New for January 2006
Science software isnt so scarce any more. We have models, simulations and
revision tools aplenty but what turns software from eye-candy into useful is
when it fits a lesson and solves a problem. What makes software great is when it
moves us to another level and happily youll find some this year.
At first sight, Simple Circuits (£60 from Sunflower) is an intuitive electric
circuit simulator. You measure amps and volts in Ohms Law experiments, and you
very efficiently learn how lamps share current in parallel circuits. You can
switch between real and symbol views of a circuit which is very helpful but its
remarkable that you can also see the sharing as electrons deliver energy.
Those who never understood what Mr Ohm was on about at last get a chance. Whats
also good is that this fits school: its a teacher explaining tool and a
purposeful pupil activity with as much challenge as you need. Sunflower
Multimedia for Biology is up for a BETT Award and up to the plaudits heaped upon
From past BETT award winners Fable, comes Odyssey (£149) which delivers advanced
animated chemical models like no others. In 80 topics you see 3D molecules
colliding and vibrating to explain lone pairs, Boyles Law, ion solvation and
hydrogen bonds. These models are compelling: every movement is calculated and
rendered on screen. Its mind-blowing, cutting edge and helps justify having
computers on this planet.
For biology Food Webs: Ponds is a model of a living ecosystem and a
tour-de-force. You can change any factor and show the ups and downs of
predators, prey, oxygen, nitrogen in a pond. You can introduce a new organism
into this virtual food web, pollute it or keep things as simple as you need.
You can even feed the model seasonal data collected with a data logger.
Krucible (£849) from Immersive Education is a series of must-see models about
forces, energy and waves that have set benchmark with do-anything,
measure-anything simulated laboratories. The scope of this begs for a
demonstration though each title now has pupil materials with pre-set
experiments. Notwithstanding this competition, Crocodile Physics and Chemistry
(£550) greet the year with new versions of their thorough models which can be
dropped into a web page and thus enjoy life outside the program.
Its rare to find book publishers hit the spot but Scientifica, a Nelson
Thornes KS3 course, has a teachers CD thats tightly linked to its textbook.
It is like an electronic copy of the book but then it adds lesson starters,
PowerPoints, reliable web links and smart assessment. As a very interesting
evolution of the school book, Scientifica should be seen. Channel 4, the TV
people have Clipbank, where moments from science programmes, like Seeing Science
find their way onto disc for easy access to film and activities. Primary titles
include Plants, Human Body, Light & Sound (£49) while secondary schools can have
a DVD of The Virtual Body with awe making special effects (£25). Some
attractive library titles with video and facts hail from Didactics/AVP. Though
chemistry is not the funniest of subjects, Id recommend a look at 'Salts' (£13)
where reacting metals are filmed with rare hilarity.
Primary teachers should see Kar2ouche: Living Things in their environment
(£138) a no less astounding tool to classify animals and discuss adaptation. The
work, which entails making storyboards with animals feeding, even talking, in
their habitats is unusual, creative and inspiring.
Following up the ever-so-sweet animation in Butterflies, Bugs and other
Beasties (£20) for age 6+, Spiny Software now have Ponds and Streams offering
facts, a virtual pond dip and an identification key (£20). RM, the computer
people have Easiteach Science - an add-on for whiteboard software of the same
name. Included are concept cartoons, investigation templates and evidently
enough to put this on the list for a BETT Award.
Also for primary, the respected Ginn New Star Science gains a set of CDs to
work hand in hand with the course. Called Interactive Activities & Experiments
(£65 ea. Harcourt) they offer structured walk-through experiments for each year.
Sam Learning, well established as an exam result booster now have a new online
service for primary schools (£VARIES TOO MUCh). Each pupil has an access code
they can use to swot up on science at school or home as the system keeps records
behind the screen.
More primary resources take shape as the ASEs Primary CD (£15) made for Science
Year. Careful scrutiny finds the buttons that take you to a bundle of science
activities, easily missed on a quick browse and easy to recommend at the price.
Last but not least, those looking for essential tools for infants would do well
with Infant Video Toolkit 2 (£75) with its refreshing, unconventional approach
to handling data. Another to see is 2Investigate (£39) which especially suits a
Roger Frost is a science & ICT trainer and software consultant. He is author of
his own advanced chemistry software - see top line above
Science CD-ROM - Sunflower Learning www.sunflowerlearning.com
Exam preparation, Exampro from Doublestruck
Infant software tools - 2simple Software www.2simplesoftware.com
Physics teaching tools - Fable Multimedia www.fable.co.uk
Laboratory simulations - Crocodile Clips www.crocodileclips.com