CUE-5 and Software CALLection CD-ROM Review
Computer-Using Educators, Inc.
1210 Marina Village Parkway
Alameda, CA 94501
Spanischer Germanisten Software CALLection 0.1
Dept. de Filologias Extranjeras
Faculdad de Filologia. desp. 620
Senda del Rey, s/n
E-28040 Madrid, Espana (Spain)
fax: (+34 1) 3986826
These collections include software designed to run on a variety of systems, including Macintosh, DOS and Windows. Obviously, they require a CD-rom drive.
CD-ROM has become the distribution medium of choice for commercial software developers, thanks to the discs' massive storage capacity and the near-universal inclusion of CD-ROM drives on personal computers sold today. Now, educational organizations are joining the trend, largely because it is becoming easier and cheaper than ever to master, reproduce and distribute the silver platters.
A CD-ROM can hold over 600MB of programs and files - nearly five hundred times the capacity of a high-density floppy disk, and more than the hard drive capacity of most computers. That's enough for even the largest of multimedia software, like encyclopedias with film clips and talking dictionaries - or enough to hold thousands of more modest programs like those released as shareware and freeware by countless programmers around the world.
What Are Shareware And Freeware Collections On CD-ROM?
Freeware programs are created for the love of it, often by amateurs or new professionals making a name for themselves. Shareware authors might be dedicated amateurs, or professional [-1-] programmers working independently or for small firms. They offer a "try-before-you-buy" policy, allowing would-be purchasers to evaluate the programs before purchasing the license to use them. Either kind of program may be distributed freely via a variety of electronic means, from floppy disks to Internet archive sites. Entire commercial publishing houses build their businesses around frequently updated releases of shareware and freeware. Walnut Creek CD-ROM and InfoMagic, for instance, provide frequently updated compilations of popular Internet archives for DOS, MS-Windows, Macintosh, OS/2 and Unix operating systems. Thanks to the low production costs for CD-ROMs in quantity (under $1 per disc, and still falling), these collections can be had for as little as $10 to $30, even for multi-disc collections.
Yet, as convenient as these commercial compilations are, precious few CALL lab coordinators and language instructors have the time, patience and expertise to sort through tens of thousands of disparate programs for those that would best serve their and their students' learning needs. Enter the specialized collection, exemplified by a pair of first-of-the-breed offerings from the recent EuroCALL conference and from Computer-Using Educators (CUE), a California-based professional organization.
Together, these discs point the way for further offerings, including an anticipated cross-platform TESOL CD-ROM now being planned by members of the TESOL CALL Interest Section.
The CUE CD-ROM, now in its fifth edition, is a hybrid-format disc, including files and programs for DOS, MS-Windows and Macintosh. CUE distributes copies of its CD-ROM for free to members attending their semi-annual conventions. Others may purchase it by mail for $25 U.S. CUE-5, created for the organization's Spring 1995 conference, includes a variety of programs and information files aimed at educators, many of them especially useful for teaching English as a Second Language. Among these are shareware and freeware programs, publishers' demos, public-domain text files, student- authored programs and content prepared especially for CUE such as position statements and conference presentation abstracts. Some of the software can be run directly from the CUE-5 CD, while other programs must be installed on the user's hard drive to run properly.
Depending on their computers, users of the CUE-5 CD-ROM may access the disc's contents in a variety of ways. DOS users, for instance, can run a "start.bat" file which presents a selectable multi-level menu of the offerings for their computer platform. The menu, created with Ntergaid's HyperWriter authoring system, provides direct access to most of the DOS content of the CD, along with information about how to install Windows programs. The HyperWriter menu runs without a hitch from DOS windows in Microsoft Windows 3.1 and Windows '95, too. However, no Windows-specific menu program is provided. This presents minor inconveniences for users of [-2-] Windows 3.1, who must use the File Manager or the Program Manager's "browse" and "run" features to explore the disc fully. Users of Windows '95 can use that operating system's "Explorer" program to browse the CD-ROM for programs that will run on their systems. Macintosh users can browse the disk from the desktop.
In terms of content, the CUE-5 CD-ROM deserves a place in any English teacher's collection. Some of the offerings are ESL- specific, thanks in part to the fact that CUE is based in California, where non-native speakers of English make up a large proportion of public school enrollment. Among several publishers' demos for IBM-compatibles on the disc are ESL Tutor for DOS, a vocabulary and grammar tutorial; Cornerstone, a set of language arts exercises, and Skills Bank 3, a set of tutorials to help students improve in English and other subject areas. Although the disc's conference abstracts are of primary interest to CUE members, educators within TESOL may find them useful as well, since many of the CUE presenters deal with ESL learners.
Most interesting of all are files created by students in the classroom. One poignant selection is a set of essays and poetry written by You-You Zhang, a 12-year-old Chinese-born student at Albany (Cal.) Middle School who died in an automobile accident. Several student-made text-and-art programs created with IBM's Linkway authoring system for DOS are also included, along with runtime versions of Linkway and Linkway Live. The most ambitious of these is a set of projects created by first- through sixth-grade students at Havens Elementary, in Piedmont, Cal. Other Linkway student creations on the disc include a short adventure game, a tutorial on environmental habitats, and a hypertext of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven," all created by elementary school pupils. These projects are worth a look both for their own sake, and for the ideas they can give to classes just getting started with creating content on computers.
CUE-5's creators have decided to be super-selective in their inclusion of shareware and freeware programs on the disc. There are just seven offerings under "sharewar" in the DOS/Windows portion of the disc: a communications program, two folders of basic Internet utilities, a paint program, a math tutorial, decompression software, and a crossword creator. In the compilers' words, "There are thousands of Public Domain and Shareware programs out there, and we refuse to re-create the wheel by loading this CD-ROM with programs we have never used just for the sake of bringing you hundreds of pieces of software." Instead, the disc's creators recommend purchasing commercially produced collections, such as the Internet offloads referred to above.
CUE is a pioneer in providing specially created CD-ROMs to conference attenders in fields related to TESOL, but it is not alone. Participants at the EuroCALL '95 convention, held in August [-3-]
in Madrid, received a free CD that deserves the name "hybrid" for more than one reason. It not only runs on both Macintosh and DOS/Windows platforms, but includes sets of content created by two different groups. The "Spanischer Germanistentag 1994" portion of the disc presents highlights of an international conference of German teachers, held in Madrid in December 1994. Of interest mainly to its attenders, the disc features seven digitized film clips, 37 color photos and the texts and summaries of several speeches given at the conference.
More generally useful is the same CD's "Software CALLection 0.1," created by the Department of Modern Languages at UNED, the Universidad Nacional de Educacion a Distancia, based in Madrid. As its creators write, "The aim of Software CALLection 0.1 is to present - through freeware, shareware and demos - a panoramic view of representative CALL software." In this, they have succeeded admirably.
The main strength of Software CALLection 0.1 is the breadth and scope of its software selections. Three main subdirectories comprise the "software" directory's offerings on the DOS/Windows side: BOOKS, CALL, and INTERNET. "Books" includes a version of Shakespeare's complete works in Adobe Acrobat format (Acrobat Reader is provided for various platforms as well), and plain-text versions of classic works by Charles Darwin, R.L. Stevenson and others. "Internet" offers a range of connectivity software, including recent versions of the web browsers Netscape, Mosaic and Cello, TCP/IP stacks, mailers such as Eudora, modem communication programs, and helper applications for file transfers.
"CALL" is the heart of the disc. On the MS-DOS side are a dozen subdirectories for authoring, culture, demos, dictionaries, grammar, spelling, vocabulary, and even a Japanese-language tutorial. On the Windows side, "demos" include outstanding selections ranging from Macromedia's Authorware and Broderbund's Learning Books to content- rich explorations of major historical events. Shareware and freeware include multiple offerings for culture, dictonaries, small encyclopedias, foreign-language fonts, vocabulary development, and tutorials for various languages including sign language, among others.
Unfortunately, the Software CALLection disc has no front end. The lack of any organized menuing program requires that would-be users get under the hood and poke around, opening subdirectories in turn, running executable files, and installing a large number of programs to their hard drives just to find out what they are. Getting to know the Software CALLection takes time, but it is time that is amply rewarded with hundreds of useful programs for DOS, Windows and Macintosh users alike. The disc's developer, German Ruiperez of Universidad Nacional de Educacion a Distancia in Madrid, [-4-] hopes to remedy this with a new version of the disc planned for release in Fall 1996.
Taken together, the CUE-5 and EuroCALL CD-ROMs represent a major step forward in the distribution of affordable software for language-teaching professionals and their students. Each of the discs offers great examples of what can be done with 600MB-plus of file space, a consistent vision, and a wealth of available content from professional publishers, amateur programmer/educators and talented software designers at all levels in between.
The marriage of technology and education is a synergistic process. Language-teaching professionals and other educators are benefiting simultaneously from advances in Internet-based communication tools, low-cost storage and distribution of electronic files in "hard" form, and increasingly powerful and affordable multimedia-capable computers. Just as importantly, we are contributing to those advances ourselves, both by creating new content in our classrooms to share with others around the world, and by organizing what is already available to make it easily accessible to our colleagues. Ideally, the TESOL CD-ROM will draw from content made available across the reaches of the Internet, storing and distributing it in a format that can be accessed quickly and easily by anyone with a CD drive-equipped personal computer.
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