School Zone's Alphabet Express

by Al Giovetti
Price: $40
Genre: childrenís learning, language
Release: July 96
Developer:
Producer:
Publisher: School Zone
Phone: 1-800-253-0564
Website: www.schoolzone.com
Requirements: PC or MAC, 15 MB of hard drive space,

History: Alphabet Express is the first CD ROM from School Zone Interactive, a new division of School Zone Publishing Company. The program is the "Most Elegant Product" award winner in the Apple Computer Human Interface Design Excellence (HIDE) Awards. At the Apple World Wide Developerís Conference, Alphabet Express was one of three finalists in the "Overall" category.

Alphabet Express has won the Association of Multi-media International (AMI) Gold Award in Education/Training Category and Nine Production Awards, the Family PC "Family Tested Software Award," and The National Parenting Center Seal of Approval 1997.

Age: 3-6 The age level appears appropriate for this title.

Activities: Matching games, letter and sound associations, coloring pages, music videos, dot-to-dot and maze activities fill the entire programs with lots of learning fun.

How does it work: The game starts with a train pulling out of the station, the Alphabet Express. The train ride, with a cute alligator conductor. As the train travels around the track, it travels through the alphabet. Clicking on a letter takes you to a screen filled with objects that begin with the letter selected. Clicking on an object results in identification of the item.

On the side of the screen are icons that transform the screen - a paint brush turns the screen into a coloring book. Another icon, the train track light crossing symbol, stops and returns to other screens, and other icons, icons of the alligator, fireman, and train will jump to help (alligator), back on the train, and other program functions.

Graphics: Most of the graphics are hand rendered two dimensional graphics that would not compete with the high-resolution three-dimensional graphics seen in most popular games like Quake. Younger people respond to simple graphics. Look how many love Barney, other plush animals, and cartoon characters.

What does it teach? The game teaches beginning sounds, hand-to-eye coordination, letter recognition, listening, sequencing, concentration, visualization, and problem solving skills. Multiple pre-reading activities prepare children for reading.

The Parent Guide on the disk explains the CD to adults. (Children may not need any help in this area - Ed.) The school zone web site provides additional information about the product and other similar educational products.

References:
Richard Theriault, www.avaloncity.com/MacToday/Marchisu/DickyMar.html
http://product.info.apple.com/pr/press.releases/1996/q3/960604.pr.rel.hide.html
www.microweb.com/pepsite/Software/Reviews/july96.html
www.njin.net/~pbruder/EIRC/shom.html
Family PC, September, 1996, 85%
MacUser, October, 1996, 4/5 (80%).
Childrenís Software Review, June-July 1996, 4.5/5, (90%).
Curriculum Administrators, August 1996, 4.3/5, (86%)
Indelible News!, August, 1996
Mac Today, March, 1996, 4/4 (100%).