Social Education 58(1), 1994, pp. 48-50
1994 National Council for the Social Studies
Communism and the Cold War
Producer: ABC News Interactiveª in conjunction with the Florida Department of Education
Distributor: Optical Data Corporation, 30 Technology Corporation, Warren, NJ 07060; (201) 668-0022
Materials included: Videodisc (two-sided CAV), five 3.5 disks (HyperCardª 2.0 and stacks)
Availability: Apple Macintosh SE, Classic, LC, IIsi
Requirements: Pioneer LD-V2200/4200 Laserdisc player with remote control, bar code reader optional, Macintosh SE, Classic, LC or IIsi with hard drive and 2 megabytes of free space, video cable, video monitor, printer optional
Level of use: Junior/Senior High School
Support material: Tool (when used with Macintosh); Lesson Builder and Enhancement; Tutorial Documentation: Guidebook (150 pages) and Setup and Operation Manual (58 pages)
Overall effectiveness: Excellent
Is there a satisfactory way to help students today understand the significance of events that recently swept through the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe? As teachers, we are eager to discuss with students the decline of communism as a political and economic ideology, but good discussion requires historical background to make connections between the past and the present. Furthermore, the students we face each day are tuned into a visual, active world. The technology of interactive multimedia gives educators tools to help students acquire and use the historical background to form opinions and draw conclusions about these momentous events.
The interactive multimedia program Communism and the Cold War gives students the background information needed to better understand the cold war. It gives viewers a look at national leaders and major events of the era. The materials are balanced in that prominent writers and scholars of the United States and the Soviet Union lend their perspectives on the significance of events.
The visual material drawn from various sources of vintage footage dramatically portrays the effects of the cold war on the citizens of both the United States and the Soviet Union. The sequences are timely and include scenes from the failed Soviet coup of August 1991 and the student demonstrations in China's Tiananmen Square in 1989. The textual material offers a wealth of historical records so necessary for a thorough exploration of the topic. In addition, the program explores how the struggle between the two superpowers affected the rest of the world. Regional rivalries of global importance are included, and students are challenged to determine if resolution of the conflict was directed by, or in spite of, the major players of the cold war.
Description and Features
Communism and the Cold War consists of a two-sided videodisc, HyperCard software and stacks, a video guidebook, and a setup and operations manual. Each component can stand alone in the information about the cold war it provides-origins, conflict, crisis, cooperation, and change. Integrated, this program is a powerful tool for teacher presentation, student research, or discussion stimulation.
The videodisc is a collage of the sights, sounds, images, personalities, and eyewitness accounts of the cold war era. The material is presented in fact files, charts, maps, glossary terms, biographies, time lines, and film footage. The disc is organized into chapters, each with a specific focus. Ted Koppel introduces the entire program, while the flow of material is enhanced by the narration of correspondents Barrie Dunsmore and Carole Simpson. Each chapter plays for varying amounts of time (20 seconds to 3 minutes). Furthermore, by using the remote control and the codes in the guidebook, related visual material (maps, charts, fact files, biographies) can be used. A bar code reader allows the user to move through the videodisc by chapter or frame. The guidebook provides a disc directory (frame-numbered and bar-coded) for use with the controllers. As an added feature, a barcode or computer command accesses a Spanish audio track.
On side one of the videodisc, the material is divided into three topical areas: origins of the cold war, conflict and crisis, and cooperation and change. The twenty-eight chapters cover such topics as the atomic bomb, perspectives on communism and capitalism, the Berlin Wall, the Cuban missile crisis, civil defense, the new Soviet Union, and athletic and cultural competition. Side two of the disc reviews post-World War II changes, perceptions, regional conflicts, and challenge and change. The twenty-four chapters focus on the United Nations, Vietnam and Korea, Cuba and the Bay of Pigs invasion, USSR nationalism, and Tiananmen Square. As an independent component, the videodisc can also be easily combined with other teacher-developed or -directed materials.
The full power of these materials becomes evident when the HyperCard stacks are added to the video component. The stacks add a full range of textual resources that expand and explain, question and probe, stimulate and invite. These resources are the real heart and soul of the program. Background briefings, primary source documents, fact files, glossary terms, maps, time lines, and a set of discussion questions linked to the topic can be shown on the screen or printed with the Quick Print feature for distribution to students.
Exploring a specific topic of the video presentation is easy with the button navigation feature of HyperCard. Each topic screen contains a short narrative with boldface words that are linked to other information. In this way, users can quickly access glossary terms to enhance their understanding of the narrative. Three icon buttons on the lower portion of the screen allow for easy access to a verbatim script of the video portion of that topic. Using these buttons is a quick way to start the video (or see specific clips only) or to view the resources (both text and video) associated with the topic. The wide range of materials provided in the resource component offers significant support for the teacher. Teachers also can prepare personalized presentations by using the marking card feature to narrow the number of screens or windows or by printing documents for distribution. Another feature, the map section, provides a mini-atlas with short text narratives about nations mentioned in the video.
The stacks also provide quick and easy control of the videodisc. A video controller window allows for manipulation of the visual clips, segments, and frames. This option is useful because all controls for running the program can be accessed from the computer screen.
Users of this product can create their own documentary from six types of information in the HyperCard stacks and on the videodisc: video clips, custom clips, titles, notes, sounds, and pictures. The Documentary Maker allows the user to choose items from the menus and arrange them in any order. This feature is fully documented in the operations manual so that even a novice can easily create customized lessons.
The program's general instructional quality is excellent. The visual sequences are nicely matched with the supplemental materials provided on screen or in the HyperCard stacks. The topics give students useful insights into the facts and feelings of the cold war era. The people and terminology of the period are addressed in a straightforward manner, and labeling of pictures and documents is precise.
The wealth of resource materials is an important benefit of the product. The use of primary source documents in the resource component is especially powerful. For instance, a haunting account of the effects of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima is provided for students to read and reflect upon.
The program is also quite flexible. Students and teachers can integrate the program components or use them alone. The opportunity to use visual, audio, and text components also serves a wide range of learning styles.
The technical quality and documentation are very good. I note improvement in both the guidebook and the operations manual from previous work produced by the ABC News Interactive group. The setup instructions are particularly efficient. Pictures and specific directions are provided. A precise guide to the remote control and bar code reader are given, and the units on moving around the program and exploring topics and resources are clear and concise. The Documentary Maker affords the opportunity for customized presentations.
Communism and the Cold War stands as an excellent work that should be used by educators to assist learners in dealing with the changing global scene that affects us all. Furthermore, this program gives us the opportunity to reflect on the cold war era from our individual points of view. Perhaps we can learn from the mistakes and missed chances for peace that were a part of that time.
Powers of the President
Producer: ABC News InteractiveDistributor: Optical Data Corporation, 30 Technology Corporation, Warren, NJ 07060; (201) 668-0022
Materials included: Videodisc (two-sided CAV)
Price: $495.00 (if purchased alone; three-disc set, $1185.00)
Requirements: Pioneer LD-V2200/4200 LaserDisc player with remote control, bar code reader
Level of use: Junior/Senior High School
Documentation: Guidebook (152 pages)
Overall effectiveness: Good
The Powers of the President videodisc is a flash of visual and audio images that examines the powers of the president as defined by the Constitution as well as the roles of the president that have evolved over time. The disc reviews the election process, shows the chief executive performing the functions of the office, and tells the story of checks and balances that limit any one branch of government from dominating the others. Good examples (including the War Powers Act, Supreme Court nominations, advise and consent, and the Watergate scandal) are presented in a clear, detailed format, and strong focus questions are provided for student direction.
Description and Features
Powers of the President is a two-sided videodisc that is part of a three-part set, Powers of the U.S. Government, produced by ABC News Interactive as part of their Understanding Our World series.
Side one of the videodisc provides visual and audio information on: the Constitution and the presidency; presidential elections; roles of the president as chief of state, chief executive, chief legislator, chief diplomat, and commander in chief. Each topic has several subtopics that are handled in chapter format. The guidebook includes a focus or aim question, performance objectives, and questions for discussion for each topic. Chapter images range from 20 seconds to 2 minutes of viewing time.
Side two of the videodisc provides information on: the president as chief of his or her party; a comparison to the prime minister role in Great Britain; the functioning of checks and balances in examples such as Vietnam, the Supreme Court nomination process, and Watergate. As in side one material, the topics are handled in chapter form with focus questions and activities for discussion. Chapter images again are 20 seconds to 2 minutes.
An extensive list of resources is provided; the material is presented in graphic and visual frames, charts, maps, glossary terms, biographies, and documents. Also included are all 26 amendments to the Constitution, along with charts on the amending process, and portraits of historical figures including the signers of the Constitution. Visual images of documents ranging from the Magna Carta to the Federalist Papers provide excellent primary source material. Full biographies of all presidents are available, as are visual images of all vice presidents and first ladies. A glossary of more than 250 words can be easily accessed.
The resource materials are available on both sides of the videodisc by using the remote control and the codes in the guidebook. A bar code reader allows the user to move through the videodisc by chapter or frame. The guidebook provides a disc directory (frame-numbered and bar-coded) for use with these controllers. As an added feature, a bar code or computer command accesses a Spanish audio track.
Former President Jimmy Carter gives insight into the roles of the president by providing comment and analysis in various chapters throughout the disc. Other presidents are shown in ABC News footage or other archival pieces.
As an archive of historical images and sounds, Powers of the President is very good. It organizes the designated and evolving roles of the President in a logical way. With the power of laserdisc technology, educators can create their own lessons keyed to the needs of their students. Creative teachers will find the videodisc material to be very useful for that end. Currently, there are no HyperCard stacks as with other products from ABC News Interactive. Teachers using the material "as is" will find that the program serves to supplement their prepared lesson with visual and audio content. The sections dealing with checks and balances present good examples for thinking skill application. Additional lesson plans, bar codes for linked segments, enrichment questions and activities, and a cross-curriculum index are provided in the guidebook.
Powers of the President serves as a good resource on the executive branch of government, and would add to any course dealing with the topic of government or the Constitution. However, there are a number of other audiovisual programs on this topic, and the price of this one may be too high for some school districts to justify. Because technology is expensive and budgets are stretched to the limit, perhaps manufacturers could work with schools to help us get the most for our educational dollar!
Peggy Pride is a member of the social studies department at St. Louis University High School in St. Louis, Missouri.