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Best Software.

EBSCOlearn Ranger Rick is part of the Science series, that uses environmental materials to help strengthen reading comprehension. Students work on assignments generated by the teacher. Each assignment consists of reading an article from Ranger Rick and then taking a comprehension test. Each test consists of 10 questions ranging from straight fact recollection to completing an analogy to distinguishing fact from opinion. The test is scored and the information saved in the student's record. Information in the records includes the assignments completed, the score on the test, and a list of past due assignments. Reading teachers and content area teachers will want to review this software. A similar program with materials from Scientific American is also available.

Yet another Carmen Sandiego hit has arrived. Be sure to look at Carmen Sandiego's ThinkQuick challenge, which is the first Carmen title to feature a multi-player option. Up to four players may match knowledge as they solve game show challenges to gain clues and capture a thief. In order to gather the needed clues, the users match knowledge with a series of KnowBots who produce a series of questions in the areas of history, geography, life science, physical science, mathematics, English, art and music. Question formats include multiple choice, true/false, sequencing, matching lists of items, identifying similar items, matching pairs, as well as identifying parts of an object, animal or map. In addition, custom sets of questions can be developed by teachers and students for use in the games. Once the users have defeated the KnowBots, they find secret hideouts and sneak in after solving a puzzle. Then the users, capture a master thief and recover the stolen knowledge. The games have three levels of difficulty for students in grades 4-8. Youngsters continue to be delighted with the Carmen Sandiego challenges.

Consonant blends and digraphs is the fourth entry in the superb Tenth planet literacy series. Youngsters work through a series of activities designed to make them comfortable with blends anti digraphs. Intro, through, and beyond activities are included in the program and follow the same pattern as the other three in the literacy series. Youngsters can sort pictures based on consonant blends or digraphs, explore palettes of sounds, put mixed up letters into words, build word ladders, write alliterative phrases, and construct riddles as they complete the interactive multimedia activities. The program also includes a journal writing feature for learning activities and for use as an assessment tool. A word bank and word building tool are also available for young readers and writers as they create written sentences and stories. The teacher option allows for controlling which blends and digraphs are available for student use. The consistently excellent sound, video and learning components make Tenth Planet programs one of the few truly educational software options available for purchase today. Youngsters are kept on task; the technology is used as a true teaching tool; and educational time is not wasted with long entertaining video segments.

Students in grades 4-6 will enjoy practicing math skills while using Math arena. The game-oriented drill and practice program allows up to three students to compete at one time. The program includes a training center where youngsters practice at their own pace. The "compete" section is a timed competition of three rounds. Both options include 20 activities with an easy and hard difficulty level. The activities cover the math skills of number sense, spatial awareness, estimation and geometry. One activity has the user match the correct coins with the amount of change on a cash register screen; another activity provides half of a quilt pattern that must be completed. Venn diagrams, spotting incorrect number sentences, locating a prize on a number grid and other options are also included. Teacher options provide for setting up teams, entering students, viewing student progress reports and customizing the program. Teachers will find the game aspects keep students interested while not dominating the program. This is a welcome change in the world of educational software.

Encarta Africana 2000 provides an updated reference on the people of African descent. With ties to the Encarta reference series, this CD includes over 3,600 articles, 800 web links, 2,900 multimedia elements, interactive maps and virtual tours. A new feature, the music timeline includes information from 1870 to 1980. After picking a time period, a multimedia timeline appears with links to the important happenings of that era. Other new features include a library of Black America, that includes 139 entries ranging from fiction, slave narratives, poetry, DuBois columns, and other options. A civil rights chronology has also been added to the 2000 version. The timeline includes a number of multimedia options and presents a rich reference tool for students. A closed caption feature makes the audio and video clips even more accessible to users. The seamless movement between materials and web links, and the ability to interact with the research organizer make this a valuable reference tool for the library and classrooms. The on-screen organization of information works well with students and keeps them focused on the topic. Overall, a superb addition to any reference collection.

Inspiration, an excellent visual organizer and webbing software program, has been upgraded to version 6.0. The new version includes over 1,250 symbols and adds photographic and animated images to an already rich set of illustrations. The ability to import images, create symbols, and modify the symbols in the library has been made even easier for users. A large number of new templates with curriculum orientation are included in this version. Examples include science lab reports, language arts mythic journey, social studies historic period, teacher makeup work, thinking bubble map, and thinking goal setting. The ability to integrate URL hyperlinks into the diagram and outline views has also been added. The option for using JPG and GIF graphic formats is now available. Other upgrades include the ability to resize symbols from any corner and an expanded help option. It is hard to believe that this excellent piece of tool software has been made even more user friendly!

Best Bets

Carmen Sandiego's ThinkQuick challenge. The Learning Company, One Athenaeum St., Cambridge, MA 02142. (800) 685-6322. Multimedia PC, Windows 95 or higher, Pentium 133 or higher, 16MB RAM, 25MB free hard drive space, SVGA with 256 color display, 4x CD-ROM drive. Macintosh version on same CD. $69.95 school edition, $179.95 / 5 license lab pack. //

Consonant blends and digraphs. Sunburst Technology, 101 Castleton St., Pleasantville, NY 10570-3498. (800) 321-7511. Multimedia PC, Windows 3.1 or higher, 486 or higher, 8MB RAM, 256 SVGA monitor, 4x CD-ROM drive. Macintosh version on same CD. $89.95.

EBSCOlearn Ranger Rick. EBSCO Publishing, 10 Estes St., Ipswich, MA 01938. (800) 653-2726. IBM compatible computer, 486 or better processor, 16MB RAM, VGA graphics 640 x 480 16 colors, CD-ROM drive for installation, Windows 95 or higher. $149 single license, $249 6 station lab pack, $549 site license.

Encarta Africana 2000. Microsoft Corporation, One Microsoft Way, Redmond, WA 98052-6399. (425) 882-8080. Multimedia PC with Pentium 90Mhz or higher, 24MB RAM, 40MB free hard drive space, quad speed CD-ROM drive, SVGA 256 color monitor, Windows 95 or higher. $69.95. //

Inspiration. Inspiration Software, Inc., 7412 SW Beaverton Hillsdale Hwy, Suite 102, Portland, OR 97225-2167. (800) 877-4292. Multimedia PC, 486 processor or higher, Windows 95 or higher, 8MB RAM, SVGA graphics, CD-ROM drive. Macintosh version on same CD. Single user copy $69.00, upgrade price $39.95. //

Math arena. Sunburst Technology, 101 Castleton St., Pleasantville, NY 10570-3498. (800) 321-7511. Multimedia PC, Windows 95 or higher, 486 or higher, 12MB RAM, 256 SVGA monitor, 2X CD-ROM drive. Macintosh version on same CD. $89.95.
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Author:Troutner, Joanne
Publication:Teacher Librarian
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2000
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