Make Your Own Interactive CDs

We learn best when the knowledge or skill we think we’ve acquired is reinforced – especially when a concept can be visually demonstrated. That was probably the thinking behind those old classroom filmstrips that some of us may still be able to vaguely recall. Today the computer not only relegates those ‘visual aids’ to the dustbin of history, but permits true interactivity in the learning process. Now not only is the student able to see what is involved, but he or she is able to learn from ‘hands-on’ – albeit simulated – experience.

Although the use of simulations and modelling far pre-dates the use of computers in the learning process, it is the computer which permits realistic and interactive models and simulations capable of immediate and helpful feedback. Learners can explore simulations that would be too dangerous, expensive or otherwise impossible to set up in the classroom. This type of environment can be intrinsically motivating and challenging. And, sometimes, too costly to even consider.

High Cost of Software

As wonderful as inteactive computer lessons and simulations are, the cost of such software, given ever-tight school district budgets, have made their use in the classroom very problematic. An effective alternative to purchaing commercially developed software, with its high price tags, is for the eduactor to make his or her own CD-ROM software activties. This is not as difficult as it may sound. You can provide your information on a CD-ROM in the same way as one would develop a web page!

Setting Up An Interactive, “Webpage-Like” CD-ROM

Webpage authoring software makes it very easy to develop and “burn” a CD-ROM interactive lesson without the need to learn complicated computer programming code. Three of the best and easiest to use are: Microsoft FrontPage; Netscape Navigator’s Composer; and, for Macintosh computer users, Claris HomePage. Also many word processors allow you to convert lessons and activities that you create into web pages. Video, music, and interactive shockwave content can be incorporated into your web page based CD-ROM.

The “Mechanics” of developing an Interactive CD-ROM

Design your interactive lesson or activity the way you would normally develop it using pencil and paper or presented as a demonstration. Be consistent with your design. Use the Web page authoring program’s “template” so each page will have the same basic elements.

Paper and pencil handouts have sections for students to write their names and answers to questions or respond to given situations. Your interactive Web page must have this same capability. Forms are visually created on a Web page using a series of text boxes and fields, radio buttons, check boxes, pull down menus and submit or reset buttons. Here’s a breakdown of how they might be used:

Text Boxes – Any short answer: name, address, Email, etc.
Text Fields – Longer, open-ended comments, body of an email message.
Radio Buttons – Where only one answer is appropriate, like the buttons on a car radio.
Check Boxes – Where one or more answers are appropriate; i.e. “which of these search engines have you used in the past 6 months”
Pull Down Menus – A way of letting someone choose one option from a menu; often used in a questionnaire.
Submit and Reset Buttons – to complete the form or start anew.

Sections for student information input (name, date, class section, etc.), interactive tests, answers to lesson questions, interactive feed back all can be set up as a form, using your Web page authoring program.

With the addition of video, games and animation, along with the potential for linking to online data, your Web page CD-ROM activity has the potential for delivering engaging multimedia presentations.

Downloading images, animations, sound and video on the Internet is fairly easy. “Safe downloading,” means putting your anti-virus software on your computer before you start!

If you go to a Web page and see an image you like, you should Email the contact person for the Web site and ask for permission to download and use the image before you use it. You should request permission even if the Web page does not contain a copyright statement, as copyrights on web pages are “implicit,” meaning a Web page and its contents are copyrighted, whether or not there is any such notice. The only time you should download an image without asking is when the author states that the images are in the “public domain.”

The best place to find images, animations, even sound and video file clips in the public domain is by visiting Web sites that maintain graphics archives. Many have search engines or have the files subdivided into categories. Most simulations are designed as Java Applets, JavaScript or Flash animations. These too can be downloaded as public domain or “freeware” files and used on your Web page CD-ROM.

This is very important: you need to create an Auto Run file when you burn your CD to have the CD-ROM automatically start like the professional applications. This file type will automatically launch an application when the CD is inserted in the CD-ROM Drive or player.

Here is a list of resources that supply Free Autorun or Autoplay CD-ROM files:




For Macintosh computers the comparable utility is called AutoStart. It is possible to create an AutoStart CD on a Macintosh , using a program called UPDATESTAGE Autostart Utility, but it may be only for OS 9 or earlier. Note: All Autorun or Autoplay files must be installed in the root directory of the CD-ROM and not in folders on the CD-ROM.

From Web Page to CD-ROM Software

When you have made your Web page(s) with all of its text, simulations, and interactivity, burn it to a blank CD. When “burned” onto the CD-ROM the web page(s) functions as if it were uploaded to the Internet.

It’s best to use a rewrite-able CD-ROM (CD-RW) in case you need to make any changes to content or functionality. You can make several copies for use on individual computers or a single CD that can be used in the school’s intranet server.

By the way, building inks to pertinent Websites and then running that CD on an Internet-connected computer will provide the added benefit of access to more references and updates, adding yet another dimension to the functionality of your CD-ROM activity.

“Homemade” CD-ROMs, Is It Worth The Time and Effort?

The benefits of developing your own CD-ROM gives you the ability to integrate hands-on activities with a wide range of technology applications, without paying high cost software site licensing fees. Sldo, you are able to modify and customize a unit to support your specific objectives and individual teaching style.

To get an idea of the possibilities, visit the homepage of Light & crystals on CD-ROM. This is a commercial product incorporating all of the techniques described in this article, and is an excellent resource model to use when developing a web site based CD-ROM teaching activity.

Please Note: The Internet is a dynamic medium. All web sites cited in this article were current and active when written, but they can sometimes change without notice or be temporarily unavailable.

Email:Mike Calhoun