Computers & Texts No. 16/17
Table of Contents
Winter 1998

Response to the Review of the BBC Julius Caesar CD-ROM

Helen Clark
Commissioning Editor
Collins Educational

Nicola Timbrell
Freelance Multimedia Developer & Lecturer in Electronic Publishing
Oxford Brookes University.


Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth and A Midsummer Night's Dream (the first three plays on CD-ROM in the BBC Shakespeare series) run using 5MB of free RAM. HarperCollins, the BBC and the developers of the BBC Shakespeare on CD-ROM pride themselves on keeping in touch with the market and with the latest technology. Therefore, the decision to upgrade to 8MB with Julius Caesar was taken after consultation with NCET, together with our own market research, both of which confirmed that this specification would be suitable for the majority of schools and universities. The memory requirement of the CD-ROM is rather less than that of a modern word processor, so the developers would say that it has a modest memory appetite. Julius Caesar was published the best part of a year ago and to date, we have received no complaints from customers about the specification. Technically, Julius Caesar and the CD-ROMs that follow in the series (Hamlet and The Tempest) are highly advanced: one CD-ROM works on either Macintosh or Windows machines.


Is the reviewer sincerely advocating that reading a paperback whilst watching a video is a preferable way of teaching to using a multimedia CD-ROM? Anyone who has stood in a classroom trying to find the right place on a video will appreciate the ease of running selected clips and highlights on a CD-ROM. We regularly receive reports of students coming into IT centres in their lunch-hour to work with the BBC Shakespeare CD-ROMs. We have yet to hear of students giving up their lunch-hour to to sit with a book and a video! Also, working with a CD-ROM helps students to experience IT, which is a National Curriculum requirement.

Contrasting performances

It is disappointing that no mention is made of either the fascinating audio clips from the BBC radio archives or the high quality audio track that accompanies the full text of the play. The audio performance is a major feature of the CD-ROM and is also an enormous help to students with learning difficulties, such as dyslexia. Of course, the audio also provides a full contrasting performance, as well as opening up another medium for investigation within the classroom. To preserve clarity and consistency, within the play itself the BBC Shakespeare is used for video clips, helping students to build up a visual awareness of the characters and the action. It is our policy to include clips from other productions in the supplementary sections. There is also a major technical reason for not including more performances, namely that video and audio use a great deal of storage space. This CD-ROM is full to the brim and represents excellent value for money.

Target audience

The reviewer comments on Julius Caesar as a GCSE text and also on its role in HE. Until 2000 Julius Caesar is a Key Stage 3 SATs set text. Accordingly this is the focus of the CD-ROM and a teacher trialling the CD-ROM with Key Stage 3 students would doubtless have referred to the relevance of the product to that level and praised its motivational effect on the students. In this context, it will be evident that discussions of New Historicism would be inappropriate, to say the least. Nevertheless, we have had reports of the use of the CD-ROM in degree-level classes. With the differing educational backgrounds of entry level undergraduates, we see the CD-ROM as not only an appropriate, but an excellent computer-based learning resource. The prestigious educational awards that titles in the series have garnered (including the RTS and BIMA awards) support this view.

The Globe

On our forthcoming CD-ROM in the BBC Shakespeare on CD-ROM series, The Tempest, additional video clips of the Globe will indeed be included. This material was available to us only after the publication of Julius Caesar and therefore could not be included on it. However, the photographs of the rebuilt Globe were taken the week before we selected them - it would have been impossible to be more up-to-date than that!


The creation of inventive teaching situations will ultimately always rest with talented and creative teachers exploiting the resources available to them to their full potential. Julius Caesar represents a rich and imaginative resource that many teachers have praised. It was created after exensive market research by a team of experts from HarperCollins and BBC Education, working with specialist educational multimedia developers.

[Table of Contents] [Letter to the Editor]

Computers & Texts 16/17 (1998). Not to be republished in any form without the author's permission.

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