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Recent Reviews for Calvin Ross


Frugal Youth Cybrarian : Bargain Computing for Kids (Book) - 9/25/2001 5:15:15 PM
This combination how-to, reference book is aimed at school librarians, teachers, home schooling parents, and even kids who want to learn. It advocates a four-way synergy among these phenomena: 1. The altruism of talented programmers, who have distributed literally thousands of educational programs on the Internet, 2. The unrealized potential of libraries, even with extremely austere budgets, to acquire tons of quality educational shareware, free ware, and CD ROMs (made available by those programmers), 3. The widespread availability of prematurely obsolete PCs and Macs, that can be brought back to life by running lean, efficient shareware, 4. The rapid lowering of the learning curves of librarians, who refer to this book, and soon are finding software gems of their own. It sounds good, almost like a Disney movie, but instead of Peter Pan you get programmers on a mission in cyberspace. Still, there is a silent criticism. A criticism that ends up discrediting the book even more than had it been discussed. People, including myself, are reluctant to criticize anything motivated by the love of children, so they don't ask the tough questions, like: "Doesn't shareware lack polish?", or, "Aren't the big companies like MicroSoft going to take over the educational software market?", or, "What about viruses?". Or they don't say: "By now the economic boom should have filled the coffers of libraries everywhere.", or, "Some of the titles are probably already out of date." I had all the above misgivings, yet there was something special about this book. No matter what the topic or sub-topic, the author seemed to know a lot about it, and even conveyed a sense of how it fit into the big picture. For instance, Mr. Ross cites Netscape to underscore one the book's central concepts, which is this: In the wild and woolly dawn of the information age, shareware is on the cutting edge, and quality shareware tends to last. Every book has a story (how its ideas were conceived, developed, etc.), and usually the more intertwined the book's story is with the author's, the better the book. Ross's story can be found in bits and pieces in this book, in another book: The Whiz Kid's Starter Kit, and in the archives of The Family Computer, a weekly column he writes. Calvin Ross is a teacher and computer lab manager at two schools, a single dad with a gifted son, the designer of the NewTechHigh (an experimental high school) website, and a former resident of Japan, whose understanding of our own freewheeling economy was deepened by observing theirs. When he writes about austerity remaining a way of life for most school librarians, or virus-free web sites that will be around for a long time (like Compuserve, or AOL), or the advantages of a particular math program--it's in the words of a man who's "done been there," and not for just a little while, but for years. That's what's special about this book. One other thing: the overwhelming majority of the 298 educational programs that the author has carefully culled, cataloged, rated, and described are still available. In most cases they've actually been improved.

Frugal Youth Cybrarian : Bargain Computing for Kids (Book) - 9/25/2001 2:38:53 AM
Where was Ross with his invaluable advice before our library wasted a lot of money? My review copy of this book is already dog-eared from showing it to the other professionals, especially Chapter 5, "Strategies for the CD-ROM." If you are investing in CD-ROMs and want a good basic list, plus others that are nice to have, you cannot go wrong in following Ross's recommendations. I gave the book to my fifteen-year-old son to "kid test" the sites, see how many are still in operation, and get his opinion of the star rating system. I expected the usual teenage response of monosyllabic answers to my questions, but instead I received an exuberant, "There's some really cool sites in this book!" The only problem he encountered was that some sites were constantly busy during prime time. He informed me that most of the sites were still operational and would be for many years because they were from reputable providers. What sets this book apart from others that are similar in format is the detail Ross provides in considering all aspects of providing frugal cyberspace in libraries. Every audience is addressed--educators, students, specialists, public librarians, and home schoolers. Ross covers equipment concerns, including how to best use old hardware and factors to consider in future purchases. He goes into detail about the largest online service providers, describing what to look for in a service and getting the most for your dollars, discussing user concerns, and explaining that all information could change overnight as competition is increasing and costs are coming down. Other topics include Internet etiquette, logging on, downloading shareware and freeware programs, bulletin boards, professional sites for media specialists and educators, indexing systems, and searching. This is a thoroughly "cool" book from anyone's standpoint, and a must-purchase for your professional collection.

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