May 1996

Cyber News and Reviews is a monthly column published for parents, teachers & business owners featuring kids educational software reviews, business software reviews (small business & home business), games and entertainment articles, a free resource since 1995.


Some of the Latest and Greatest Educational Software Titles

In your search for the ultimate educational software at your local computer or software shop, you may have been overwhelmed by the number of titles available. As that number increases, it will be more difficult to choose the right software. So, I've compiled a list of some of best educational software titles around, and the companies that make them.

Buster's First Thunderstorm, by Media Vision, Inc.

Buster's First Thunderstorm is a beautifully illustrated and well orchestrated children's story on CD-ROM. It's adapted from the book by Hisako Madokoro and illustrated by Ken Kuroi. With music and sound, and excellent color graphics, the book on computer sets a realistic mood for its young readers. Though the age group is not specified, it seems to be suited for children from ages five to seven or eight.

Chugalong Goes to Playland, by GemMedia

Chugalong Goes to Playland will entertain and amuse your kids from preschool to 6-years old. It includes puzzles, poems, animal photos, music and animation designed to help your kids develop many of their essential math, science and reading skills. Chugalong will take your kids to six areas including The Circus, The Farm, The Zoo, The Hot Air Balloon, The Train and Alphabetland. Kids will learn upper and lower case letter recognition, beginning sounds, counting, sight word recognition, musical instruction, memory building and more.

Cool Crafts, by Multicom Publishing, Inc.

Cools Crafts is an excellent CD that will help occupy your kids (ages 3 and up) with over one-hundred projects with creative themes for making toys and fun foods. The crafts offer video, sound and animation, with step-by-step narrated instructions. The presentation will amuse and inform you and your kids with projects from bongo beaters to zoo suits, plus elephant ear cookies, milk carton robots, play clay and rocket ships, in between.

The San Diego Zoo Presents ... The Animals! 2.0, by Mindscape

With this CD, you can experience the sights and sounds of the highly-acclaimed San Diego Zoo without ever leaving home. It includes excellent videos, photos, animation and narration of the ten bioclimatic areas, called Biomes. The areas include the Tropical Rain Forest, Grassland, Savanna, Desert and Tropical Dry Forest, accessible by mouse click on a 3-dimensional map of the zoo. Guided tours are available, or you can roam the zoo on your own. One area, the Kid's Corner, offers a series of exhibits especially for children.

Disney Interactive: The Lion King Animated Storybook

If your child loved Disney's animated movie, The Lion King, then this is a CD to consider. Here, your kids can relive the movie and interact with the animated characters. This CD is impressive with music from the movie setting the mood, sound effects and excellent animation. Besides the 21-page narrative storybook, only three games are offered: a pouncing game, connect the stars and bug catching. Although the presentation was excellent, I expected more activities from a Disney software CD than were offered.

Disney Interactive: Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree Animated Storybook

Winnie the Pooh is Disney's classic children's tale now on CD. It's a story, narrated with animation, music and sound, encouraging color and shape recognition and language skills development. Six options are offered from the main menu including Read and Play, Read, How to Play, Spanish and Pick-a-Page. In the Read and Play option, clicking on a word or picture will activate games and animation. Once my daughter found that she could play the story unattended, she left the computer for a moment to start a Winnie the Pooh video, running both simultaneously. For her, that was play heaven. Although the CD is well done, offering the heart-warming characters from the Hundred-Acre Wood, it should include more games and activities.

Disney Interactive: Pocahontas Animated Storybook

Now, with the Pocahontas Animated Storybook, you and your kids can relive Disney's movie with animation, sound and music. Activities include playing games with Meeko and Flit, digging for gold, and even stopping a war. Besides participating in the narrated story, your child can explore the Powhatan village and the English settlement or use the dictionary to learn the meaning of words through animation. The games will help improve memory and concentration, and the dictionary and story will improve reading and vocabulary skills. As with the other two Disney CDs, more activities should have been included. Considering a CD-ROM disc can hold up to 649 megabytes of information, Disney could easily add more activities to their software. But this potential shortcoming didn't bother my daughter. That's because she loves anything Disney.

P.B. Bear's Birthday Party, by Dorling Kindersley Multimedia

This is a great CD educational game and interactive narrated story, for kids ages 3 to 6. It includes many educational activities for learning colors, shapes, numbers, reading and spelling, plus a beautifully illustrated story about a bear named P.B. who is celebrating his birthday party with his stuffed-animal friends. My daughter, Sarah, who is almost five, can spend hours a the computer with this one CD, which is based on the book of the same name by Dorling Kindersley Books. And because of the CD, we bought the book. Now both are on Sarah's list of favorite things to do.

The Encyclopedias

The CD-ROM drive has proven to be one of the best enhancements for today's personal computer because it increases the data capacity of the machine. This enhancement allowed the introduction of the CD encyclopedia, replacing twenty or more volumes of the printed editions. Although most multimedia computers are supplied with a CD-ROM encyclopedia, adding a second to your CD collection couldn't hurt. And if you don't have one, it's a must. Most electronic encyclopedias sell for under $50, far less than the hundreds of dollars you'd spend on the volumes of a printed edition, and they don't take up bookshelf space.

Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia

Compton's offers an excellent multimedia encyclopedia for you and your kids. It includes over 33,000 articles, with easy search capabilities and lots of color graphics, sounds, videos, an Atlas and The Merriam-Webster OnLine Dictionary, all on one CD disc. If you're new to the world of electronic encyclopedias, you can sit back and take their Picture Tour browsing some of the photos and corresponding articles, or just start a search on the subjects of interest. It includes over 200 multimedia clips plus over 7,000 images.

Encarta the Complete Multimedia Encyclopedia, by Microsoft Corporation

Encarta is another great electronic encyclopedia, with 26,000 articles, 7000 photos, 100 animations and videos clips, plus an Atlas and history timeline on one CD. It's easy to search from the Find menu, or you can browse a topic until you see something that interests you. You can even search or browse their collection of pictures, videos, animations, maps and sounds through The Gallery Browser, accessed by clicking Gallery from the main menu.

The New Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia

Grolier offers an easy-to-use electronic encyclopedia, with all 33,000 articles from the twenty-one volume Academic American Encyclopedia on one CD. It includes some features not available on the other two CD encyclopedias: Multimedia Maps present an animated journey through time for viewing historical events and Knowledge Explorer Audio-Visual Essays combine photos, music and narration on several subjects including the human body and space exploration. The encyclopedia also includes thousands of pictures, sounds and maps that can be accessed from a menu.

Professor Iris' Fun Field Trip: Animal Safari, by Discovery Channel Multimedia

If any of your kids watch the Learning Channel, they'll know all about the lovable bird-like puppet, Professor Iris, who teaches his puppet class about life and the world. If they like the show, they'll be happy to know about this interactive CD. Based on "Iris the Happy Professor," produced in Montreal, Canada, they'll find games, puzzles, mazes, music videos, a coloring book and sound effects, with a narrated storybook lesson on Africa. All five puppet characters are featured including Skeleton, Ms. Principal, Plant and Piano. This is another one of my daughter's favorite CD games filled with lots of educational things to do.

Living Books Series, by Broderbund, Inc.

This is a fun series of interactive CD-ROM talking storybooks, pioneered by Broderbund, which includes Just Grandma and Me, The Tortoise and the Hare, Arthur's Teacher Trouble, Go to School with Little Monster, You're Invited to Arthur's Party, Harry and the Haunted House, Ruff's Bone, The New Kid on the Block and more. You and your kids will love any of these interactive books that include great animation, music and sound effects, for ages from 3 and up. Spend a day at the beach with the lovable Little Critter and his Grandma. Meet the slow and steady Tortoise and the overconfident Hare. Travel with the dog, Ruff, in search of his missing bone. Tiptoe through a haunted house with Harry D. Rabbit and friends, in search of their baseball. Narrations are offered in English, Spanish and some in Japanese, selectable from a menu. My daughter just loves them all.

The Magic School Bus Series, by Microsoft Corporation

This is another great collection of interactive educational CDs, by Microsoft based on books and videos by Scholastic, Inc., with great graphics, sound effects, animation, games, science experiments and more. The series includes The Magic School Bus Explores the Human Body, The Magic School Bus Explores the Solar System and The Magic School Bus Explores the Oceans. With the Human Body, you'll explore 12 different body parts. With the Solar System, you'll travel to the planets, and even experience actual NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory videos. Finally, the Oceans offers a trip undersea to discover strange creatures on the ocean floor, with videos and lots to do. If you can only afford one title, I'd choose the Magic School Bus Human Body. Although they're designed for children, it's a fascinating series that adults shouldn't miss.

My First Incredible Amazing Dictionary, by Dorling Kindersley Multimedia

If you're interested in software that will get you child's attention, with great color graphics and sound effects, then My First Incredible Amazing Dictionary, on CD, is a good choice. Kids over three-years old will enjoy the sounds, animation and can learn about words and their meanings, pronunciations and spelling. This is an interactive dictionary that responds with animation and sound when a picture is clicked on with the mouse. To have the definition read to you, click on the "trumpet" beside the written definition. Even kids that can't read will benefit from this software.

Fisher-Price Dream Doll House, by Davidson & Associates

Kids from ages 3 to 7 will enjoy this interactive doll house on CD. It consists of six rooms for your child to explore including the kitchen, living room, bathroom, two bedrooms and an attic. They offer toys and games, and even secret mouse holes to explore. Although I didn't find the animation and sounds very impressive, Sarah enjoyed exploring. The software's educational objectives include learning through exploring, creating a plan, determining sequences, conversation and story telling, following directions and building computer skills.

Software Pricing, Availability and Company Information

Check with you local computer software dealer for price and availability. For more information, contact the companies directly.

Broderbund Software, Inc.
500 Redwood Blvd.
Novato, CA 94948-6121
(415) 382-4400

Compton's New Media, Inc./SoftKey
1 Athenaeum St.
Cambridge, MA 02142
(617) 494-1200

Davidson & Associates
P.O. Box 2961
Torrance, CA 90509
(310) 793-0600

Discovery Channel Multimedia
7700 Wisconsin Ave.
Bethesda, MD 20814-3579
(301) 986-0444

Disney Interactive
500 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521-8432
(818) 841-3326

Dorling Kindersley Multimedia
95 Madison Ave.
New York, NY 10016

6000 S. Eastern Ave.
Las Vegas, NV 89119
Distributed by Maxis
(510) 254-9700

Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc.
Sherman Turnpike
Danbury, CT 06816

Media Vision, Inc.
47300 Bayside Parkway
Fremont, CA 94538

Microsoft Corporation
One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052

88 Rowland Way
Novato, CA 94945
(415) 897-9900

Multicom Publishing, Inc.
1100 Olive Way, Suite 1350
Seattle, WA 98101-9919
(206) 622-5530