CD-ROM Helps Students Navigate Real-Life Dilemmas

Real world middle-school dilemmas are dramatized in The Basement Bums Adventures in Life Skills, an educational CD-ROM from Little Planet Learning. Developed with assistance from the San Francisco Unified School District and IBM, the program gives middle school teachers a tool to help students talk and think about the issues and decisions they face.

The software features a cast of four ethnically diverse high school students who transform into superher'es when they face difficult situations. As students progress through the program, they discuss their strategies for tackling the proposed problems with their classmates and teachers. The software combines the latest in learning developments with an entertaining storytelling approach. Students can readily identify with the anchor story’s heroic central figures, who suggest that all of us have the capacity to accomplish extraordinary feats given the proper tools and training.

To engage media-savvy students, Little Planet Learning enlisted some of Hollywood’s experts in sound design, script writing and cartoon creation. Entertaining storytelling and a comic-strip interface encourage students to participate in discussions surrounding issues that they wouldn’t otherwise be willing to talk about with teachers. After viewing the anchor story — a colorful movie in which the teens grapple with a specific issue — students review key information by completing a multiple-choice quiz. As the story progresses, key concepts are discussed, with the final scene offering a solution to the situation. Students then personalize the skill-building process through reflective, essay-type writing of their feelings and assessment of the lesson. This allows teachers to better understand what each student takes away from the story. Little Planet Learning, Nashville, TN, (888) 974-2248,

This article originally appeared in the 03/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.