32 MB for NT), 133 MB hard disk space, 4x CD-ROM drive, Super VGA monitor, local bus video with 1 MB memory, mouse, and 16-bit sound card with speakers. For updates and Web links: modem, access to the Internet and 2 MB hard disk space for monthly updates.
Description: The Encarta Reference Suite 2000 is a four CD-ROM set that includes Encarta's Deluxe Encyclopedia, Interactive World Atlas, and World English Dictionary (with Roget's Thesaurus, Encarta Book of Quotations, Computer Dictionary, Manual of Style, and Almanac).
The Encarta Deluxe Encyclopedia provides easy-to-read articles with many features on every page. A search for "giant panda" turned up a short article, a picture with sound, seven related articles, two multimedia offerings, two Web links, and four Web searches.
When students in our Psychology class were assigned a report on "ethology" (the scientific study of the behavior patterns of animals), we could not find much on the subject in any source. When I looked up the subject in Encarta, I found many sections of encyclopedia articles and journal articles and other primary sources, as well as articles about two ethologists.
The articles can be printed as text only, but the printing process takes a long time. No searches can be performed while printing is in progress.
The Explorer features narrows searches from large topic areas such as Science, Humanities, History, Geography, and Social Science to more specific areas. Under Science, for example, a listing appears for space flight that narrows down to information on the space shuttle. For the shuttle, we found a long article with six sections, a 360-degree visual tour, 20 pictures/ videos, and a sidebar with primary source articles.
The Millennium section includes some extremely important scholarly articles on topics such as the legacy of Alexander the Great, agriculture and power in ancient Mesoamerica, Tang civilizations and Chinese dynasties, and legacies of World War II.
The Dynamic Timeline lists events of each century. Links from the timeline bring up related articles. Timeline information can be filtered to examine the evolution of specific subjects throughout history. In addition, topics can be compared--such as art in Europe and America.
The world maps are detailed and interactive. The Virtual Tours are interesting and allow students to "walk" through places such as Pompeii or to visit cities, natural wonders, and landmarks, including the White House or Westminster Abbey.
The Web pathways are good, but uneven in quality.
The Web Links, while limited in number, are very appropriate. I looked up F. Scott Fitzgerald and was sent to the Centenary home page, which is fantastic. When I looked up Puerto Rico, the link sent me to many excellent sites, including an Annenberg site that contains information on Puerto Rico's history, culture, art, and more. A weather search sent me to cities of the U.S. and all kinds of statistical information on city weather and another wonderful Annenberg site.
Web Searches, however, are often very general. Under the topic "segregation in the U.S.," the Web search choices were somewhat unwieldy, with results such as "U.S. history." Clicking on that selection resulted in hits that had little to do with segregation and required much searching to find useful information. …