The Contextual Guide and Internet Index to Western Civilization
Learning and Leading With Technology
Review of April 2001 by Judi Mathis Johnson, PhD
Culture 4.0's subtitle The Contextual Guide and Internet Index to Western Civilization is not an empty boast, but a clear description of this product that covers more than 3,800 years of western culture. The content of this newest version is completely presented in HTML documents. An Internet connection is optional, but the wealth of Internet resource links is too inviting to ignore. Lori Littlefield invited her department chair, Dr. Larch Fidler, to examine the software. Some of his comments are included because she thought he captured many of her thoughts in his words.
"As a teacher who has spent years both writing and teaching interdisciplinary courses in the humanities, the gathering and cross-referencing of the materials on this CD is a godsend," said Dr. Fidler.
As with previous versions, the extensive material is organized by historical period, subject area, and cultural sources. The way a teacher could use the material to teach is limited only by his or her imagination. The program covers nine periods: Bilbical History, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classic, Romantic, and 20th Century. These are further divided into more-manageable parts. Period Pages provide access to the CultureGrids®. Students can study by country: Britain, France, Germany/Austria, Italy, U.S.A., Russia or Other. Students can also access information by categories: History, Literaute, Art, Music, Religion and Philosophy, Science or Miscellaneous.
Culture 4.0 could be used in a single-subject course using the core material from just one of the categories or to show the cross-curricular connections of history, philosophy, art, mustic, literature, and science in multidisciplinary classes, such as a general humanities course. The program's organization constantly reinforces how any subject or event does not exist in isolation but is affected by influences both within its time and before it.
Periodically, several things keep students away from campus, such as long-term illness, inclement weather, or travel to away games. But Culture 4.0 could be used for distance learning. Supplemented by e-mail and other interactive technologies, this program can serve as a portable instructional tool, allowing students to have a small library with them at all times or take their humanities curriculum "on the road." The CD is filled with resources for teachers, but don't overlook the benefits of putting it in sutdents' hands. Culture 4.0 is also viable as a student resource for basic instructional purposes and research. The ancillary Web sites are useful not only for their content, but also because they present students with high-quality academic sites.
It is the organization not the amount of content that sets this resource apart from others. The 30 CultureGrids® pull together the resources in a way that assists teachers in their exploration of the material and in their assignments to students. The resources on the CD-ROM include 159 historical maps, more than 1,700 graphics (mostly works of art -- not clip art), 750 HTML pages, and more than 25,000 Web links. The 222 essays provide the solid core that pulls together this tour-de-force.
Culture 4.0 has high enough quality to replace traditional textbooks. It serves the supplementary and enrichment needs of existing humanities courses. In the hands of a teacher comfortable with technology, Culture 4.0 can serve as the basis for a course or series of courses. Having the time and resources to create a library of primary sources, a museum of art, and an opera house for music is probably too daunting for most educational settings. Fortunately, one does not have to.
Dr. Fidler said, "It would take years and substantial grant monies to create manually what is navigable in this format. The ability to cross-reference different time periods and disciplines surpasses any similar program or text I have seen." One simple example of the program's potential is to examine the profile about John Constable, the artist. One learns that he studied meteorology and cloud formations in particular. His work is often compared to Wordsworth's poetry of the same era. Think of all the directions, branches, tendrils, connections, and questions a teacher could now take or ask. A sample project might be to have students compare Constable to other painters and writers who seem similar. They could take a classic piece of literature and redesign the illustrations to reflect modern times but still convey the meaning behind the literature. They could make connections between artists and scientists. Which other scientists have been artists, and how did that contribute to the survivability of their scientific work? Have any other artists been fascinated with clouds?
Culture 4.0 so captured students' attention that they worked past the bell. Now, that's engrossing. Instead of encountering hundreds of isolated facts or learning from just one perspective, such as historic time lines, students are allowed to gather and store that information using a knowledge web. How they navigate and store that information can be personalized. The content exceeds the Maine Learning Results for middle and secondary students. The design of the material promotes collaboration, discovery, and higher-order thinking skills. Students were comparing and contrasting using evaluation criteria they learned from the essays and profiles.
The workbook is crammed full with quizzes, activities and learning guides -- the teacher chooses how to use them. The CD-ROM contains a Word document with all of the material from the book. This Word file is not only an excellent resource, but somewhat essential. The book prints the activities continuously, to fit so much into 200 pages. Printing your own worksheet allows you to personalize the material, rearrange the questions, and provide more space for students' answers. An Internet browser is required to access the material. The CD-ROM comes with Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator for Macintosh and Windows.
The familiar browser format minimizes any technical training prior to using the program. The thoroughness provides a basis for a variety of courses. Using the works of historians to analyze and interpret visual woks of art brings an expertise into the classroom that can benefit students and enhance a course. This review contains no section on weaknesses because the evaluators felt there were "absolutely none!"
Culture 4.0 is an extraordinary resource that provides much more than traditional textbooks. Certainly, it is a peerless resource for teachers in pulling together materials, including art and music, which otherwise would be difficult and expensive to collect. The program is so thorough it could serve as the core curriculum for a portable humanitites course. With proper use, it gives the humanities department of any school the possibility of going online with its students. The faculty just needs to set standards for utilization and evaluation.
The New York Times
Review of August 31, 2000 by Peter H. Lewis (excerpts)
Come away with me to my desert island, sort of a cross between "Survivor" and "Fantasy Island." The fantasy comes into play in that the island would already have a Power Macintosh G4 Cube computer with a 15-inch flat-panel Studio Display, a set of Harman Kardon SoundSticks speakers and a fast Internet connection. Add to that just one luxury item, "Survivor" style, and that would be a copy of Culture 4.0, an endlessly fascinating CD-ROM from Cultural Resources.
Culture 4.0 (www.CulturalResources.com) is an ambitious Western civilization study guide for the Internet age, for adults as well as for students. It works with Windows computers as well as with Macs....
The Parthenon, as I was reminded by browsing through the Culture 4.0 software, is a superb architectural example of the golden rectangle, one that has the most aesthetically pleasing ration of length to width -- the mam bear of rectangles, according to one of the many clever academics, historians and critics whose views are included in Culture 4.0. A golden rectangle can be divided into a square and a smaller rectangle that has the same proposrtions as the original rectangle, and the smaller rectangle can itself be subdivided into a square and still smaller rectangel with those proportions, and so on....
All these thoughts about beauty and art surfaced as I was using the Cube to browse Culture 4.0, which is subtitled The Contextual Guide and Internet Index to Western Civilization, Covering Various and Sundry Things Every High School Student Should Learn and Every College Student and Graduate Should Know.
Culture 4.0 ($69, plus $5 shipping) draws heavily from the lectures of Dr. Walter W. Reinhold, a professor of music history and humanities who has twice been voted teacher of the year at New York University. Classroon teachers or self-teachers may want to order the 195-page printed workbook ($29, plus $5 shipping).
The first Culture version appeared a decade ago in Apply's Hypercard format, which could be deascribed as a prototype of the World Wide Web, only with training wheels. Culture 4.0 has now been rewritten in Web format so it requires the use of a browser...the program is rich in ideas and content...
The disk itself comes with more than 10,000 profiles of famous people, more than 1,700 pictures and illustrations, and more than 200 short, entertaining essays on political, literary, musical, artistic, philosophical and theological history, all woven together to put people, events and ideas into context. The program's scope is virtually unlimited because it has more than 25,000 links to related sources of information on the Web. And most of those links have links, creating an outward spiral of information as elegant as the Nautilus shell.
"Personalities, events, works of art and styles all play on and off each other," Professor Reinhold notes in an introduction to the program. Culture 4.0 builds order out of what might otherwise seem to be the chaos of historical events and ideas, and that, after all, is what civilization is all about.
Above all, Culture 4.0 reminds us that in our haste to make computer literacy a goal of our schools, we must not foget cultural literacy. And that is a beautiful thing.
©2000-2010, Cultural Resources, Inc.