Encyclopedic knowledge

24th May 1996 at 01:00
In the first of an occasional column about your best and worst experiences with information technology, Chris Abbott talks to Carole Gillespie

The Grolier Encyclopedia was the first CD-Rom that Carole Gillespie used in any depth and it is still her all-time favourite. "I first used it six or seven years ago, but it's still the hook that gets teachers involved," she says.

Carole is development manager at the Scottish Council for Educational Technology (SCET) and spends most of her time in direct contact with teachers.

"I do a lot of training," she says. "At the moment I'm preparing a course for Her Majesty's Inspectorate and then I'm going to the Shetlands. I use Grolier all the time and we've added it to our catalogue."

Asked just why she still rates the title so highly, Carole gives one example. "The video extracts are superb; I always use the one of the Hindenburg airship bursting into flames. When teachers see that and hear the commentator breaking down in distress, it's so immediate, so moving, that they are immediately impressed."

Of course, the program has changed over the years that Carole has been using it. "When I first used it I was working in technical and vocational education (TVEI) and it cost a fortune. It's come a long way since then." The problems haven't changed much though. "Teachers always go blank for a few seconds when they are first presented with it but they soon find their way in."

There are always some people who will never be convinced. "We had one teacher in Strathclyde who typed his own name in and then rejected the program because it didn't come up with anything!"

Another aspect of Grolier that impresses Carole is the way in which you navigate through the program. "You always know where you are; with other titles you get confused about that. It was the first title you could get teachers to use across the curriculum."

On the down side, there is one area which Carole would like to see improved: "The reading age required is sometimes a bit high - you wouldn't just throw the kids into the deep end."

Any suggestion that the title might have been superseded by more recent CD-Roms is firmly rebuffed. "Handling information is still a skill we need; it's not about learning facts but knowing how to find them - and Grolier makes that easier."

The Grolier Encyclopedia is available from SCET (tel: 0141 337 5016) and many other distributors for the Mac or PC at around Pounds 59.99 * If you have a favourite computer program or information technology item - or one you absolutely hate - contact Chris Abbott on c.abbott@kcl.ac.uk

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