The Magic School Bus Explores the World of Animals
##AUTHORSPLIT##<--->The Magic School Bus Animals CD-ROM uses the Auto-Start function and features sharp multimedia opening credits that impressed me and my 10- and 12-year-old sons. I was disappointed in the documentation; the brightly decorated box only yields the CD-jewel case and a somewhat hard to read CD-booklet.
Students begin by signing in to Ms. Frizzles class, but the limit of 16 characters will aggravate the older children who wish to use their full names. After signing in, the student is presented with Ms. Frizzles classroom, a point-and-click living books style environment. If the student d'esnt catch on to the red arrow needed to view the other side of the classroom, Ms. Frizzle and the Magic School Bus might never appear. Eight notebooks filled with facts about fish, birds, snakes, and other animals pop open off the shelf when clicked. They make a very nice presentation, but the resolution is surprisingly low. My wife, a kindergarten teacher, found the background music in the classroom to be annoying.
The program improves greatly once we find our way onto the bus. The bus can be driven to seven different animal habitats, where games, puzzles, and examinations teach about animals in fun ways. The ultimate goal of traveling is to return four misplaced animals to their proper habitats. Compared to the games and puzzles, this was actually the most challenging aspect of the program. Each of the games and puzzles can be accessed several ways: through the classroom, through the equipment in the back of the bus, or by clicking on bones, art rocks, and game rocks in each of the habitats. The games all have a slider to change the game from easy to hard.
The World of Animals presents a great deal of information about the creatures and habitats that form the seven areas that the Magic School Bus can visit. Some younger students will thus find the narratives overwhelming. I also felt that the point-and-click required too much precision. The CD-booklet did not make clear how many children could sign into the classroom and save their games, but only one child may play the program at a time. The games and puzzles depend heavily on mouse movement. This and the one child limit will definitely keep this from being any sort of whole class activity.
Only children at the upper range of the 6-10 age bracket suggested by the game box will enjoy playing The World of Animals. The almost entirely vocal presentation makes it unsuitable for research. Younger children will find most of the program too challenging unless guided along by an adult, and the program is unsuitable for classroom activities involving more than two or three children. There are better programs in this genre for most age brackets and uses.
This article originally appeared in the 04/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.