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Social Studies Software Reviews

Grolier's Prehistoria
A Multimedia Who's Who of Prehistoric Life

For Grades 5 and up

See also the Summary Rating Table for comparisons with other Social Studies software titles, and the SuperKids Buyers Guide for current market prices of the PC and Mac versions.


Reviewed on:
Prehistoria Screeen shot PowerMac 6100/60 with 8MB and 2XCD
Pentium90 with 8MB and a 2XCD

Content / Methodology
Grolier's Prehistoria is an explorable reference CD, built around a database of 500 prehistoric animals. The database is both searchable and browsable, through six viewing areas:

Grolier Museum is the most fun and educational part of the program. Here, the user gets to select and watch video clips of paleontologists and other scientists in the field, explaining various aspects of prehistoric creatures lives, as well as animated sequences of prehistoric creatures. Although the clips are smaller than screen-sized, and relatively short, they captured the attention of kids as young as six, and as old as 16! Interetingly, most of them left our kids reviewers with questions beginning with the word "why." Our teachers felt that this "inspiration toward intellectual curiousity" was a valuable feature of Prehistoria.

The Gallery groups and displays the animal kingdom into seven categories ranging from the traditional birds, fishes, and mammals, to the more creative, "ruling reptiles." Selecting a category takes the user through a series of screens that allows further segmentation. Ultimately, the user comes to a collection of screens that briefly describe and picture specific animals. Creature Show presents a random sequence of the Gallery's screens with forward and back buttons added, to allow continuous viewing.

Time Tracker allows the user to pick animal categories and a time period, and discover which animals were contemporaries. This is a neat idea, and clearly presented. As one of our parent reviewers noted, "If this CD had existed when I was a kid, I wouldn't have believed that cave men were fighting dinosaurs to save Raquel Welch in "One Million Years B.C."

Search is an effective boolean search engine (key words seperated by and/or/not) that finds animals in the database which meet the user's criteria. Classifications illustrates each animal's place in the animal kingdom, in outline form.

Ease of Install / Use
Installation on the Mac required that you know if your machine already had Quicktime installed (most do). If the answer is yes, the user just has to drag a folder from the CD installer onto the hard drive icon to install the program.

Our testers reported a similar problem with installation of the Windows version, except that they only discovered the problem after installation. Prehistoria's installer automatically installed a version of Quicktime for Windows, without first checking to see if the machine already had one installed. This later produced a system conflict that crashed the program whenever the user tried to view some of the included video segments.

Proxy Parent Value
Proxy Parent Value is SuperKids' assessment of how well a program captures the attention of its intended audience. As a reference work, Prehistoria received high marks in this assessment by parents of children interested in dinosaurs. But as one of our 6th grade teacher reviewers noted, "a child would have to be very interested [in the subject] to spend much time browsing."

Best for...
Both our parents and teachers felt that Prehistoria would be "best for a child who loved reading, and information about prehistoric animals."

Bottom-Line
This is a well thought-out, multimedia reference work that will expand the knowledge of all of its users, and cultivate an interest in learning more, by some. Although the breadth of the CD is impressive, older students may be disappointed with the brevity of the descriptions provided.


See also the Summary Rating Table for comparisons with other Social Studies software titles, and the SuperKids Buyers Guide for current market prices of the PC and Mac versions.


Children's Software System Requirements


PC

Macintosh
Operating System Windows 3.1 on DOS 5.0 or higher MacOS 6.07 or higher
CPU Type and Speed 386/20 or faster Mac LC II or higher (68020/16)
Hard Drive Space 4 MB free space 4 MB free space
Memory (RAM) 4 MB 2 MB
Graphics 256 color VGA, SVGA recommended 13" color monitor displaying 256 colors
CD-ROM Speed 150 KBS or faster QuickTime capable CD
Audio Windows supported sound card n/a
Other Needs QuickTime for Windows 1.1 SW (incl) QuickTime 1.6 SW (incl)


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