by Marta Isaacson
SUBJECT AREA: Geography
PUBLISHER: Tom Snyder Productions
COST: $99.95, single copy; prices from $199.95 for a 5-Computer lab pack to $599.95 for a site license.
INTENDED AUDIENCE: Grades 4 - 12
NOTABLE HARDWARE REQUIREMENTS:
Mac: System 7.1 or higher, 68030 processor or higher, 8 MB RAM.
Win: Windows, 486 processor or higher, 8 MB RAM.
EDUCATIONAL GOAL: To gain geographic information and develop collaborative teamwork skills.
DESCRIPTION: Europe Inspirer is one of four titles available in the Inspirer Geography Series. The other three titles focus on the United States, the World and Africa.
Each game consists of a trip comprising ten stops in different European countries where the students can gather that country's resources in order to earn points. For example, one trip might require the students to visit, in ten moves, as many countries as possible that have fishing as a major industry. The next trip may entail looking for lumber, produce, or population density and energy resources. To start, the teacher distributes a Travel Log and a set of maps. The students keep written track of their moves in the Log. The maps list the location of the resources to be found and their point equivalents. The game can be played in three modes: whole class, multi-team rotation (with up to seven different teams), and single team.
The game can be played in three levels which are distinguished by their degree of difficulty. Level One, recommended for Grade 4, asks the student to find only one resource and promotes map reading skills and cooperative learning. While playing together, the students develop shared goals and learn to research and organize information. Level Two, for Grades 5 and 6, has two resources to search for simultaneously. Here, students need to plan their trips, weighing the point values earned, per country visited. The students also gain skills in delegating responsibilities and exchanging information. Level Three, for Grades 6 and up, adds more strategic planning by asking the group to end their trip in a country which has a specific resource.
STRENGTHS: This game is entertaining while teaching the location of European countries and their major resources. Custom Categories can be created to incorporate a teacher's own data into the game. Suggested lesson plans are included. While the program inspires cooperative learning, competition between teams can also be encouraged. Directions are fairly simple, and the screen layout is easily maneuverable.
WEAKNESSES: Europe Inspirer contains no moving graphics or animation. While the program meets its intended goals, the lack of an interactive screen misses an opportunity to provide a more in-depth cultural picture of each country. National anthems or other ethnic symbols might enhance the students' feel for each country's individuality. For students with reading problems, a nice addition to the program would be a feature to pronounce the names of the countries.
SUMMARY: Europe Inspirer is an enjoyable and novel way for students to become familiar with European countries and their natural resources. By providing the opportunity to work in teams, the game does a nice job of teaching students to work cooperatively. Europe Inspirer is an excellent tool to explore European geography in an entertaining and challenging fashion.
Marta Isaacson is a graduate student in the Department of Special Education at The College of New Jersey.
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