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History to suit primary computer whizzes

HEINEMANN EXPLORE: The Ancient World. The Middle Ages. Renaissance, Reformation and Exploration. The Age of Revolutions. The Twentieth Century. by Richard Dargie. CD-Roms with accompanying books. Single user pound;49.99, multi-user pound;99.98 for each volume. Age range: 8-14

The Heinemann Explore history series for Scotland captures the interest of older primary pupils who enjoy working on the computer but can be frustrating when they find themselves unable to progress independently and require a great deal of teacher time to overcome problems.

At Wellbrae Primary in Angus, we have used The Middle Ages and The Twentieth Century most, because they fit in with our programme of environmental studies.

The Middle Ages was used with two Primary 5 classes. Both teachers found that the material on the CD-Rom was difficult for all children to access and required a lot of teacher input. The information in the accompanying books was beneficial but only for the more able pupils. However, the time spent teaching the class was worthwhile as there was plenty of relevant information within the CD-Rom and able pupils could help others to access the information with some success.

The Twentieth Century has been used by our Primary 7 pupils, who thoroughly enjoyed it and were able to access the information independently. The teacher set tasks and the children used their knowledge of computing to find the answers, with the more able pupils helping others.

The children especially appreciated that references were made in the books to specific areas of the CD-Rom.

The aims of this series, disappointingly, could only be achieved by pupils and teachers with good computing skills. It was used to the best advantage by the most able pupils.

Much of the information was surplus to our curriculum requirements at the moment but will be of use when we update our social subjects programme of study. Teachers need to be selective and guide their pupils accordingly to use relevant parts of the books.

Brenda Davie is headteacher of Wellbrae Primary, Forfar in Angus

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