A.D.A.M. The Inside Story: CD-Rom Evaluation

I evaluated an edu-entertainment CD-Rom product called A.D.A.M. The Inside Story. Although this CD-Rom is designed as an educational product, it targets the home entertainment/education market more than the institutional or school environment. This CD-Rom is a tool for learning about the human body. Among its interfaces it provides narrative of different bodily functions, thorough anatomical drawings and various views of the human anatomy. The technical aspects include providing both Macintosh and Dos formats. It installs Quicktime and a sound manager along with the program files.

One interesting option that is activated upon installation is the "discretion option". Adam and Eve, the actors and disectees of this product, wear fig leaves upon opening the interface. The user has the choice to make this optional or not. By choosing "yes" at the point of installation, the fig leaves can be removed at any time in the perusal. If "no" is selected then the fig leaves are permanent (with the ability to override this option with a command from the back of the booklet [of course]). I thought this was interesting. This 'safeguard' seems like "fluff" to pacify those who might find the exposed human body offensive and dangerous to easily-influenced adolescents and children. "Then don't buy the program." Many 'kids' will be the actual installers for this software and/or will have the ability to read the documentation to turn off the 'holy' fig leaves. Well, they probably "had" to do it. Anyway, the fig leaves are very large and seem adequate for their purpose. As the dictionary of terms found in the "Family Scrapbook", the narrative part of the program, says "fig leaves are botanical apparel for social or instuctional situations requiring modesty."

the opening screen gives a large view of Adam from his chest up and has a smaller view screen showing the zoom area. There is a menu bar at the top and also an icon menu to change the views of the figure on the screen. The zoom option can be refocused, the gender can be changed, there is a posterior and anterior view and you can search with a magnifier or a simple pointer. Adam and Eve can also have one of four different racial skin tones and features. In this screen the user can discover the body layer by layer by scrolling up and down a menu bar or can choose to see one of the many systems of the body. The first layer under the skin you will find subcutaneous fat and the last layer is a cutaway view of the bones. In the menu bar is a lightbulb that "lights up" the systems and organs that are being described by the caption. This feature would be useful for teaching because when 'lit' everything is gray except the featured objects. When its not 'lit' all the tissues are their normal colors. A teacher could teach the anatomy in highlight mode and give tests with the highlight turned off. (Yes, I know that's kind of mean). The other two icons on the menu bar are for different screen modes. A pair of glasses will let you find a term in the dictionary or anatomical name fields. Some types of slang words are not included, but some are. It seemed kind of random. A search on "butt" retrieved 'belly button'. The book icon opens the narrated "The Family Scrapbook" screen.

The Family Scrapbook is pretty interesting but also pretty 'cheesy'. The language seems simple enough to be understood by elementary children, but the sexual innuendo seems directed toward the more mature audiences. This section covers twelve systems; cardiovascular, digestive, endocrine, immune, integumentary, lymphatic, muscular, nervous, reproductive and respiratory. The narration for each system includes pictures and animations, some of computer generated representations and others of Quicktime video clips. For example, the cardiovascular system section included a segment of open heart surgery and the reproductive system had a baby moving in the ultrasound. This section was very educational despite the innuendo-laced banter and sound effects. I learned things I never knew and remembered stuff that I forgot years ago.

Overall, I feel that this is a good product. Its mechanism was designed to be very easy to use. It has elements for use by various different user groups. The narrative combines simple language with technical terms to provide instruction and has current popular elements to attract the audience. One possible critiscism would be that the software runs on a continual loop in some parts of the narration and in others the user has to click on the forward buttons to proceed. This seemed like it could be a defect in the program because it was random. There didn't seem to be a logical pattern that developed to determine when the narration continued by itself and when you had to prompt it. Otherwise I found it interesting and entertaining and educational.