The Reading Matrix
Vol. 2, No. 2, June 2002

Zurk's Alaskan Trek
Reviewed by Rhoda Rageh


Zurk's Alaskan Trek


Distributor: Soleil Software
Contact Information: Soleil Software Inc.
3853 Gove Court
Palo Alto, CA 94303


Windows 95/98 or Mac OS 8.5 and above, Netscape 4.0 and above or Internet Explorer 4.0 and above

Minimum hardware requirements: for PC Windows
CD-ROM (2x speed), 640x480 res, 256 colors, mouse
8MB RAM, Windows 95 or 3.1, 486, sound card (8-bit Windows compatible)

Mac & PowerMac Native
CD-ROM (2x speed), 640x480 res, 256 colors, mouse
8MB RAM, (10MB recommended), System 7 or later

Sound Blaster card or 100% compatible; stereo speakers or headphones


Price: $124.95

Teaching language in its proper context is a delightful way of not only allowing students to explore freely by improving independent learning but also by making teachers' preparations easy. Zurk's Alaskan Trek organizes a whole curriculum around a single theme. Adult learners are usually inhibited by their self-consciousness about their mistakes. My students have never been more enthusiastic about the equal partnership of successful learning. Animal theatre offers free exploration of ideas that no longer comes from instructor to students but that creates free interaction among students themselves and most importantly from students to the instructor. It is wonderful to note how students explore and ask questions without being overly conscious of their mistakes. Thus, Zurk's Alaskan Trek breaks conceptual barriers.

Zurk's Alaskan Trek focuses on one central theme of the Alaskan ecosystem but is not reduced to a single discipline. It instructs brilliantly through much-needed integrative learning. For my ESL students, Zurk's Alaskan Trek is thoughtfully designed to develop their learning strategies especially in the problematic areas of reading, writing and listening. Its various but interactive aspects have pulled my students out of their inertia and into a fascinating world of relevant contextualized and meaningful world. An imaginary trip to Alaska has certainly enhanced their awareness of the world around them. The field trip has been valuable. Students were captivated by the powerful storytelling style of learning about plants and animals. Now they know one world so far away brought home vividly in its natural setting.

The visual quality is excellent. Carefully selected colors pleasing to the eye make exploration relaxing and draws students to concentrate better. Salient icons organized into a beautiful map entice students' fancy and transport them easily from one place to the next.

The software includes a Portfolio (i.e., a notebook for students to store ideas and create stories), an Animal Theatre where students can write simple and compound sentences and also hear synchronized sounds of what they have just written. The two together allow the student to expand vocabulary and ideas about writing while grammar concepts still so intricately intertwined can be practiced in the process. An easy on-line Manual takes frustration out of using the software. From installation to running the program, instructions are clear and simple.














Rhoda Rageh is an ESL teacher in the United Arab Emirates. She teaches UAE nationals who are also employees of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and its affiliates in a process of changing 80% of the Emirate work force from foreigners to UAE nationals by the year 2004. Her students are adult language learners.