The Cambridgeshire Software House has long been renowned for the quality of its educational simulations, including the excellent Frontier 2000 and the stimulating Cars: Maths in Motion. More recently, its classic CD-Rom The World of Robert Burns was a comprehensive collection of just about everything anyone could possibly want to know about this Scottish icon, wrapped up in a stimulating investigative format. The common features running through all CSH products are the quality and depth of the research.
CSH has now trawled the reservoir of knowledge about one of the greatest British heroes to produce a CD-Rom entitled King Arthur: Legends of a Saxon Conquest and Medieval Chivalry. This product uses the style developed for Robert Burns but extends it further. There are video clips and hundreds of maps, aerial photographs and explanations of Arthurian sites from all over the British Isles, and even a few in France.
The user can "virtually" explore the site of their choice, as it is today, and "dream" back to imagine the life of the legend. For the less creative, there are re-creations of some of the mythical places including, of course, Camelot.
There are extracts from numerous books and publications relating to the Arthurian legends, as well as timelines and analyses of all the major and many minor characters, including Lancelot, Guinevere and Merlin. The entire work has been overseen by the Honourable Society of Knights of the Round Table, giving it the seal of academic approval and authenticity. The repository of information, facsimiles of documents, illustrations, maps and photographs of artefacts and sites is truly vast. Everything included is easily accessible and transferable into other suitable text or graphics programs, for incorporation into the user's own work.
Built into the software are a series of "Quests", which give the user a focus and a purpose for exploring the material effectively. It is best to begin with that designed as an introduction, which is pitched at a level appropriate for older primary. This will guide pupils through the methodology involved before they embark on a more demanding and serious "Quest" on their own.
"The Holy Grail" is, of course, one of the 17 "Quests" provided. These are designed to be appropriate for different ages and stages of user. Some are even intended to explore specific curriculum areas or to encourage different methods of researching for information. A brief explanation of each is included in a "Read me" file on the CD-Rom, along with a comprehensive and clear user manual and support materials of various kinds.
For many, the most exciting aspect of all will be the ability to create entirely original "Quests" of their own. This facility enables the teacher to customise the product to cover the curriculum content required at a level suitable for the group concerned. Although quite a demanding exercise, it is well worth the effort and could become quite addictive.
Whether you will succeed in your quest for the Holy Grail, where generations of Knights have failed, remains to be seen.