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BETT 2006 Science – Software (TES January 2006)

This year there’s a monster software harvest at BETT 2006 and so much to see ranging from handy one lesson tools to whole subject solutions. Top of our list are interactive models with physics almost over catered for while hardware for science needs its own heading (See data logging)

Most easily overlooked is version 5 of Crocodile Physics’(£190 Crocodile Clips) which gains a new wave section to help understand refraction, interference and diffraction. Here you have sources that send out 2D waves, including one that you can propel across the screen. You can add an obstacle such as a mountain to see what happens to TV signals and then there are detectors to measure how they go. What you gain is a wonderful ability to create models, add pictures and endless change variables. Also see and enjoy the new look interface. But as I said there’s a lot and not least the credible model worlds of waves and forces created by Immersive Education whose Krucible series has had been upgraded to show full screen images and be whiteboard-friendly. In ‘Solar System’ (£ n/a complex pricing) you can investigate eclipses and the seasons. You can even work out the right moment to launch a off to Mars using the earth as a 'sling-shot'. In ‘Floating and Sinking’ you re-create Archimedes's bath-time experiment. Nevertheless wander further to find that Fable Multimedia and Sunflower Learning also have very distinguished waves titles that merit hands-on play or for sheer efficiency, a trip to the BETT show.

If placing science in context is the way you like to go, see Motion-time graphs (£95 from Fable). Taking the motion idea to the max is a 3D race game where in a split screen you see the car’s speedo, live graphs of the race and all with the sound of the track. You can not only hear this, you can see the thought that has gone into making a winning tool for learning. See also Simulation Insight (Logotron, £89) which where pupils can create graphic models. In essence you at last do the clever modelling the curriculum asks for!

Sunflower Learning, who landed two awards last year with a highly interactive suite, now fills a need for pupils to use resources at home. The need takes shape as an accessible ‘learning management’ tool where you can set and monitor assignments. What’s remarkable is that rich content is at last connecting with ways to sorts out what there is to know. Those with an eye for what makes e-learning tick will head to CogBooks where this atomising of concepts helps provide a ‘personal learning path’. In essence they have digitised a science curriculum concept map to make a new tool (around £200) that can help pupils find their way through a subject and approach the ‘e-thing’ at a fresh angle. For an example of how ‘atomising’ looks in practice you might care to see my own chemistry software (IT in Science).

The new science GCSE’s (age 15-16) trigger a new generation of online resources to enhance printed media so a visit to book publishers Hodder Murray, Nelson Thornes and Heinneman is a must. Big things are happening here and you can expect entirely relevant materials. For ages 12-14 you’ll find assessment packages based on the KS3 Science Framework. Particularly look at Hodder and Nelson Thornes for impressive attention to detail in a learning management setting. Do also see Exampro (from £50 Exampro - Testbase ) a tool to create customised test papers with aplomb.

For primary science, ‘Simulation Explorer’ (from £49 Granada Learning) offers an accomplished half dozen experiments around forces, habitats and tooth decay. It’s well matched to the curriculum; all the more likeable letting you choose between two or three variables to play with. Thank goodness also that it’s software to gets some thinking going. Beside this ‘Ponds & Streams’ (from £34 Spiny Software) is my favourite of all with a clever minibeast identification key, lovely drawings and hand-crafted buttons that crawl away when you approach. For science TV on your PC there’s Seeing Science’ for ages 5-7 years. (£50 from Channel 4)

For colleges and teacher education OATmedia have the tutorial style “Essential Physics – Electricity and Magnestism” that’s attractive and competent. You move pretty quickly through so it’s a handy way to catch up on what there is to know.  Channel 4 extend the ‘Clipbank’ mix of TV programme and lesson resources on CD. New for secondary schools are several titles about oil, rocks, polymers and limestone offering film and clips about these industries (from £65).

Finally, as walking is the hidden curriculum at BETT, and try Caspian’s own walk around science environments. Here pupils explore habitats, respiration, photosynthesis, earth and space move around these ‘worlds’ to gain knowledge from various characters within(from Caspian Learning £399 each). The novel approach merits a hands-on walk-through and a comfy seat too.

Roger Frost is an adviser on science & ICT. His software for chemistry will be launched at BETT 2006 on Stand S59


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