Schools in the United Kingdom have a fine record in teaching pupils to use computers to control devices and models. Such activities show pupils how to liberate a computer from being a passive processor of information to something which affects actions. The importance of control technology has recently been strengthened in the curriculum and schoolswill be looking for suitable hardware and software touse in classrooms and workshops.
Control Insight is a valuable, versatile and easy-to-use resource covering the control, modelling and monitoring elements of the ICT and design and technology curriculum for key stages 2 to 4. It places control technology in the context of familiar situations. This easy-to-use software creates a range of virtual environments, enabling pupils to control devices and use a systems approach to solving problems. The software is available in two versions, Junior Control Insight for key stage 2 and Control Insight for pupils in key stages 3 and 4.
Pupils are given plenty of opportunities to think for themselves and solve a range of problems. Using drag-and-drop techniques, they select sensor and input devices, decide the actions using control modules and link these to output devices. They then determine the oprational parameters for the sensors.
Solutions to the problems can be tested as the system is assembled without the need for peripheral hardware. This mirrors modern engineering practice, in which computer-based simulations are used to test designs.
Most importantly, the package does not stop at on-screen simulations. A range of control boxes can be connected to the computer to allow information to be collected from sensors and devices to be controlled.
This is where pupils develop their capabilities as creative problem-solvers. They will enjoy making objects respond to a set of instructions and show great ingenuity in creating computer-controlled devices. The 12 situations built into the package include a dream bedroom, a magic toyshop and a haunted house. Older pupils can explore house security systems and supermarkets.
Teachers and pupils can also add more sophisticated scenarios. Three linked viewing windows are used to show an animated picture of the scenario, a systems window showing all the active elements in the control system and a connections window showing how to connect the model to a suitable interface.
A Program Guide contains full instructions on how to use the software including Quick-start tutorials.
Bob Welch is a senior adviser for Bracknell Forest, Berkshire