CM April 5, 
1996. Vol. II, Number 25

image Canadisk '95

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 quickly.

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 context.

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 missing.

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 unavoidable lesson.

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 options).


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

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.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364