One of the huge benefits that CD-Rom technology has brought to the teaching of religious education is that it enables teachers and pupils to see places of worship more easily and to meet ordinary people of different faiths.
Both are essential ingredients of good RE teaching, but neither is easy to arrange efficiently. Even if your school is in an inner-city area, with a multi-faith population and Hindu temple, mosque and synagogue all within walking distance, the mechanics of arranging visits aren't straightforward. A programme of visits can be a major, and costly, project.
The beauty of the virtual visit by CD-Rom is not so much that it replaces the need to go out of school to see the real place, but that it immeasurably adds to the quality of preparation beforehand and analysis afterwards.
The same arguments apply when you broaden the coverage of a religion to include meetings with members of the faith. Granada Learning, in its Aspects of Religion CD, includes young people talking about their faith - a device that engages pupils and sends the message that it's OK to talk about your beliefs. This CD, aimed at secondary, and its companion for key stages 2 and 3, Exploring World Religions (pound;49), is tried and tested and has been recently revised.
Also offering good virtual visits is the Interactive Places of Worship series from Birchfield - so far covering Christianity, Islam and Judaism for KS3 and 4 at pound;69.95. Birchfield produces a range of CD-Roms on moral and religious issues, and the list is worth a look.
Another major supplier of RE material on CD-Rom is Heinemann Educational, whose recent titles include Modern World Religions for KS3. This multimedia resource comprises pupil and teacher books as well as six CD-Roms on the major faiths (pound;34.99) Heinemann also has numerous other RE resources in print and CD Rom, including the well established Investigating Christianity and Investigating World Religions CDs which also provide excellent coverage of people, events and places across major world faiths (from pound;54.99).
Not at BETT this year is I-SEEK, whose excellent Living Religions series of CD-Roms is undergoing some technical revisions. We're told a new range is on the way.
What comes across very clearly is that, at least in this field, CD-Rom is alive and well. It's an easy-to-use format that suits lots of schools and offers the kind of interactivity that's particularly suitable for, say, visiting places of worship, and is still difficult to achieve in any other way.