Best (Educational) Software (for Children: A Field Trip to the Rainforest Deluxe; the Jolly Postman's Party; Microsoft Bookshelf '98; Thinkin' Thinks Sky Island Mysteries; World Book 1998)
Troutner, Joanne, Teacher Librarian
The Jolly postman's party is based on the books by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. The multimedia options include creating a picture of yourself and entering the party room. Here the user has six options ranging from playing a balloon shooting game to creating a birthday card to send. Other choices include a memory building game where the youngster must decide what objects have been moved when the lights are off, the pat-a-cake option which provides practice in simple addition and following directions, and a make-and-do program where the user creates party invitations and other creative pictures. A web site includes information related to the Jolly Postman books. The program options include some primary level skills for youngsters in K-2; however, educators will find that making this edutainment program a worthwhile instructional experience will take some additional work and crafting of assignments.
Edmark provides another superb example of instructional software in Thinkin' things Sky Island mysteries. In order to save the Sky Island Festival, users need to solve all 14 mysteries while practicing logic, communication and information skills. Students begin at Clue Central for introductory information. They then move to one of three other activities to gather clues to solve the mystery. Stadium Isle provides practice in predicting sequences and analysis as Fripples are organized into a number of stadium shows. Airshow Isle has the youngsters set up a flight log to perform a scripted air show while prioritizing as well as analyzing and synthesizing information. Rebus Isle builds phonics and interpreting skills as students solve a wide variety of rebus puzzles. An option also exists to have students create their own rebus puzzles to use for challenging fellow students. Once several clues are gathered from the activities, the student returns to Clue Central to solve the mystery. Each activity has an explore option, a Q & A section and a difficulty level. Student progress is saved so youngsters can complete all 14 mysteries in a series of sessions. Students are intrigued with this program and gain valuable information skills while solving a variety of mysteries.
Just in case you missed Microsoft bookshelf '98, here is another look at this useful reference tool. Bookshelf users are familiar with the eight references included in past CDs: The American heritage dictionary, Encarta world atlas, Roget's thesaurus, World almanac, Columbia dictionary of quotes, People's chronology, and the National five-digit ZIP code and post office directory. This version also includes the Encarta 98 desk encyclopedia and the Bookshelf computer and Internet dictionary 98. Regular users will also find the QuickShelf integration has been improved and is now available by clicking on the Bookshelf icon on the tool bar. The Internet options have also been greatly improved. A premier web search done via Infoseek provides access to over 400,000 pre-screened web links. In addition, the Computer and Internet dictionary contains 7,000 definitions to make the world of technology even more understandable. Educators will appreciate the options for copying selected materials directly into Microsoft Word or PowerPoint. Information copied into Word is automatically footnoted. A parental control feature allows for the automatic filtering of words labeled by the American Heritage Dictionary's Usage Panel as either vulgar, obscene or offensive. Any articles containing such words are omitted from the article list and do not appear to the user. These words are filtered automatically and no options are provided for choosing what words to filter. The wide range of features available and the easy integration into other tool software make Microsoft bookshelf a good reference tool for middle and high school students.
Another reference tool you will want to preview is the World book 1998 multimedia encyclopedia-deluxe edition. A set of three homework tools have been added this year. …