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Chronicles of a stormy century

The mood is retrospective as the millennium approaches. Simon Womack reports.

The quantity of new information technology products for the humanities is showing no decline. History and geography look well served by this year's crop being unveiled or previewed at the BETT 97 educational technology show.

As the millennium approaches, so thoughts turn to reflecting on the events which have marked dramatic changes during the 20th century. The Troubled Century is a new CD-Rom from Yorkshire International Thomson Multimedia (YITM) that looks at these events under three main headings: The Struggle for Peace, Societies in Change and Superpower Relations. This last section follows the relationships between the superpowers beginning with the Yalta conference, and case studies allow you to consider the Eastern Bloc and the West's motives and to reflect on the significance of the events in question.

From the same company, but in a different vein, is a new product for primary geography. Exploring Maps is a CD-Rom designed to introduce pupils to the concepts of maps and mapping. There are three main sections. "What is a map?" shows how maps are made. "Working with maps" provides opportunities to explore a selection of maps - the World, Europe, the Americas and Britain. The final section, "Map skills", has questions related to globes, satellite and air photographs and Ordnance Survey maps as reinforcement for pupils' learning.

YITM has previously produced CDs linked to its schools' TV programmes so it should come as no surprise to find an offshoot relating a CD to an A-level text. For A-level geographers, Understanding Weather is a CD-Rom designed to support the ubiquitous Geography: an integrated approach.

Other CD-Roms to look out for include World War One as a follow-up to World War Two - Sources and Analysis and Weather World, where students will be asked to cope with weather problems in six situations.

For the National Trust, 1997 could be a significant year as it sets about producing, in a joint venture with Anglia Multimedia, what will be its first CD-Rom.

Showing for the first time at BETT 97, the disc will consider the real issues and problems that the trust has to deal with daily, like conservation and farming or managing historic houses and the needs of tourists. Anglia Multimedia has a fine track record in collaborating with national bodies. With its expertise in multimedia and the unparalleled resources of the National Trust, materials which can be used to consider issues, such as sustainability, biodiversity and conservation versus access, could be made available. Historians, geographers and even scientists should look out for this disc.

Primary teachers who use either the Vikings or Romans CD-Roms from Anglia Multimedia will be pleased to know that another title is on the stocks, Ancient Egyptians. As with the other discs, you can expect characters to interact with and explain their world to you. Look out for this at BETT 97 - it will be launched around March.

Finally, Apple Macintosh users will be eager to hear that the well-known Anglia Datafiles will, in 1997, become available for ClarisWorks on the Mac.

Settlement will be a new addition to the ever-growing list of CD-Roms that make up the AVP PictureBase series. Those who are familiar with the series will know that high-quality pictures, diagrams, maps, video and sound with text are accessed through PictureBase.

This new CD-Rom, which will be on display at BETT 97, has information arranged under such diverse topics as "an old mining village" or "an English seaside resort" and each topic is based on a real case study. Bracknell is selected as the example of a new town in south-east England. Any pupil using the disc will find that the information on these topics offers plenty of scope to look at the wider aspects of comparison of settlement types or the relationships and the patterns that emerge.

It is unlikely that Bracknell will feature in King Arthur - The Myths and Legends, a new CD-Rom from the Cambridge Software House, but the disc does contain information on about 200 sites in the UK and France associated with the Arthurian tales. This CD-Rom, which will be previewed at BETT 97, sets out to examine - via photographs, text and video materials - the nature of chivalry and the stories of Merlin and Arthur against the background of sixth-century history.

Channel 4 Schools launches a new series of programmes next month called Living Proof. The programmes will examine local history for key stage 2 pupils through the idea of a quiz show where the pupils are the contestants and their specialist subject is local history. Particularly appealing is the questioning of the range and nature of evidence available.

Supporting the series will be a CD-Rom re-creating, in the classroom, the experience of playing the "living proof" game. The heart of the successful growth of IT in the humanities is good quality information so don't forget that if you can't visit BETT 97, there are other ways to find out about new products and IT developments.

One way is to visit Internet sites, which can interest history and geography teachers. For example, information and activities can be found on the Channel 4 Schools Internet site, while Matrix Multimedia offers a shareware version of Coasts, one of its new photo packs, via the Internet. There are four other titles in the "Floppy Disk Photo Packs" series including: Transport, Tourism, Cities, Food Farming. Each pack has between 26 and 30 photographs divided into sections. Photographs have hidden "hot spots" and are accompanied by worksheets. Matrix Multimedia is also presenting the latest in its well-respected series of CD-Roms for geography, European Ecosystems.

The National Council of Educational Technology will also provide new and updated information for geography teachers on its site. This section will have a geography database and CD-Rom reviews as well as information about NCET-supported activities over the year, including in-service support for teachers. This will go alongside Resources for Inset, a publication first produced in 1996 but which has ideas for running half- and full-day in-service sessions with outlines for workshops such as what IT offers to geography and building IT into planning.

If you are interested in relating work in geography with the requirements for IT in key stage 2, then it's worthwhile looking at what Bedfordshire Education Service is producing. They have developed a software shell, for Acorn users, into which pupils and teachers can load their text maps and images as they work on contrasting localities in the UK and the rest of the world.


Anglia Multimedia stand 357

AVP stand 355

Bedfordshire Education Service stand C77

Cambridge Software House stand 313A

Channel 4 Schools stand 702 Internet at

Matrix Multimedia stand C29 Internet at

NCET stand 545 Internet at stand 402

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