Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 113 / OCTOBER 1989 / PAGE 114


There's more to education than math drills and learning your ABC's, and educational software is beginning to branch into more serious, controversial areas. Substance Abuse Education has released a series of programs dealing with topical issues, including AIDS, babies and infant safety, sex, teen pregnancy, alcohol and substance abuse, and smoking. I looked at two of these programs, Understanding AIDS and Alcohol. Understanding AIDS doesn't include a printed manual. Instead, upon booting the disk, you see several short introductory screens. When you get to the main menu, start with the first item, the instructions. The online instructions are thorough, and I had no trouble operating the program.

The second menu item lets you learn facts about AIDS. There are eight submenus that cover almost everything currently known about the disease. You can learn about the history of the disease, who is at risk, how AIDS is spread, how to avoid getting the virus, and current methods of treatment. Sensitive issues are dealt with frankly, using precise terminology.

After learning the facts, you're given the opportunity to take a self-test. The program updates your score on the screen as it quizzes you on your understanding of the previously covered material.

Understanding Aids has many strong points. The online glossary of terms is very informative, as is the online manual. I learned some interesting facts about AlDS-treatment drugs currently being tested. Although this information has been published elsewhere, it was handy to have all the facts in one place. You're given immediate feedback to your responses, and the program is entirely self-paced.

One of the strongest areas of the program was the references-and-resources section, which contained hotline numbers and other ways to obtain additional information or help.

As a teacher, I'm passionately in favor of education in the areas covered by Substance Abuse Education's software. However, I'm concerned with the level of maturity needed to take advantage of this package. Although the AIDS issue is far too serious and important to be presented in a game formal, software designed to replace a textbook by simply presenting the material on a computer screen can't compete against flashier programs.

There is almost no interaction with the program, other than typing an occasional yes or no. The software is comprehensive, factual, and direct, but it didn't hold the interest of the eighth graders 1 used it with. The same test questions are given during subsequent uses of the disk, although the program varies their order. Furthermore, many of the questions are variations of the same scenario. The authors have created one of the most intelligent programs on the market, but they've used no imagination in doing so. The issues addressed are highly serious; arcade-style graphics would be inappropriate. But to get a message across, you must first capture your audience's attention.

SAE's Alcohol program is geared toward a young audience. The program is designed to help answer questions or correct misconceptions teenagers may have about the use of alcohol. The format remains about the same as that of the AIDS program, except this time a great effort was made to incorporate interesting graphics screens. For instance, facts about how alcohol enters the bloodstream or affects the brain are accompanied by excellent graphics depicting the passage of the alcohol. These graphics are frequent, varied, and interesting. The program requires significant interaction from you.

Using this program, you'll cover a lot of information pertaining to the use and effects of alcohol. Most of the information is fascinating: for instance, the program includes descriptions of how alcohol's effects can vary depending on your body weight or recent food intake, how initial pleasant feelings may progress to severe mental and physical impairment, and of the laws pertaining to driving under the influence and statistics on alcohol-related traffic deaths.

The program treats teenagers as adults. They're encouraged to make their own decision about whether or not to drink. It helps them determine what constitutes normally harmless social drinking and what types of drinking behavior can lead to problems.

A feature I liked was the statement of the publisher's goals for your completion of the software. They were numerous, nonjudgmental, and thorough. Also, there is an option to enter any special questions you have. These questions can be looked over by a teacher or parent who can then help find solutions. Plan to spend at least an hour if you want to cover all the material on either program in one sitting.

Although I was disappointed with some aspects of Undemanding AIDS, I feel that it and the Alcohol program are still worth buying. The issues dealt with here are important, and if one of the programs in this series helps someone decide not to drink and drive, or if it helps someone realize what AIDS is so he or she can treat the issue more intelligently, then the money for the programs is well spent.


IBM PC and compatibles—$39.95

(Alcohol); $49.95 (Understanding AIDS)

Apple II—S39.SS {Alcohol); $49.95

{Understanding AIDS)


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