- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 16, 2003

In a world of violent video games, where dexterity of the thumb and index finger is infinitely more important than the flexing of the cerebrum, there must be a place for children and their parents to interact and actually learn something from that overpriced multimedia computer/gaming system. Take a deep breath and enter the ROMper Room, where learning is a four-letter word cool.

Students get an exhaustive lesson on the 206 bones in the human body through the Interactive Skeleton. This fantastic CD-ROM, designed for mature high school students and older, provides a virtual anatomy class with which users can view the insides of the human body at their own pace.

Created using a computerized tomography scanner at University College London, the program's 3-D skeleton offers the ultimate lifelike learning experience. After an easy installation process, the screen splits into an image area and an information area, and the clicking adventure begins.

Each bone can be studied closely by zooming in or rotating while text on the right side of the screen lists the bone's functionality, location and other relevant scientific data. Clicking on icons within the image area can display a blue overlay where identified muscles connect to the bone or pop up an entire skeleton so another part can be selected to study.

The information area contains icons to read and sometimes hear about conditions or procedures associated with the bones, some posed in the form of questions for those thinking about a career in medicine.

Text links even can lead to extremely graphic images of a dissected cadaver, displaying such organs as the bladder and brain, to further explore a bone's place and necessity in the body. I found the photos incredibly enlightening, but parents may want to be careful before exposing squeamish teenagers to this amount of detail.

Overall, students will find layers of knowledge throughout the site, displayed in a variety of ways. For example, students learning about the knee joint will find an image of the tibia, then discover that it is the larger of the two lower-limb bones. By clicking on text, viewers can access the X-rays of a tibial fracture in a 21-year old man.

To reinforce the fact-filled presentation, quizzes are available at multiple levels of difficulty that can be generated randomly or tailored to a student's needs. The tests involve either multiple-choice questions or manual identification of a bone or muscle and can encompass all or part of the skeletal structure and attachments.

The terminology used throughout comes from curriculum drawn up by the American Association of Clinical Anatomists, so anyone who gets a headache after reading the phrase "the posterior aspect of this prominence is deeply grooved for the insertion of semimembranosus which is on the epiphysis" should stick to Magic School Bus software for their learning needs.

However, for the depth of information and incredible images presented, the Interactive Skeleton is easily one of the best pure educational programs I have ever seen.

Interactive Skeleton, distributed by Tool Factory, $79.95, compatible with PC or Macintosh systems.

ROMper Room is a column devoted to finding the best of multimedia edutainment. Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail ([email protected]).

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