CM February 23,
1996. Vol. II, Number 19

image Earth Explorer.

Apple Home Learning.
Claris Canada, 1995. CD-ROM, $49.00.

Grades 5 - 8 / Ages 10 - 13.
Review by Harriet Zaidman.


CD-ROMs are the wave of the future, we're told, and information is being formatted on compact disk at a fantastic rate. It's being presented in user-friendly formats, with several different ways of finding information, links back and forth, titbits of explanations, pictures and captions, quizzes and games, just to mention a few. Some of these CD's are for school use, and some are informational, but are more suited for recreational (home) use.


Earth Explorer is a highly informative and interactive CD-ROM published by Apple, respected for quality educational software. A 256-colour monitor is necessary. For a Mac you'll also need at least five megs of RAM; for Windows, a 486 system or better is recommended (it will run more slowly on a 386) and at least four megs of RAM (eight is recommended).

The CD explores the environment, with articles, "hot topics," maps, data, games and quizzes. Each topic leads to further subtopics. The buttons that lead into the information are described as well as illustratedwith appealing drawings that relate to the topic of the environment and are age-appropriate.

The user chooses the topic, and begins to explore the different issues and problems facing the earth. The articles (choose from climate, sun, wind, climate change, water, oceans, land, micro-climate, or explore) are accompanied with pictures and links on the right sidebar. The articles provide extensive information, often over twenty screens in length. Each screen is presented as a page torn from a book. Significant words are underlined; clicking on them brings up a definition. The File menu allows the user to print the screen or print the article, and the option of including the photos. The writing style is casual and conversational. Here's an example:

Here's a challenge for you.
Think of something that runs on solar energy. Piece of cake, you might say, and you start naming items that use the sun as their energy source. There's the calculator on your desktop, and the small electric fan you saw in a specialty store. There's the house down the street that heats water with solar energy, those experimental cares they race every three years in Australia . . . and what about earth-orbiting satellites?

The "Hot Topics" provides eighteen different subtopics for the user. Each button leads to a game. The games are talking stories, in which the user must match different sides of an environmental issue with the sixteen different personalities presented. The goal is to match the personalities with the strongest views on each side of the argument to score the highest number of points. Each personality reveals their views before players attempt to match them to either side of the argument. A click on the score button tells the user what to do to improve it, and users can go back and continue working on the same game.

The Data Sets includes eighteen subtopics, with maps and graphs on each. Explanatory text boxes appear at the bottom of the screen that complement the variety of graphs offered on the right of the map. Click at an area on the map and the appropriate information appears in the text box. Instructions appear for interpreting the graph and for retrieving further information.


The Explore menu offers twelve subtopics that are informational games/quizzes. One is called "Who Eats Who," and asks the user to organize different aquatic animals according to their order on the food chain. Again, the user can check the score and go back to get things right. Information about the different animals is provided. The numbers 1, 2 and 3 decorate the left side-bar. Clicking on the different numbers gives instructions (1), hints on what to notice in the game (2) and the conclusions that can be drawn from the investigation (3).

This CD-ROM is full of interesting information about the issues facing the earth's survival and about the different arguments surrounding these issues, and presents scientific information valuable for the intended age-group. Earth Explorer is not appropriate, however, for a school library reference, because as a reference tool it is slower than comparable disk-based encyclopedias. But it would be suitable as a supplement to reference material within the classroom, especially if the class is studying a unit on pollution, the ecology, and so forth. Earth Explorer is also an appropriate educational resource for the home. Parents looking for educational material for young children can trust that Apple will provide them with value for their money.

The problems with this CD-ROM are the same problems that exist for education CD-ROMs in general. The more complex they are the slower they are, and the wait is boring, not exciting. It's faster to turn a few pages, browse through an index, and look at some pictures on a book -- and flipping through a book is actually a more "interactive" experience, since one can stop and read at any page. The delay in finding information may cause a child to give up and go away.

Are children using the educational home software as fast as it is being produced? Probably not, despite their parents' best wishes. After the novelty has worn off, it will be used when it is needed. When it is, Earth Explorer is a useful CD for intermediate age children.


Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg.

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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364