Badger History Bulletin - Review
Wisconsin: Celebrating People, Place and Past
CD-ROM and Teacher Guide. Produced by the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board. No ISBN. (608) 264-9720
As a fourth-grade educator teaching Wisconsin history, I am always interested in new and better text material to use, and so I eagerly reviewed the CD-ROM, Wisconsin: Celebrating People, Place and Past. I found the physical set-up and the on-screen choices easy to use, even for someone with a modicum of computer experience. Especially helpful was that all of the choices remained on screen, so if you changed your mind, there weren't ten steps to get back to the main menu, and then ten more steps to make the new selection.
The content choices are organized into themes of land, people, work, government, and recreation. Each of these is subdivided by time period under each theme. These time periods range from the Ice Age to the present, so anything of any significance in Wisconsin history is found on this CD. In addition to the actual disk, there is a guide that suggests questions to provoke discussion of these topics. (with an answer key!) Of special interest is the information on current issues and people because my students usually want to learn about contemporary people who are involved in the same type of activities. Often, that information is difficult to come by.
The presentation resembles a textbook. A picture in the text can be enlarged for greater detail by a simple click of the mouse. Several musical selections demonstrate music of the various time periods. One of the most interesting sections contains mock interviews of people who lived during a historical time period, where the actors have authentic accents and reveal compelling incidents in their characters' lives.
The caliber of language was challenging for the average fourth-grader. To help students, there is a glossary for all words highlighted in blue. In addition, words highlighted in green are cross- referenced to show where else they occur in the software. The authors also worked hard to include, without bias, a variety of people and cultures that we as Wisconsin citizens experience daily.
The accompanying guide concisely explains the components of the software, including a web site, which is where I found out that pictures could easily be enlarged, and that words were highlighted for a specific reason. Although the viewing questions seem to run on, I believe that they would be useful. The theme activities at the end of the guide are thorough and intriguing. They are tied to the newly determined geography standards, and really help teachers find ways to use software in the classroom to enhance learning for all students.
One of the most obvious shortcomings of this product is its difficult vocabulary. Even with the glossary at hand, using it really affects the flow of reading the text. Another difficulty is the distraction that software with voices and music creates if the whole class isn't doing the same thing. Finally, the questions in the guide become overpowering if you don't pick and choose the ones you prefer.
To conclude, this software is a boon to educators as either a demonstration tool or as a tool for research in a guided setting. As a Wisconsinite, I found this software invaluable to fill in my knowledge of life in the state I live in, both past and present.
Nichols Elementary School