Science ICT Resources - Roger Frost (TES 2004)

  • Don’t’ miss

  • Multimedia Science Library – from Sunflower Learning

  • Interactive physics software - Fable Multimedia

  • Ask Oscar tree database – from Kudlian Soft

In the beginning, as chemistry and physics were making software, somehow biology got left out. Here is a subject that is big on diagrams, rich in ideas to model, and lots of iffy experiments to explain. If that is the wonder, it is some treat to report this arrival a batch of titles this year. Cells (£60) is one of four from Sunflower Learning offering loads of micrographs to show or put side by side to compare. Clever touches include adding labels and being able to switch between sharp diagram and fuzzy picture. Another, ‘Osmosis’ offers animation of what happens in a potato besides seeing osmosis at work in the cell. As well as visuals you have controls to simulate the effect of changing concentrations which is a nice way to follow-up a not too exciting class experiment. Other titles include ‘Enzymes’ – a simulated experiment and ‘Circulation’ with the animation that this topic particularly needs. Given that ‘Sunflower Learning’s chemistry pack is in the shortlist for a BETT Award, there’s hope that for some good biology tools in the year ahead.

Past BETT Award winners Fable Multimedia have Interactive Physics 2004 (from £125), a new edition with improved interface and graphing to allow you to build visual models with awesome detail. New and unique is an incredible feature called ‘tactile feedback’. Using widely available feedback mice and game joysticks, you can actually feel forces, motion, and collisions in the models you build. That’s one to see as is physics-online.com, a compendium of 600 of the Internet’s best sites, video lectures and interactive ‘java applets’ (teaching tools) (£149).

Though not at BETT ((but at the concurrent ASE meeting in Reading)) Newbyte have a chemistry experiment simulation called ‘Electrochemical Cells’ (£125 site). Detailed enough for advanced level it shows electrodes eroding and metals depositing just like the real thing. And behind the glassware you see animated ions gain charges greatly helping to explain what’s happening.

And in these days of highly monitored courses, publisher Heinemann has a set of assessment tools to go with ‘Catalyst’, their Key Stage 3 Science course. The scope of what’s being offered here and much happening on-screen is one vision of the future but still there’s a room for the middle road in assessment. For instance, Trumptech have QuickAssess which lets you create tests and exams using a database of material. Beside this you can compare the stalwart Exampro (£60 from Doublestruck) which truly puts an end to cut and stick exams.

PRIMARY

Primary schools will also find some goodies this year. Following ‘Clipbank’ for secondary schools, 4Learning have a lovely set of primary discs offering wall to wall movie clips. Covering topics such as Forces, Habitats and Earth & Beyond, six discs (from Channel 4, £35 each) show what a TV company must do best. For example, there’s a clip of a giant model of the solar system laid out in an airfield and some wacky clips to explain different forces very clearly.

Gaining hold as a way to teach classification keys is the use of tree database programs. Kudlian Soft’s ‘Ask oscar’ (from £35) is another BETT Award nominee with its ‘in-place editing’ – the easiest way to add information just by clicking and typing. Don’t think that passť, as the gain is that infants as well as juniors can use it. It is worth comparing with another innovative database called ‘Flexitree 2’ (Flexible Software, from £32) which works cleverly and differently. This comes with the bonus of being able to save your as a set of illustrated ‘web pages’. An old favourite to see, but now much updated is Skeleton that lets you make a life size body model. You enter your body measurements, hit print and then fix it together. This very hands-on way to learn about bones comes from Soft-teach (£35).

‘Juniors’, an online service (£500 pa) for school and home this year extends to cover science. The Juniors' Science Module is large bank of online tutorials and activities that also logs pupil progress. It is rich in animation, very upbeat and an interesting backup resource. More teacher support comes from Virtual Image who have ‘Science Worksheets’ - a set of key stage 2 CD’s containing on-screen tests, sequencing and labelling exercises (£90). And for the interactive whiteboard see RM who have the very clever Easiteach software in a science flavour. Finally, as even the best resources merit time to learn and take on, see training provider ‘The IT Learning Exchange’ who offer courses that put software, and kit like the Intel Microscope to good use.

Though the software drought in biology starts to recede, it is but one of several areas with a shallow pool of resources. We are still a long way from whole curriculum solutions that fill in the gaps though that is something that is coming this way. Is that’s what’s wanted alongside typing pool classrooms?


Footnote

Roger Frost is a science & ICT trainer and consultant.

 

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