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spacer all reviews > > > social studies software

Breaking the Code

Lerner Educational Software

Ages 10+

Rating Scale
5 = great,    1 = poor
Educational Value
3.5
Kid Appeal
3.5
Ease of Use
4.0

Breaking the Code Screen Shot System Requirements

PC / Mac Price Survey

Product Support

Breaking the Code is software that teaches children to interpret hieroglyphics. The program presents information about the Rosetta Stone and Bankes Obelisk and discusses the work of scientists who have decoded hieroglyphics. In addition, the program describes the stories and roles of important Egyptian gods and goddesses. A secondary objective of the program is to improve children's typing skills. The program folder also includes a small number of related lesson plans for teachers.

Breaking the Code has a main menu, which users can use to select between three chapters. The first chapter is about hieroglyphic phonograms. The second chapter describes Egyptian gods and goddesses and also gives children experience with decoding hieroglyphics. The third chapter discusses the legend of the goddess Osiris. Once again, students must decipher information encoded in hieroglyphics. The software includes: 1) a test for students to assess the knowledge they have acquired 2) a mechanism by which children can write letters in hieroglyphics on their word processors, and 3) links to several web sites on Ancient Egypt and hieroglyphics.

There are several icon characters that appear when a user navigates through the program. For example, Thoth is the Egyptian god of scribes. Kids must click on a symbol depicting Thoth to print any screens. Anubis the Jackal guards the entrance to the Egyptian underworld. Users must click on his icon to exit the program.

Educational Value
The program gradually builds a child's skill at recognizing and interpreting hieroglyphics. First a user learns the relationship between several hieroglyphic signs and Roman letters. To pass this stage of the program, the user must take a short quiz in which she matches Roman letters to the correct hieroglyphics. Then, in Chapter 2, a child can use the hieroglyphics she has learned to read stories about Egyptian gods and goddesses. At first, most of the letters in the stories are Roman, and only one or two are Egyptian. But as the screens progress, the ratio changes until the user is reading primarily in hieroglyphics. The only problem with this pedagogical strategy is that a user expends so much energy on reading the hieroglyphics, he may pay very little attention to the actual content of the story.

Kid Appeal
Breaking the Code does not target a specific age level but will most likely engage students between the ages of ten and eighteen. Younger students may simply learn a little about reading and writing in hieroglyphics. Older students may do this and gain some knowledge about the process of decoding ancient languages. Regardless of age, children will be excited to learn how to decode information on old Egyptian artifacts. They will be able to use their knowledge when they visit museums and exhibits. History teachers may find this program to be a useful supplement for a unit on Ancient Egypt.

Unfortunately, the program does not discuss the ethical controversies surrounding the permanent transfer of Egyptian artifacts to European museums, nor the consequences of looting Egyptian monuments by locals and foreigners alike.

Ease of Use / Install
To install the program, a user has to insert the CD into a CD-ROM drive and then follow instructions. All of the audio information is also written on the screens, so children can use with software without making noise.

The only downside of the program's interface is that a user has to scroll through all the general instructions every time the software is opened.

Best for... / Bottom-Line
Breaking the Code is a useful package for any child (or adult!) interested in learning how to decipher hieroglyphics and committed to learning more about the religion and architecture of Ancient Egypt.

See SuperKids' comparisons with other social studies software titles, and the Buyers Guide for current market prices of the PC and Mac versions.

System Requirements
PC: Windows3.1, Windows 95, 486 or faster processor, 150MB hard drive space, 16MB RAM, SVGA display, 24x or faster CD-ROM, MPC-compliant sound card .

Mac: System 7.01 or higher, Quadra or faster cpu, 150MB hard drive space, 16MB RAM, color display, 24x or faster CD-ROM .

Reviewed on:

  • Apple G4, System 9.0.4, Memory 192 MB
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