Getting into the frame

5th January 1996 at 00:00
PictureBase. Series of CD-Roms for Multimedia PCs and Acorn A-series computers,packed with multimedia resources arranged in curriculum themes, Pounds 49 to Pounds 99 each for single user, Pounds 99 to Pounds 199 with site licence. AVP, School Hill Centre, Chepstow, Gwent NP6 5PH. Tel: 01291 625439

Picturebase presents learning sequences and resources in subject modules in a series of interactive windows. Each module consists of a series of images, each with its own descriptive text, video and sound files, which are grouped in national curriculum themes.

The title is a bit misleading, for although this software represents an excellent picture library which can be transferred and used in other projects using different programs, this is only a small part of what Picturebase can do. Every picture has text and sound and can stand alone, but almost all pictures are part of explanatory sequences covering a wide variety of topics in depth.

In fact, Picturebase is a database capable of limitless expansion and capable of controlling all forms of media - text, high-quality pictures, sound and video. Where it differs from its contemporaries is that the program can access the data on any number of CDs and also permits teachers to tailor the material for their own purposes.

It is not surprising two Picturebase titles, Victorian Britain and Britain Since 1930, have been chosen during the past two years for the Department for Education and National Council for Educational Technology CD-Rom initiative in primary schools.

Picturebase differs from most other CD-Roms in that the data stored on each CD is controlled by a separate program called PicBase, held on the computer's hard disc. Each time a new PictureBase CD-Rom is purchased and inserted, PicBase is updated with its data. This allows you to search across any number of Picturebase CD-Roms, the program telling you which CD to put in the drive for the picture you want.

This means that Picturebase can build into a huge encyclopedia of knowledge and information. Each new Picturebase CD-Rom builds on the overall resource. It also means you can enter your own text, key words and create your own trails. With cross-referencing being an important feature of the system, you can save as many of these bespoke creations as you wish.

What also impresses with Picturebase is the depth and authenticity of the material, its relevance to the national curriculum, and the clarity and simplicity of the interface. AVP has avoided a gimmicky presentation and kept an absolutely standard interface throughout.

The ease with which the material can be tailored by adding user text and key words and the ability to create user trails is particularly valuable in the classroom. Picturebase, with about 25 titles on art, geography, history, modern languages, music and science at key stages 2 and 3, represents a unique set of flexible learning resources. Thoroughly recommended.

* AVP - stand 355

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