History in chapterand verse

20th October 1995 at 01:00
The World of Robert Burns.

By Cambridgeshire Software House with Dumfries and Galloway Education Authority CD-Rom for Acorn A-Series computers, Pounds 79.95 plus VAT (PC version due for BETT 96 technology show). Cambridgeshire Software House, Bramley Road, St Ives, Cambs. Tel: 01480 467945.

The launch of The World of Robert Burns CD-Rom in 1996 marks the 200th anniversary of the death of Scotland's national bard. Schools throughout Scotland and Burns enthusiasts all over the world will be organising or joining in the bi-centennial celebrations.

The World of Robert Burns has been produced by Cambridgeshire Software House, the company which gave us Frontier 2000. But this time, working in conjunction with Dumfries and Galloway Education Authority, it has produced a piece of software which should also prove a significant resource beyond the classroom. The disc has already won a gold award from Acorn User magazine.

Children follow trails in the style of treasure hunts across mapped areas of south-west Scotland, answering questions, looking for clues and searching through the information on the disc to find the answers. The disc has 16 trails in varying degrees of difficulty suitable for a wide age range.

My school, Sanquhar Primary in Dumfriesshire, has successfully used the simpler trails with eight- year-olds but there is at least one trail which will test the knowledge of even the keenest Burns enthusiast. At the end of a successful trail, the program can print a certificate which records each child's score. But our children, the younger ones especially, would have liked a facility to record their names as well.

It is relatively simple to make up your own trails and detailed instructions are given in the notes. But to be really successful you have to be fairly familiar with the contents of the disc.

It contains more than 700 poems and letters, 80 songs with music presented in Acorn's Maestro format, 500 photographs and around 40 video clips, which means it takes a lot of browsing before you can claim a reasonable knowledge of the contents. Each time I use the disc, I find information or photographs that I haven't come across before.

The software can be used in a variety of ways depending on the current needs of the class and some suggestions are given on the CD. The World of Robert Burns can be used as a resource for a study of Scotland and Scottish life 200 years ago, for a project on the Covenanters, to encourage the acquisition of research skills, for local studies within south-west Scotland and, of course, for a study of the life and works of Robert Burns. If the video clips are used it can become an exercise in "listening skills". And just to set everything in context, there is a 40,000 word Timeline a very valuable resource in its own right.

For those unfamiliar with the Scots language used by Burns in his poems, songs and letters, there is a useful glossary. Call it up, type in the unfamiliar word and up comes an immediate explanation.

The maps of several towns and large villages used in the trails are saved in Draw format and can be printed out for use away from the computer, although this can become complicated if you need to alter the scale.

A few tunes of Burns' songs have been arranged for a recorder trio, and are presented in Maestro (Acorn), Notate (Longman Logotron) and Rhapsody (Clares) format. I have heard children play these arrangements on their recorders and then adapt them for a flute or clarinet trio which could be useful in the bi-centennial celebrations.

The CD also contains all the information you need to hold a Burns Supper: a suggested programme of events and "Bill o' Fayre" or menu. If you don't know what a haggis is, there are photographs and video clips to show you how it is made. All the poems and songs you are ever likely to need are on the disc, and some of them are also recited or sung on an accompanying audio cassette.

The World of Robert Burns is a valuable resource for schools and the community.

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