________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 16. . . . April 11, 2003

cover Canada, Confederation to Present: An Interactive History of Canada.

Bob Hesketh and Chris Hackett.
Edmonton, AB: Chinook Multimedia [www.chinookmultimedia.com] (distributed by the
University of Alberta), 2003.
CD-ROM, $39.95.
ISBN 1-89478-500-2.

System requirements:
Processor: Windows: Pentium 166 (Pentium II recommended) MacIntosh: PowerPC Memory: 32 MB of RAM (64 MB recommended)
Hard Drive Space: (50 MB)
CD-ROM Drive: 2x
Video Resolution: 800x600
Number of Colours: 16 bit (thousands of colours)
WWW Browser for Internet Access: (optional)

Subject Heading:
Canada-History.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Alexander Gregor.

**** /4

excerpt:

Canadian women in the 1850s experienced a family life very different from today. Yet there were some continuities. At no point in time have all women experienced family life in the same way. Where they lived, their cultural background, the way family members made their living, and the particular quality of personal relationships within their family made each woman's experiences of family life different in the past. Indeed, these factors continue to differentiate family life today.
(Bettina Bradbury, Family Life)

This CD is advertised as being "a unique resource that will become the authoritative reference work on Canada's history." That prognosis can be left for history itself to determine; but there is no doubt that for the moment the CD does represent a unique and valuable teaching and research tool. At both the senior years level, and at the college and university undergraduate level, the CD could be used as an effective overview for a significant portion of survey course content (for Canadian history subsequent to Confederation) and as a starting point for more focused research projects (many of which would be able to use the supplementary resources contained on the disk articles, original documents, etc. for a significant portion of that independent inquiry).

     Instead of attempting the probably hopeless task of developing an integrated comprehensive overview as a backdrop to the myriad topics and issues involved, the authors have quite sensibly subdivided that overview task into five groupings that afford some reasonable chance of coherence: Natives; Society/Culture; Women; Politics/Economy; and Regional Diversity. (The capacities of the CD do, however, allow for integrative links among these groupings by providing a time-line that allows the reader to note events, on a bar at the bottom of the screen, that are taking place in other domains during the same time as events occurring in the narrative theme currently under scrutiny; and an interactive device that allows the reader to compare in detail events that are simultaneously taking place at a given time in two topic areas.) Each of the broad narrative areas is, in turn, broken down into more focused sub-topics. Society/Culture, for example, moves at the second stage to the areas of science & technology, religion, sports, home life, work life, social criticism, and education. In many cases, these second-level branches will, in turn, move to yet another level of focus (Education, for example, moves to such issues as social demand, university reform, native education, and higher education); and at both levels, each of the topics is further cross referenced to a grid that provides an overview, and then a sub-division into discrete time intervals, along with useful bibliographical references.

     The individual narratives, on all three levels, look quite similar to traditional printed (well illustrated) publications. Their major advantage lies in the interspersed appearance of icons taking the reader to supplementary sources: maps, graphs and tables (many of them interactive), related articles, etc. The availability of a wealth of such complementary material, which can be used either in conjunction with one of the twenty four principal narratives, or just on their own, is the obvious principal strength of this CD. The reader has access to 120 "case studies": individual articles on a wide range of topics, written by established scholars, Canadian and international. These case studies (usually providing useful bibliographical sources) can be used not only to supplement the general narrative texts, but also to provide excellent jumping-off points for individual research projects. Also useful both for spurring interest and as primary sources for individual research projects is a wide range of original documents (the texts of major commission reports, as one example), a wealth of more than 1000 images, including archival photographs and political cartoons, panoramic photographs, and some twenty minutes of sound and film clips of major events (including what are termed "presentations," which offer groupings, usually five, of photographs around a range of thematic areas). To assist the students in personal use of this resource, for study or research, a number of tools are offered: Internet links, via an associated website; bookmarks; a notebook; a device for monitoring individual progress; and the capacity to build personal "presentations."

     As noted, the CD does indeed provide a rich resource for teaching and research, and it will prove to be an engaging vehicle for personal exploration on the part of someone interested in the history of the period as a whole, or any of its component parts. What it may not provide, however, is intrinsic motivation for such exploration on the part of someone not so disposed: the "average" student. It will, therefore, still require the intervention of a skilled teacher to ensure its effective use by the uninitiated. Once the spark is ignited, though, the CD's resources and interactive capacities can be used to good effect in the critical tasks of learning to ask the right kind of questions and to ferret out the right kind of answers. Clearly, the CD provides a scope of information, materials and tools beyond what any one educator could hope to assemble and provide. Teachers both at secondary and post-secondary levels will welcome this valuable and major addition to their repertoire of resources.

Highly Recommended.

Formerly a professor in the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba Alexander Gregor remains a history buff.

 

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364

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