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Canny package

THE STORY OF THE CAN CD-Rom for multimedia Windows PC Free to schools from Canned Foods Information Centre. Tel: 0800 243364.

As a piece of technology, a multimedia CD-Rom ought to do a job that neither a book nor a film does well on its own. This one, all about the materials, design and manufacture of cans, qualifies easily. It provides information about various aspects of its subject - preserving food, recycling, making cans from metal as thin as a bank note - and illustrates things with diagrams and photographs. Short clips of video and clear graphics show how steel and aluminium are produced and how they're finished by coating, rolling and printing. As the CD-Rom tells the history of the can and the variety of joining and forming involved, you soon realise what a versatile case study these cleverly machined things are.

Along the way, you'll find quiz questions and project pages which ask pupils to do surveys of metal packaging, make a storyboard of a production process, or design packaging for a dangerous medicine. This disc has many strong points - for example, the language level is pretty well matched to the middle of the secondary school. It is also richly illustrated and not too flashy. You'll not be stuck for work to do around it.

For fact-finding, too, it is fine: if you want to find out about, say, tinning, you click on "materials", then on "steel", then "finishing" and then "tinning". But if you're trying to absorb the whole topic, it would be easy to feel lost or miss things while going through a vast number of pages. There are better ways of avoiding this than the identifying icons for each section used here.

It is funded by CarnaudMetalBox, a huge packaging concern, so I expected this would be a big corporate sell, but instead it's informative, restrained and something to keep handy in the workshop.

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