You don't have to go to BETT, but the annual show provides an ideal time to take stock of what is happening in the use of ICT to teach humanities, especially since so many products and ideas are launched there. The question is, where to start?
The Clipbank TV-Roms from 4Learning are perhaps the most exciting new content-oriented product, targeting history, geography and science at key stages 3 and 4. There are 15 TV-Roms (pound;35.25 each) which use a compression technique to fit up to 45 minutes of full-screen video, and more, on one CD (hence TV-Rom). The footage, taken from the Channel 4 and ITN archives, is the star of the show. Quality is exceptional - ideal for whiteboards - and the choice of clips is excellent. In addition, there are picture stills, notes, maps and web links. There are also print and save facilities.
Perhaps the greatest strength of the product is that its quality is matched by its simplicity. It is also reasonably priced.
4Learning, an energetic publisher of online and CD products, has recently produced a range of books for key stages 3 and 4 to supplement its award-winning website Homework High. The key stage 4 geography title is well worth a look.
Neptune Computer Technology presents another CD-Rom series for humanities, launching with The Tudor Trail and River Focus for key stages 2 and 3 (pound;35 single user to pound;210 for site licence). Though less ambitious in scope than Clipbanks, they are still easy and good fun to use. Animations are unsophisticated and clear, putting the content not the technology first.
4Learning and Neptune are leading the way, but traditional book publishers still carry the most extensive and useful ranges of products. Heinemann products can soon be bought with eLCs (e-Learning Credits) - the BETT-award nominated ICT Activities in History (various prices) is a good first buy. Nelson Thornes offers Interactive History - Medieval Zone, a CD-Rom of supplementary learning materials for key stages 1 and 2 (from pound;150).The sample is fun but still challenging.
Finally, take a look at Espresso, which launches at BETT the 1920s and 1930s materials that complete Twentieth Century Archive (various prices), and Proquest, which unveils Proquest Learning: History (pound;350 for single-user licence, pound;495 for full site). Both products are high-quality and ideal for secondary.
Other new products may also be useful and BETT allows a look at some of the organisations which offer a gateway to ICT teaching. TEEM is the UK's leading independent evaluation service for educational digital content. It is a first-rate outfit and its easy-to-access evaluations are written by practising teachers. R-E-M is a commercial distributor of digital resources and its catalogue provides a fantastic opportunity to see what is available, right across the age and subject ranges. It's also a good place to check out pricing.
Those attending BETT can also enjoy the extensive range of seminars on offer. Ideal for geographers is the GA-sponsored Interactive Whiteboards in Geography. The talk is given twice, on Friday and Saturday. In my experience, geographers have always been ahead of the game, but I have a suspicion they are lagging a little with whiteboards. These talks will prove me wrong, no doubt.
And while on whiteboards, it is worth looking at all the new eBeam technology from Electronics for Imaging even if you can't afford it and also Alphasmart's Dana palmtop computer notebook, which is especially good for field work and outside surveys. Enjoy a busy year.
Graham Hart is a freelance writer and managing director of Hart McLeod, a packager of educational materials