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. Volume VIII Number 3 . . . . October 5, 2001
Despite intensive anti-smoking campaigns, adolescents continue to light up. Some are "social smokers," some (especially young women) smoke to control their appetite, and some smoke simply because schools, parents, and other authorities prohibit it. Whatever the motivation, smoking is a problem, and that is the message of the Up in Smoke CD-ROM, featuring ten Quick-Time movies of mime, rhyme, juggling, rap, and fast-paced motion art. Paul Richmond and Jody Scalise performers, artists, and educators -- focus on smoking prevention, self-esteem issues, and the need for adolescents to make intelligent and health-affirming choices. Although they are probably contemporaries of their audiences' parents, they don't come off as a couple of "middle-aged white guys" (their own description): their art makes them and their message approachable, non-judgmental, and respectful of their teen-age audience's ability to make the right choice. They recognize that smoking is a type of substance abuse, but they also make it clear that it is unfair and wrong to condemn anyone who is struggling with it, or any other addiction.
I am certain that most teenage audiences would find their live performance totally engaging. And it's for that reason that I wonder why Richmond and Scalise chose CD-ROM, rather than videocassette, as the format to broadcast their message. The CD is well-crafted: the Quick Time program used to view the movies is available on the CD (no need to download it), and the Main Screen allows the viewer to select any one of the ten presentations with a click of the mouse. The movie then plays in the middle of the computer screen, with computer-generated, "virtual theatre seats" filling the foreground. And this is why I have problems with their choice of the CD format: I viewed the movies on a 17" monitor, and the action filled a comparatively small (approximately 5 x 4 inch square) portion of the screen. Wonderful performers that these two are, I found that the mini-movie format lessened the impact of the show and of their message. Putting the material on CD-ROM in order that students might borrow the item from a school library to view on a home computer, or use it in a computer lab context is an innovative and well-intentioned concept. In practical terms, however, I think that both home and classroom use are more likely with videocassette format. As for using the CD in a whole classroom context, you would need access to a video-presenter to project the computer images onto a screen.
Up in Smoke is cool, fast-paced, and its message is laudable. It's hard to find health curriculum resources which appeal to senior high school students, and this one truly is a "show for all ages." Should you purchase the Up in Smoke CD for your school's electronic resource collection? It's very reasonably priced, and if your school has ready access to a video-presenter, then I'd say, go ahead. Preview before purchase to determine its curricular fit; classroom teachers should also view it to determine how they will integrate it into health education. However, if Richmond and Scalise are planning a revised version, I suggest that they consider producing a videocassette version, as well as the CD.
Recommended with Reservations.
Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.
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