A ribbing for old Adam

18th October 1996 at 01:00
1) Adam: The Inside Story and (2) Adam: Practice Practical (1) CD-Rom for Windows: Pounds 29.99, Tip Tree Book Services. Tel: 01621 816900 (2) CD-Rom for Windows and Mac Pounds 50 + VAT, Churchill LivingstoneTel: 0500 556242

You can cut up humans without using a scalpel. Jerry Wellington on two new CD Roms

These two new additions to the Adam family allow school students to cut up human bodies from the safety of mouse and keyboard - no blood and none of those hacksaws that you see in the old films about the Crimean War. The first Adam program (Comprehensive Adam, The TES, June 17, 1994) was designed to cover everything a medical student needed to know and do, hence its initial price at about Pounds 1,700 (check). These two programs offer more than enough for the school or college student at less than a tenth of the price.

The Inside Story is the easier to use of the two and begins with the male and female anatomy of our two Genesis heroes, with or without fig leaves (a "parental option"). This starting point may upset science teachers who have to teach evolution a week later, but science and religion have lived with this for a century now.

It is easy to crack cheap jokes about Adam and Eve and naked human bodies - and this program rarely resists. The humour is very American and mostly at Adam's expense. The program, unlike the massive Comprehensive Adam, is easy to get into and use, thanks to some key features that learners of most ages will click on and launch straight into. For example, "Family Scrapbook" takes you through the body's 12 major systems from digestion to reproduction using animations and audio commentary. Another feature, "Animations", shows all kinds of processes in the body with labels and spoken explanation. There is even a pronunciation section which covers thousands of parts of the body, in Latin and English - or rather American.

No more cheap jokes: this program is ideal for students from 11 to 18 who are studying human anatomy to various levels at home or at school. On screen, they can "dissect" male or female bodies (with a choice of skin colours) through more than 100 layers down to the bare bones. They can zoom in, rotate the body and see many body parts in three dimensions with the Cybervizz 3D facility. This really is the perfect tool for looking inside the human body and is far cleaner than a scalpel and hacksaw.

The second new offspring in the Adam family, Practice Practical, is similar in some ways but offers more of a simulated lab practical, with thousands of pinned structures. Most of us are more accustomed to rats and frogs rather than a pinned chunk of homo sapiens on the bench. The disc has more than 500 images, which can all be printed, and personal notes attached to them. Teachers or students can create their own exam from a batch of 14,000 possible questions. My impression is that this program will be too advanced and complex for most school students, although at $69.95 it represents excellent value for so many features. Both programs will be useful to have in school. Unfortunately, they both come with no curriculum support material, although teachers can probably manage without. They do provide the first realistic opportunity for schools to start collecting the Adam family and will soon be joined by The Nine Month Miracle, from conception through to birth.

* Jerry Wellington is a Reader in Education at Sheffield University.

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