Granit Technologies Inc.
Distributed by Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 1995. CD-ROM, $99.00.
Grades 5 and up / Ages 10 and up.
Review by Harriet Zaidman.
Encyclopedias on CD-ROM are all the rage in schools these days. Kids want
to use the new technology so much they are often surprised to find that
there is more information the printed version of a publications. In
response to this demand encyclopedias, almanacs, and every subject area
are now presented on CD-ROM.
The way information is presented is crucial if the user to make the most use of it. Canadisk '95 is a
collection of Canadian facts organized in too simplistic a manner to make
it useful to most users.
Installation of the Canadisk was an experience in
itself. Here's a suggestion the instructions don't tell you: for those
with extra drives, keep typing "Fail" when your receive a message
telling you that the computer cannot read the extra drives. Finally, it
will read the drive in which the CD is installed. The
Canadisk requires 640k memory, and responds fairly
The main screen is called The Control Room. This screen
offers the user several choices: The Timeline, Census, Election,
Election '84 and '88, and a Gallery. You enter key
search words, and select Boolean search operators to narrow or expand the
search. The number of matches is displayed, and matches can then be
posted to a workbook or viewed immediately. Accessing a match provides a
screen with the appropriate information listed by date, person, event,
location (city, province, country), and key-word and reference sources.
But the information a search turns up is not presented in a complete
sentences; it is curt and without a context or analysis. To obtain
complete information on any topic it would be necessary to view many
entries, from a few up to a few hundred. The information provided is
superficial, and does not give the user a sense of the history of the
event, or person being searched. It is annoying to see merely the date,
name, event, and so on, listed on each match. And each match does not
necessarily relate to the match previously viewed.
The justification for the short information bits is to prevent
students from plagiarizing, to force them to turn the information into
their own words. However, the effect is to rob the topic of its colour,
its relation to people, other events, or the time in which it occurred.
Adults might be able to supply the context themselves, but that is
precisely what the students for whom Canadisk is intended
do not have the resources to do. And history is a dry subject without
The Election and Elect '84 and '88 sections
reveal similarly presented information. Every constituency in the country
is listed, with the complete statistics on the votes received by each
candidate. But any sense of the issues or the mood of the electorate is
The brochure accompanying the Canadisk suggests searches for Pierre
Trudeau, but the user quickly becomes bored typing in all the search
words and Boolean commands, and accessing each individual match.
Searching for information on Jacques Cartier proved to be similarly
tiring. A more logical presentation of information would be to have
articles on each topic. A search could then take the user to a specific
part of an article, as it does on many CD-ROMs. Students must learn how to take
notes themselves anyway. That is not an easy task, but it is an
The Statistics button provides a wealth of census
information. However, it too is presented in a stilted manner. In the
list of categories it even lists the country being examined (one would
hope it is Canada). Statistics are never too much fun to read, but could
have been presented in a more interesting manner and related to the other
topics in the Canadisk. Graphs with year to
year comparisons would also have made it more relevant.
The Gallery is a collection of images gathered from numerous
archives, museums, libraries and art galleries, and so on.
Canadisk advises the user to write to the sources of each
of these pictures to get a copy of any pictures needed (addresses are
listed). It is not possible to print them (similarly, it is not possible
to print from the Coats of Arms, Flags, or Flowers
The pictures show the reality of Canada at different stages of
history. A few more would have helped to complete the story. Winnipeg,
for example, is shown in 1873, 1879, and 1893. Winnipeg did change
rapidly during those years, but today's Winnipeg should have been
depicted as well to inform the user of what the city is like. Montreal
is shown in 1555, 1650, and 1967. You would expect a more recent picture
from a modern publication such as Canadisk.
Documents can be sent to the Workbook, charts constructed and
printed out, but posting each match is laborious. Teachers will have
heart attacks watching students print out individual matches, each only
ten or fifteen lines long, using reams and reams of paper.
Canadisk has much to offer, but users now expect
information to be more easily accessible. The method used by
Canadisk has generally been discarded by similar reference
CD-ROMs in favour of the encyclopedia-type article with links to other
topics. It is hard to imagine that students will spend much time using
this CD-ROM when others are more user-friendly.
Canadisk is also available in French and its brochure
states that annual subscriptions are available, as well as access to the
Canadisk World Wide Web site.
Recommended with reservations.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg.
Note: Images posted with this review are from the Canadisk World Wide Web site, not from the CD-ROM. To comment on this title or this review, send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association.
Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice
is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
The Manitoba Library Association
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