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Enlightening e-sources


Schoolscience was set up by ISE (Industry Supports Education) "To provide information about science learned in schools and how it is applied in industry and research". The home page leads the teacher or pupil to the topic of their choice through various routes.

The site is divided into nine main groupings: ages 11-14, 14-16 and 16-18 for each science. Coverage varies, with new topics signalled on the home page. So, for instance, key stage 3 biology and A-level physics are each represented by only two topics, or "electronic resources" (e-sources) as Schoolscience calls them, but the other categories have from three to 16 e-sources each. All are useful and some are outstanding.

Each e-source is sponsored by a research organisation or industry, so although Schoolscience has standardised its format, there is a noticeable difference in quality. Topics sponsored by the Medical Research Council (MRC), ICI, Corus and British Energy are particularly impressive.

Each e-source is fully indexed and has a useful "map" with links to all sections in the topic. Key words are hot-linked to glossaries and the texts are liberally sprinkled with "roll overs" - highlighted words linked to interactive diagrams; when the cursor is rolled over them the diagram changes. Every e-source has online questions and many have a quiz at the end of each unit.

Most of the e-sources consist of five interactive pages and there are downloadable worksheets with some. My favourites include Circuits (physics 11-14, sponsors: British Energy), Catalysis (chemistry 16-18, sponsors: ICI and Synetix), History of Medicine (biology 14-16, sponsors: ABPI), Cystic Fibrosis (biology 16-18, sponsors: MRC).

Dealing with Waste (physics 14-16, sponsors: Nirex) contains an entertaining online debate, in which you can be a protagonist or objector in the nuclear fuels argument. A "devil's advocate" (DA) poses questions to which you can provide answers, choosing from three alternatives. Depending on your choice the DA throws another controversial challenge into the forum.

There are a few glitches. Potentially fascinating virtual tours of an oil refinery and a drilling platform failed to run properly. And the glossaries? Most definitions are useful, but some are a bit dodgy. And aren't A-level students past needing definitions of "protein" and "amino acid"?

Ben Aldiss

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