SuperKids' review teams looked at four traditional CD Encyclopedia packages, two CD desktop reference tools, and a new encyclopedia for younger children. For comparison purposes, we also took a quick look at a potential alternative to CD encyclopedia -- the World Wide Web.
To evaluate the softwares' content and ease of use, we asked our kids reviewers to suggest a list of four questions they might go to the encyclopedia for, for answers. Their list:
Encarta 98 found information helpful to our kids' research trial on three of four questions. What differentiates Encarta is the level of detail provided, and the writing level -- Encarta is better suited for older users. Windows 3.1 users, however, are out of luck - Encarta 98 is for Win95/NT/Mac only.
Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia 1998 also found the answers on three of four questions. Grolier's offers a solid search engine and functional display layout. Generally provides less detail than Encarta or Compton's, but in language more suitable for middle school and above students.
World Book 1998 gave the broadest coverage, providing at least some information on all four research questions. The level of detail and writing is most appropriate for grade school students and above.
Eyewitness Children's Encyclopedia is another piece of software that our reviewers thought might be purchased by some parents as an encyclopledia. This program is great for exploration, but it is not a substitute for an encyclopedia.
We also took a look at what some parents might consider as an alternative to purchasing an encyclopedia -- the World Wide Web.
The World Wide Web, searched using the Excite! search engine, provided some information all four questions. Excite found the best answers to two (curveballs and McCarthy), a reasonable answer for one (mirrors), and a confusingly detailed deluge of data - but not an answer - for the fourth (anesthesia). To be fair, however, this quick test was done by one of SuperKids' editors, who is an experienced Web surfer and searcher.