CM July 5, 1996. Vol II, Number 38

Table of Contents

Summer Time

YOU'LL NOTICE (I hope) that this issue of CM is quite small. That's because it's summer, it's really hot, and CM staff have less time. And we assume a lot of our readers (if they're not on vacation are enjoying/suffering from the same problems.)

Anyway, we'll still be here with at least a couple of reviews every week, but the full-size issues will be on vacation until August. So if you're still out there, consider whether you shouldn't be taking a holiday too.

And if you are on vacation, please don't write and tell me about it . . .

But for anything else, send mail to the address beneath my name.

-- Duncan Thornton

Book Reviews

INTBodyWorks 5.0:
Discover the World Beneath Your Skin.
SoftKey International Inc.
Review by Harriet Zaidman.
Grades 5 - 8 / Ages 10 - 14.

CDNEnglish Express:
Everything you need to improve your English.
Writers/Editors: Judy Derksen, Susan Main, Esther Wang.
Art by Tongjun Zhao.
Review by Thomas Chambers.
Grades 7 - 11 / Ages 12 - 16.

screenshot BodyWorks 5.0:
     Discover the World Beneath Your Skin.

Cambridge, Massachussetts, 1995: SoftKey International Inc. Mac/Windows CD ROM, $49.95 U.S.

Grades 5 - 8 / Ages 10 - 14.
Review by Harriet Zaidman.


screenshotEDUCATIONAL CD-ROMs are considered essential to modern school libraries, and companies are issuing CD ROMs on every topic. BodyWorks is, as the name describes, an elaboration of how the body works. It is well organized, user-friendly, and informative for upper elementary and junior high students.

     The program analyzes all of the body systems of the body, and their component parts. A menu of icons at the top of each screen takes the user quickly to a picture and information. Above the information is a list of component parts (for example, femur or fingernail). A click gets an arrow pointing to the appropriate spot on the organ. A double click brings up further information about the part. The information section has highlighted words that give the user the pronunciation with one click, more information with two.

     The picture of the organ may include a video. The videos have useful pictures and include appropriate data, such as basic health statistics and disease prevention tips. Another icon takes you to see "Dr. Bodyworks," who appears as an animated figure offering a lecture on the topic the user selects from a menu. The body part being discussed is animated and moves to show all angles.

screenshot     The drawings and photos are clear and labelled well. The movement of the different body parts is well illustrated and the information sections are useful and plainly written. The program responds quickly to the clicking of the mouse. When Dr. Bodyworks lectures, however, the user gets too much information to absorb unless they are already knowledgeable about the topic. A slight glitch in the program occurs in the Dr. Bodyworks section: occasionally the good doctor's speech is interrupted for brief moments.

     This CD ROM would be a useful research tool for school libraries.


Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg.

image English Express:
     Everything you need to improve your English.

Writers/Editors: Judy Derksen, Susan Main, Esther Wang.
Art by Tongjun Zhao.
Richmond, B.C.: ACT Laboratory, 1995. Windows CD-ROM & Manual, $199.00

Grades 7 - 11 / Ages 12 - 16.
Review by Thomas F. Chambers.


screenshotYOU CAN USE ENGLISH EXPRESS as an "Explorer" or "Student." If you log on as a student, your progress is monitored and your work is saved. No record is kept for explorers.

     English Express uses information about Canada to encourage writing and improvement of language skills. The information comes from five categories: Canadian History; Culture; Social Sciences; Great Canadians; and Science and Nature. Each category has sub-headings. For example, Early Canada is a sub-heading of Canadian History. From Early Canada users may choose from a further menu which includes "Canada's First Peoples" and "Early Explorers."

screenshot      Each topic has three levels of difficulty and three levels of tests and assignments. Illustrations from archives and other historical sources accompany the brief text, and each statement is read aloud.

     The choice of topics is highly subjective. Under Heroes and Heroines, for example (a sub-heading of the Great Canadians category), users can select from Sir Frederick Banting, Norman Bethune, Roberta Bondar, Terry Fox, and Tecumseh. Of course, there are many other worthies from Canada's past who might have been included, such as Pierre Radisson.

     Similar comments could be made about the Human Body sub-heading in the Science and Nature category. Topics included are The Circulatory System and Heart; The Respiratory System and Smoking; Eating Disorders; and The Discovery of the Cystic Fibrosis Gene. While these are all important, sections on cancer or AIDS would have been at least as important.

screenshot      Similarly, in Canada After 1945 (in History), the four sub-headings are Lester Pearson, The October Crisis, Pierre Trudeau, and the Oka Crisis. Since these topics are treated equally, in students' eyes they will have equal importance; in reality some are much more important than others. It's also strange that no mention is made of Brian Mulroney and his attempts to change the constitution or his government's passing the Free Trade Agreement. Oka will be a footnote in Canadian History; the Free Trade Agreement has fundamentally altered the way Canadian businesses do business.

     There are several errors of fact, some trivial, others more serious. They are all annoying and should have been prevented, as they seriously weaken the program's value as a teaching aid. For example, Farley Mowat is primarily a writer of non-fiction, not a novelist. Tecumseh is credited with uniting the natives of North America, a feat he failed to accomplish. And Lord Durham is said to have recommended the union of Upper and Lower Canada and the establishment of responsible government, which is true -- but he also recommended the cultural assimilation of French Canadians because he thought they had no culture or history of their own. While Durham's ideas may be politically incorrect in the 1990s, not mentioning it in a summary of his report is misleading.

screenshot      Or again, we are told that "junk food is food that has no nutrients." This is not true. It contains carbohydrates and fat, both of which the body needs. What the authors should have said is that junk food is less nutritious than fresh fruit, vegetables, whole-grain cereals, and so on, and that a diet of only junk food can be very unhealthy.

     But the questions and writing assignments at all three levels are challenging and fun. They require a lot of thought and encourage creativity. Any student who takes the time to use the program as it is intended will acquire a greater grasp of English grammar and spelling and become a better writer.


Recommended with serious reservations. Any teaching aid that contains errors must be used with caution. There is a risk that fiction will become fact in the minds of the users unless the mistakes are pointed out in advance. Will all teachers spot the errors? Will they take the time to point them out?

Thomas F. Chambers is Professor at Canadore College of Applied Arts and Technology, North Bay Ontario.

Duncan Thornton
Executive Assistant
Peter Tittenberger

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ISSN 1201-9364