Focus on Reference


Samuel Johnson once wrote, 'Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information on it.' In our era of expanding technology, information is more valuable and more accessible than ever. With so much knowledge available, the emphasis has definitely shifted toward knowing where to 'find information on it.' In that spirit, this month's Software Focus-On will take a look at reference software.

ABC-CLIO Interactive continues its steady stream of comprehensive reference titles with two very interesting and enlightening perspectives on American history. American Social Issues and The Women's Movement in the United States both take a thematic approach to historical reference, adding perspective to historical events, figures and movements. Each contains a wealth of articles, source documents, tables and photos, as well as numerous audio and video clips.

American Social Issues focuses on the important social events, figures, and issues that have shaped this century and continue to shape the present and future. The content is organized into eight thematic strands: crime, discrimination, education, environment, family, labor, pacifism and sexuality.

Similarly, The Women's Movement in the United States CD-ROM title is broken into eight research strands: domesticity, education, feminism, the military, politics, popular culture, social issues and the workplace. It chronicles the major milestones in women's history in the U.S. from colonial times to present.

Grolier Interactive has released an iMac version of its 1999 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia Deluxe 2CD Edition. This special edition takes advantage of the specific features of the iMac system, including full screen, full motion MPEG video playback and high quality stereo sound not previously standard on Macintosh computers.

Also from Grolier is the New Book of Knowledge Online (NBK). Designed for students in grades three and up, NBK's clear language and colorful illustrations make it a useful and accessible research tool for younger students. It includes a new feature created just for online users, NBK News. Stories based on current events, spanning from social studies, animals and nature, science and technology and more, are posted weekly. Each weekly headline is accompanied by a lesson plan outlining appropriate classroom activities and critical thinking exercises for students.

Providing an extraordinarily complete world reference set, The Learning Company has released The Complete National Geographic: 109 Years of National Geographic Magazine on CD-ROM and DVD-ROM. As the title implies, this set includes every page, article, page map and magazine cover from every issue of National Geographic magazine from 1888 through 1997. The CD-ROM version fills 31 discs while the DVD version fits onto just four discs.

Of course, looking through nearly 11 decades of material could be a bit daunting. Thankfully the product is equipped with a powerful search engine that can find specific articles, topics and images within the more than 190,000 printed pages, 180,000 images and 9,300 articles available. The school edition of The Complete National Geographic adds A World of Learning: The Complete National Geographic Curriculum Supplement.

With its incredible storage capacity, DVD-ROM is definitely the future of reference software. Following are a couple DVD reference titles that we found to make good use of the new technology.

Probably the best use of DVD-ROM's potential that we've come across so far is Microsoft's Encarta 98 DVD-ROM Reference Suite. The content and multimedia of five CD-ROMS is housed on one DVD, making it a very convenient and comprehensive resource. Included in the suite are Encarta 98 Encyclopedia Deluxe, Encarta Virtual Globe and Bookshelf 98.

Encarta 98 Encyclopedia Deluxe offers up a dizzying amount of information in a seamless interface. Numerous media features add zest to the over 32,000 articles. A Media Gallery includes lots of photos as well as numerous video and audio clips. A series of awesome Virtual Tours takes learners to a variety of places, ranging from Mayan ruins to San Francisco Chinatown. Encarta also includes a Research Organizer and numerous online features.

Also in the suite, Encarta Virtual Globe lets you navigate a 3-D model of the Earth. Many different kinds of maps are available, including physical, political, statistical, satellite and natural. A great quiz game called Name that Place tests geography knowledge on four different skill levels. Finally, Bookshelf 98 is a reference collection that comprises 10 desk reference works including a dictionary, thesaurus, quotations, atlas, almanac, Internet guide and more. Easily searchable, it has a wealth of text articles, quotes, video, audio and more. Overall, this reference suite is an excellent start to any school's DVD-ROM collection.

Eyewitness World Atlas DVD-ROM Deluxe Edition from DK Interactive Learning gives a unique view of the world by using 3-D real-time graphics to explore and fly around the world. The global flight simulator provides topographically accurate views and gives the user controls to fly around the globe.

Detailed maps and demographic information is available for each country. A search allows students to look up a particular country, where you can then link over to information about that country's history, government, economy, population and much more. It is possible to tailor chart presentation, compare and contrast data from any two countries, and export data into personal applications.

Links to a special World Atlas Web site allow access to information directly from countries around the globe. Overall, this title is a very good resource. Its interface is a bit awkward at times, but it d'es take a very unique approach to world geography.

-Jim Schneider

[email protected]



Contact Information

American Social Issues
The Women's Movement in the United States
ABC CLIO Interactive
Santa Barbara, CA
(800) 368-6868

1999 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia Deluxe 2CD Edition for iMac
New Book of Knowledge Online
Grolier Interactive
Danbury, CT
(203) 797-3530

The Complete National Geographic: 109 Years of National Geographic Magazine
The Learning Company
Novato, CA
(415) 382-4400

Encarta 98 DVD-ROM Reference Suite
Microsoft Corporation
Redmond, WA

Eyewitness World Atlas DVD-ROM Deluxe Edition
DK Interactive Learning
New York, NY
(888) 342-5357

This article originally appeared in the 08/01/1999 issue of THE Journal.