For elementary-age children, encyclopedias can be daunting and a tad dry. Because first experiences with information gathering can be vital to a child's attitude towards research, parents will want to choose research tools that make the process enjoyable. With this latest edition of the electronic encyclopedia, World Book remains an outstanding reference software for children entering the world of research. Elementary-age children will find relevant articles and multimedia that can help them with school projects. Additionally, users of the software will find plenty of creative features that encourage them to satisfy their thirst for information, simply for the sake of knowledge.
Users are greeted with a pleasant splash screen that offers different tools for searching and browsing the contents of World Book Encyclopedia. Once inside, children will find an intuitive interface and clear icons at every turn. There are two CD-ROMs in the Deluxe Edition, and we were unable to find an option for full installation. Nevertheless, disk-swapping is minimal.
The program has some interesting browse features. Back in Time, for example, offers eighty years of World Book articles. With this feature, children can read about events described without the "bias" of current perspectives. Surf the Ages is a creative educational offering. With this feature, children can explore simulated web sites, written as if the internet had existed since ancient times! The Monthly Spotlight feature helps children learn how to use the program while offering links to articles that relate to the current month. Just Looking allows users to browse the encyclopedia randomly or via customized searches.
Articles in World Book generally include links to related information, both within the encyclopedia and online, in addition to questions for review. The latter helps motivated children process the information they have read. Children can easily place "sticky notes" in articles for future reference, and they can use a nice highlighting feature that works much like a regular highlighter pen. Children use this tool to mark selected text in yellow. The encyclopedia has a built-in, child-friendly dictionary. If children stumble upon words in an article that stump them, they can simply double-click the word, and a definition of the word (or a close match) will appear in a pop-up window. The program also features an easy-to-use Atlas. The maps are interactive, quite detailed, and available in different views, such as climate, historical development, and population density maps. Different types of Homework Wizards are available for help with preparing reports, charts, and even quizzes.
The amount of multimedia content in an electronic encyclopedia is important for stimulating interest, but perhaps more critical is how the multimedia is used. Multimedia is liberal and creatively distributed throughout the World Book articles. World Book features plenty of pictures, videos, audio clips, and over a hundred 360-degree panoramic views. The use of multimedia in the encyclopedia is creative enough to hold children's interest and to enhance learning.
We hope that future updates to the program will include help for children who misspell words in their search, like the help found in Encarta.
We performed several tests by searching for information that real kids needed for school projects and presentations. One test involved a child tester's project on Polish people and traditions. We found very readable, relevant information on the topic, as well as nice media, including pictures and even songs.
World Book Encyclopedia 2003 offers a nice alternative to web searches. It contains a fair amount of content as well as hand-picked web links. This keeps children from being overwhelmed by too much and irrelevant information, thus streamlining the process of gathering information. As such, it is a great choice for children who have basic information needs.
An expanded program that includes World Book Encyclopedia Deluxe as well as five extra CD-ROMs is available and entitled, World Book Encyclopedia Ultra-Deluxe Edition 2003. Even though the additional CD-ROMs offered in the Ultra-Deluxe Edition are good, the star of the set remains the main World Book program.
It is important to note that children beyond elementary age will likely need more information than that contained in World Book. However, for young researchers, World Book offers a positive and useful introduction to research and information gathering.