The greatest challenge facing instructors of ancient history is the fact that most textbooks are, by their very nature, extremely dry. In spite of numerous attempts on the part of authors to include images, primary documents and "interactive" websites, the majority of available textbooks do little to stimulate student interest. Most students do not take advantage of the websites and pay little attention to the photographs and primary documents that accompany the text.
It is obvious that this problem poses a difficult task for even the most dedicated instructor. Therefore, the dilemma for the teacher is to either teach history regardless of whether or not students choose to use all the aids available to them or to take a more active role in generating interest in ancient history.
The CD under review here, Geschichte der Antike, is meant to be used in tandem with the text of the same name and is aimed at college and high school students for use in self study. Through its usage, students are encouraged to take more active roles in the learning process. The CD is an introduction to ancient history and contains a catalogue of 300 questions that aims to provide students with basic knowledge of ancient history as required by ancient history majors at the University of Zurich. Additionally, the questions are helpful in preparation for the Zwischenpruefung. Since the material is in German, it is of limited use to American students. However, it is appropriate for instructors who are familiar with German and are teaching undergraduate courses in ancient history, Western Civilization, or even World Civilizations.
Geschichte der Antike introduces the student to the world of antiquity, particularly the Greco-Roman world, through the use of texts, maps, and images in addition to incorporating animation, film and sound into lectures. Students can view historical monuments up close and even listen to ancient languages. The use of such multimedia allows the instructor to present information in an efficient and extremely student-friendly manner that will keep students engaged and interested in history.
Although Geschichte der Antike focuses on the Greeks and Romans, students are able to experience the "Cradle of Civilization," as well as the world of Late Antiquity with clear images and excellent graphics.
Each chapter is arranged similarly. After each period is introduced, the highlights and achievements of the various civilizations are presented chronologically. Additional information can be quickly located by clicking on the right menu bar. Images and other types of multimedia are embedded in each section. Coffins, pictures, coins, maps and sound sequences along with additional literature help convey the topic presented. For example, there is a virtual tour of the Arch of Constantine, whereby students are transported to ancient Rome for an in-depth look at the arch's inscriptions and friezes. Moreover, the various building phases of the monument are color coded. Students can actually see and locate the arch by means of a map of ancient Rome along with modern photographs, adding to the understanding of the greatness and complexity of ancient Rome.
Sound and image keep the students alert, and hearing an ancient language also enhances the learning experience. Ancient Greek texts are read in the audio section.
The interactive quizzes contained in each section provide the instructor a means of assessing student learning.
In conclusion, the CD-Rom Geschichte der Antike is an innovative learning tool. Instructors of ancient and world history will find its carefully selected images, maps, and texts to be quite useful. Especially engaging are the animation and audio portions as well as the right menu containing additional information on the topic. Geschichte der Antike provides the historian with yet another instructional aid that is both fun to use and an exciting way of presenting history.