The Parts of Speech
The Parts of Speech (Thomas S. Klise Company/Arch Interactive – ages 8 & up) is one of those CD-ROMs that can convince parents and teachers that multimedia is all hype and no substance. This extraordinarily lazy program takes a filmstrip that covers grammar basics, then throws in a few games and exercises to rationalize porting it to CD-ROM. If you saw this filmstrip in school, your head would be on the desktop (literal, not virtual) within minutes. A bored-sounding narrator drones on about nouns, verbs, adjectives, prepositions, conjunctions, etc., with all the flair of Gerald Ford. After sitting through each filmstrip – which contain nominal interactivity, like “click on the proper nouns in this sentence,” in a small fraction of the frames – you can play activities that are, basically, more of the same. There is no animation, but lots of still pictures. The sound effects vary between “Yes,” “A-ha,” “No,” and one or two others. Even if the interface were spectacular, the disc would require more intelligent content. Consider the Overview, which strives to prove to children that we need to use the correct words in the correct order to get the point across. The sample scenario has a boat’s crew trying to inform the captain that the ship has sprung a leak. The filmstrip offers a scenario in which the crew uses the right words in the wrong order, and the captain still doesn’t understand what’s going on. Even to a four-year old, however, the gist of the words is pretty obvious: “leak,” “sprung,” “water,” and “sink” don’t leave much to the imagination, whatever their order.
– August 1996