Early CD-ROM Project


American Identity Explorer: Immigration and Migration


The American Identity Explorer is an interactive, multimedia CD-ROM for an Integrated Arts and Humanities course (IAH 201) at Michigan State University developed from Spring 1996 - Fall 1997 (with a revision in Spring 1998 and 2000.) The focus is immigration and migration in the United States at the turn of the twentieth century. The CD-ROM brings together a large collection of primary and secondary source materials, letters, memoirs, photographs, art work, oral interviews, artifacts, and music from this era.

The AI Explorer is a focussed exploratory learning environment which, like libraries and the World Wide Web, contains more content than any one student is likely to experience. Like a museum, curators are organizing the content into a series of exhibits directed on different topics and providing interpretive commentary. In conjunction with the faculty curators, the Comm Tech Lab team, designed multimedia interfaces to the exhibits. Students can browse and annotate the exhibits through hyperlinks, or search the entire collected content for items of interest. "Tools for Thought" are being developed to enable learners to interact with a set of interactive content, to take notes while exploring the content, and to be able to compare and contrast, organize, analyze, and write about their observations. The Tools for Thought were derived by Carrie Heeter, Andy Kurtz, and myself.


I was lead programmer on this project, working with Andy Kurtz. Our tasks were to program the AI Explorer Browser and the Tools for Thought. Other tasks included the creation of tools to aid in the management and transformation of content into multimedia. The content was generated by Michigan State University Integrated Arts and Humanities faculty and it was massaged into multimedia by Carrie Heeter, Susanna Tellschow, and several other members of the Comm Tech Lab team.


The CD-ROM was initially used during the fall of 1997 in the IAH 201 class, which approximately 7,000 students take annually. We revised the program during the spring of 1998 and again in 2000. Afterwhich, McGraw-Hill Publishers distributed it to other educational institutions.