African-American History: Heroism, Struggle and Hope Columbus and the Age of Discovery Cradles of Civilization The Greek and Roman World
Clifford T. Bennett, J. Richelle Joe, and Ken Watson
This series is extremely diverse in content. Each package is, however, similar in design and format. African-American History: Heroism, Struggle and Hope examines 300 years of harsh experiences and the heroic contributions of slaves and their descendants. Columbus and the Age of Discovery offers an in-depth look at the life of the navigator and his journey. Cradles of Civilization gives a panoramic foray into antiquity and early societal developments. The Greek and Roman World is an interdisciplinary journey into architecture, government and laws, mathematics, and military development.
Each CD in this series is divided into three or four major presentations or segments.
African-American History: Heroism, Struggle and Hope (middle/high school level)
> The Slave Trade
> Slavery and Plantation Life
> Rebels and Abolitionists
Columbus and the Age of Discovery (upper elementary/middle school level)
> The World Before Columbus
> Columbus Finds a New World
> Columbus Changes the World
Cradles of Civilization (grades 4-8)
> Western Europe in the Old Stone Age
> Western Europe in the New Stone Age
> The Gift of the Nile
> Fertile Crescent
The Greek and Roman World (middle/high school level)
> The Aegean Greeks
> The Mediterranean Greeks
> The Italian Romans
> The Imperial Romans
Quality of Content
In general, the content of the four software packages is accurate, and factual information has been well researched. For example, in African American History: Heroism, Struggle and Hope, each presentation opens with an insightful quotation to prepare students to reflect critically upon the content. The supplementary components (e.g. glossaries and indices) of this series are available through appropriate links in the textual narrative; however, within the presentations the corresponding links are not always connected to the subject area. This flaw forces the user to scroll down an alphabetized list to locate the desired term. Another frustrating omission is the absence of visual references for geographical and encyclopedia references. Notwithstanding these shortcomings, the quality of the content of the software packages is factually accurate.
General Instructional Quality
These packages move the user friendly teacher manuals of past decades to a CD-ROM format. Each CD contains clearly organized content, visuals with captions, an encyclopedia and glossary of terms, a question and answer component and a related quiz for each section. The CDs can be used effectively in whole-class or small-group lessons, and teachers can easily access the content and time frame for each topic via a file index. Teachers comfortable with conventional instructional approaches will find these packages useful. On the other hand, teachers desiring to take advantage of the emerging capabilities of technology in teaching and learning will be disappointed. The presentations in these packages are nothing more than filmstrips transferred to a CD. There are some advantages to this over traditional filmstrips, such as easily being able to stop at certain intervals for discussion and reflection. The packages, however, lack an interactive, multimedia design. For example, content is still presented in a linear fashion as in a textbook, with cartoon-like pictures. The dynamic visual possibilities of the technology are clearly absent. Users are not given an opportunity to participate in the learning process except via multiple choice questions at the end of each section. In addition to only fostering rote memorization, the links with the Question and Answer section may confuse students because incorrect answer choices are often highlighted.
General Technical Quality
There are several technical problems associated with the series. At times the text captions do not correspond with the audio portion of the program, so students may find it difficult to follow the content. An explanation of the navigational tools is absent, setting the stage for possible student and teacher frustration. Careful reading of the Introduction to Power CD (similar to a Help or Read Me file) does provide a general and useful overview of the series. Unfortunately, the interactive, multimedia potential of CD-ROM technology is not well exploited in these packages.
Social Studies Evaluation
The content presented in this series is extremely diverse. Cradles of Civilization is designed for grades 4-8 and examines the geography of early people, political and technical adaptations to the environment, and intellectual achievements of the past. Columbus and the Age of Discovery is designed for upper elementary and middle school students. The information on this CD provides content to show that Columbus was not the first explorer to say the world was round and examines other explorers who made major contributions to the European discovery and development of the Americas. African-American History: Heroism, Struggle and Hope is designed for secondary students. It starts with the transportation of slaves to Portugal in the l400s and progresses to the Civil Rights period of the l960s and beyond. The Greek and Roman World is also designed for secondary students and highlights ways in which antiquity has affected the development of Western civilization.
Social Studies Knowledge
Students can acquire a wide array of factual information from this series. This factual information may be used to promote an understanding of such subjects as the impact of ancient civilizations on traditional Western cultural thinking (Cradles of Civilization), the linkage between human decisions and the consequences of these decisions that have shaped human experiences (Columbus and the Age of Discovery), key democratic ideals that are pivotal to Western values, traditions, and cognition (The Greek and Roman World), and the historical impact that decisions of those in power have had on group experiences, societal values, and cultural traditions (African-American History: Heroism, Struggle and Hope). While information in this series has the potential to help encourage students to acquire higher level knowledge, teachers need to be aware that instructional supervision and guidance will be required if such knowledge is to be attained.
Social Studies Skills
Numerous social studies skills may be fostered via this series. Intellectual skills may be developed via a comparative analysis of cultures (Cradles of Civilization, The Greek and Roman Worlds) or via an examination of how society has used technology to modify the physical environment and the impact of such inventions and alterations. Analytical skills may be developed via an evaluation of how cultural frames of reference influence values, beliefs, choices and traditions (Columbus and the Age of Discovery, African-American History). Other skills may also be developed using the intricate details which explain the context of Columbuss decisions as students try to understand such decisions from the navigators perspective (Columbus and the Age of Discovery). Decision-making skills may be fostered by considering how the world would have been different had people made alternative decisions and by considering what consequences such alternative decisions may have had on their lives (Columbus and the Age of Discovery, African-American History). Decision-making skills can also be addressed while studying the past, present, and possible future of human relationships in the United States (African-American History).
Social Studies Values
The concepts of individual liberty and individual rights are thoroughly discussed in each of the CD packages. The rights to dissent, cultural variety and cultural assimilation are further underscored in African-American History: Heroism, Struggle and Hope and The Greek and Roman World. In The Greek and Roman World, the foundational American political and cultural concepts of individual liberty, individual rights, freedom of speech, and the right to dissent are highlighted. In African-American History: Heroism, Struggle and Hope the place of democratic values (dignity, liberty, equality, justice, and rule of law) may be examined as they relate to all people, and the impact that political events have on social and cultural decisions and traditions may be considered. Columbus and the Age of Discovery may be used to develop an avenue for integrating people, events, and historical situations to make connections in time and across cultures. This CD provides an excellent opportunity to explore the present-day multiculturalism of our country. Through Cradles of Civilization students may develop a respect and understanding of those who have come before them and helped shape the world as they know it today. All of these substantive value concepts are important to developing a core knowledge base for encouraging an active and informed citizenry.
The Society for Visual Education (SVE) software series offers good content. Teachers wishing to address the ten thematic standards advocated by NCSS will find it possible to do so within each CD. The series successfully conforms to conventional instructional approaches and curriculum development techniques. A drawback, however, is that the technologys capacity to expand, enrich, and enhance social studies teaching and learning is underutilized.
If purchasing decisions are about to be made, we encourage that the series be looked at with a critical eye. This technology application will put on a good show for parents and administrators, but will do little to move the teaching and learning process beyond what it is in the absence of technology.
Clifford T. Bennett is an associate professor and coordinator of the social studies education program area at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville.
J. Richelle Joe is a fifth-year student in the BA/MT degree program at the University of Virginia.
Ken Watson is a doctoral degree student in social studies education at the University of Virginia.
(5=excellent, 4=very good, 3=good, 2=fair, 1=poor)
General quality of content 3.0
General Instructional Quality 2.0
General Technical Quality 1.5
Social Studies Knowledge 3.5
Social Studies Skills 3.5
Average Rating 2.8
Society for Visual Education
6677 North Northwest Highway
Chicago, Illinois 60631
The four software packages are available for Macintosh and Windows-based computers. Macintosh requirements include 68030 processor or better, 8 MB RAM, System 7.0 or later, and 256-color display or better.
Windows requirements include Windows 386/33 MHz processor or better, 8 MB RAM, Windows 3.1 or later, 16-color VGA monitor with 640x480 resolution (SVGA with 256 colors recommended).
The software packages are sold in single units or lab packs:
African-American History: Heroism, Struggle and Hope ($60, $180)
Columbus and the Age of Discovery ($75, $225)
The Cradle of Civilization ($60, $180)
The Greek and Roman World ($70, $210)
©1999 National Council for the Social Studies. All rights reserved.