(The Guardian, January 2000)
(The Guardian, January 2000)
The current crop of software is the best in years and tools to teach with
you will surely find. Todays software is different: out go the titles that
try to do the teaching for you they were just too rigid; in come resources
you can customise to suit how you teach.
The idea,where you can assemble different lessons from
resources on the computer, appears repeatedly in the better software. Its
used by the AVP PictureBase series (age 11-16 from AVP) which as well as
Habitats and Materials covers the whole curriculum. PictureBase is a
library of text, diagrams and photographs that can be plundered for worksheets.
Just out in a new web page format to keep on a school intranet, pupils can
use it for their project work, rather than burn up time on the Internet.
For something highly interactive, Crocodile Physics (age
12-18, from Crocodile Clips) is like a well-stocked physics lab where you can
experiment to your hearts content. Covering many syllabus topics, here is the
hardware flattened for the small screen. There are masses, trolleys, lenses and
electronic components to assemble, experiment and take measurements with. You
can swing pendulums, change gravity, change angle of ramps to learn about
forces. Excellent are the optics tools which let you split light into its
colours with a prism and see how fibre optics transmit light. A section on eye
defects, where you increase the focal length of a spectacle lens and see what
that does to the light rays will make an awesome teaching tool. Though it comes
with worksheets, those with time to spare can use it to create impressive
interactive tutorials. This really is one to see for yourself it reminds of
Interactive Physics (age 13-18, from Fable) another do what you like
tool, more technical but very flexible.
From the same people comes Crocodile Chemistry (age 12-18),
a chemistry lab with a hundred chemicals to heat or mix so there is fun to be
had. You can do pH titrations, show temperatures on graphs and again there are
lots of classic, ready-made school experiments to try. You can use it to make
apparatus diagrams for worksheets, and it looks like it will make a good
revision tool too.
Two others to look out for, both for advanced physics are
Oscillations & Waves (age 17-18 from Fable) with its impressive animations
of refraction and diffraction and the new Multimedia motion 2 (Cambridge
Science Media) where you measure the acceleration falling objects using full
screen video clips.
Primary schools are well provided for compared to some lean
years past. Science Explorer (age 8-11 from Granada Learning) offers good value
by covering many topics and suiting library or classroom use. Experiments that
speed up real life add special value: you can grow a tomato plant, watch
bacteria multiply or see the sun change position in the sky are but a few gems
in this set of two titles.
Just out is Flexitree (age 7-12, from Flexible Software) a
rare type of software known as a tree database. Used by pupils to create a
key to identify animals or plants, it helps to teach about classification.
Its an exercise that generates discussion, and this particular version is
easy and well priced.
There s more My Amazing Human Body (age 6-10 from
Dorling Kindersley) helps teach about healthy eating and how the body works.
Pupils feed and water a body keep it working, assemble one from its parts and
see the ribs move during breathing.
For the younger ones Millie Metre and Her Adventures in the
Giants Belly (age 5-7, from Tivola) tells about nutrition using a storyline
and amusing cartoon graphics. Meanwhile the top juniors can prepare for the
tests ahead with Practise Science For National Tests (age 11 from Granada
Learning) and Science prepare for SATs (age 11 from Dorling Kindersley).
Both of these drill pupils with lots of questions and surely get them into the
spirit of the test season.
Roger Frost is the author of Software for Science