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Science resources update for 2007
by Roger Frost - published December 2006 in educ@ The Guardian

A new science curriculum has triggered the release of the largest bundle of software even seen and remarkably, nearly everyone’s wearing big, subject-wide resources this year. Which ones buzz? Which hardly muster the interactivity of a scratchcard? Visiting Bett 2007 is a good way to make buying less of a lottery.

 

*** PRIMARY Resources for primary science aren’t entirely overshadowed. In ‘Operation Minibeast’ (Sherston from £49) you find minibeasts, collect information, and identify them to learn about their ways and habitats. This photorealistic ‘field trip’ has a motivating story, an identification tree and numerous nice touches. Another to see is Earth, Sun and Moon (Learning Connections, £30), a straight to the point teaching tool of the whiteboard kind. You can use it to explain about orbits, the moon, seasons, day and night. What’s clever is how it explains itself in pictures, and lets you introduce it as you wish. Lastly we have Brilliant Learning: Science (Granada Learning from £99) an online service with ‘hundreds’ of whiteboard activities, like placing animals in their habitats or sorting them in a Venn diagram. This new service for 2007 also offers a library of printable worksheets and homework exercises.

*** SECONDARY A dozen ‘virtual investigations’ with a cute, fresh photographic quality can be found in GCSE Science Whiteboard Resources (from £200 Collins). In one example you examine heat loss from a house, changing walls and seeing the result with a thermal camera. In another you choose radioactivity absorbers but try to fix every radiation leak with lead and you’ll run out of it. Little twists and touches of challenge add real student appeal. Another to see is ‘GCSE Science Interactive Presentations’, a most accurate title for 30 diverse pieces (£175 Hodder). You can grow turkeys organically and measure the costs, manage a diabetic’s blood sugar level or manage the electricity supply to an island. It’s an interesting selection of topics and good value, while for GCSE coverage see for example, ‘AQA e-Science’ (Nelson Thornes £300) because here are CD resources that nicely mesh with page after page of text book. Social relevance is upfront in today’s GCSE so modular video resources like ClipBank (Channel 4 Learning, £250) has found its moment. This online, indexed and quality material makes the VCR and CD-ROM seem cumbersome. It shows that there’s video and there’s useful video. Strong coverage is a feature of ‘Instant Lessons’ (Birchfield Interactive, £99). Now restructured for new exams, with titles such as Healthy Living and Scientific Discoveries, they contain sets of lectures illustrated with impressive punch.

It may not be mentioned that my own ‘Chemistry Teaching Tools’ (£199, IT in Science) also features animated lectures, with the difference that these lectures have no words. For ‘interactivity’, where you use screen to explore science, can be found in another domain. In ‘Forces and Motion’ (Sunflower Learning, £90 each) you can experiment with an air track and visualise velocity and momentum ‘as they happen’. In ‘Motors and Generators’ (ibid) you can make a motor and ‘see’ the magnetic field lines. And if you felt that interactive software could explain itself better, see the ‘lesson kits’ in the new Crocodile Physics and Crocodile Chemistry. It’s as if a technician has set out your equipment, provided instructions leaving you to experiment with waves, acids, electricity and more. (Crocodile Clips, £190 each)

*** Data logging and sensors - Hardware If you wondered about extreme forces on theme park rides, the Wireless Dynamic Sensor System (Vernier - IDS £268) enables you to measure them with aplomb. This self-contained unit will log altitude, force and acceleration and store results or transmit them to the PC over a wireless link. It works well in the lab since there’s an enjoyable lack of constraining wires. Electronic measurement is evidently liberating, but when clunky trolleys and ramps exaggerate the tiniest experimental error, Qt Total Timing (Data Harvest - £279) is a solution. This sturdy downsized ramp replaces them, is bundled with sensors and delivers more precision with less luck. Amid such innovation, it’s ironic that few sensors measure mass and it’s great to see an affordable plug in and go balance sensor. The CS200 (from £150 – Sciencescope) is one of several that find will new uses for one of our oldest instruments. But also be amazed at what happened when Sciencescope combined a datalogger and a ‘satnav’ sensor. Visit their web to see measurements plotted on a Google Earth map and wonder where this is headed. Do also see a GPS location sensor teamed well with PASCO’s portable and exceptional GLX logger (£299). Finally, if this finds you cashless be alert to two affordable dataloggers that arrived this year. The first is ‘LogIT Voyager’ (Commotion, £199), a back to basics unit for secondary schools with economical battery life. The other is ‘Log-Box’ (£75 TTS) a not-at-all scary unit for primary schools at a very low price. Roger Frost

Birchfield Interactive

Channel 4 Learning

Collins

Crocodile Clips

Data Harvest

Hodder Murray

IT in Science & Roger Frost (01763 2009 109)

Learning Connections www.learning-connections.co.uk (01484 841708)

LogIT

Nelson Thornes

Pasco Scientific

Sciencescope

Sherston

Sunflower Learning

TTS

Vernier / Instruments Direct

 

   

 
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