Circuit training

Physics teacher Julian Hamm has created an unforgettable learning resource on electricity, says George Cole

furryelephant: electricity explained

PC CD-Rom (Apple Mac version made on demand) Key stage 3-4 physicsscience

Price: pound;23.49 single copypound;229.13 site licence; all prices ex-VAT


Don't let the title fool you, furryelephant is a classroom resource with a serious objective: to help students understand many of the basic concepts behind electricity and to correct some of the common misconceptions.

This CD-Rom has been created by physics teacher Julian Hamm (see box) who has used his six years' teaching experience to produce a superb teaching aid. Many software products created by teachers offer great content with an imaginative approach to teaching, but all too often are let down by poor production. Students, used to playing games that combine interesting content with smooth navigation and slick design, can be turned off by dull but worthy educational software. But furryelephant has excellent content and looks great too, with bright, colourful screens and superb flash animations.

The CD offers 10 lessons covering topics such as electrical energy, current, power, voltage, circuits resistance and domestic electricity. Each lesson is composed of a set of pages (the lesson on Resistance and Ohm's Law has 121 pages), each consisting of a large diagram or animation and a short box of text. Different ability levels are catered for and many pages have extension work in the form of quizzes, a "deeper" option (which gives a more detailed explanation) and a wrong ideas section (which points out common misconceptions about electricity).

This disk is easy to use, with a consistent and well-designed navigation system. Small on-screen buttons can be used to step forward or backward through the pages, which is great if you want to go over a point again. There is no need to scroll up or down a page - everything you need is on the screen. Lessons are selected from a pull-down menu. The text is clear, concise and at times conversational ("the next bit is a little confusing so hang on tight"). It's also great at describing things simply ("an ammeter is a bit like a speedometer for charges") and anyone who has ever struggled to help students learn how to calculate power, current, voltage or resistance will wish this disk had been available sooner.

But the real highlights are the flash animations, which do a terrific job explaining even abstract concepts in an easy-to-understand way. I lost count of the number of jaw-dropping animations on this disk, such as a bulb and battery diagram which morphs into a circuit diagram, an animation which shows how electricity flows through a plug, and another which lets you zoom into the heart of an atom.

Quite simply, this is one of the best physics teaching and learning resources on the market.

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