Hodder Gibson should be lauded for grasping the nettle and publishing textbooks in this difficult area.
Higher Information Systems joins Higher Computing and Standard Grade Computing to complement the teaching of these challenging subjects.
This well written book deals exclusively with the two mandatory units, relational database systems and using information. The very effective introduction puts information systems into context and each unit explores the subject in more depth and with better graphics than either of the other two texts.
The database unit deals very well with the concept of normalisation to the third normal form (3NF), a concept which pupils find hard to grasp. The author, Charlie Love, explains each stage very well, but then causes some confusion by including all the attributes in the entity-relationship diagram, when it would have been easier to see how the normalised entities tie in with the relationships in an entity only version.
He adeptly manages to include SQL, Access and Filemaker Pro examples when talking about queries and reports. What is missing, though, is a tutorial to teach the practical side of using Access.
"Using Information" was arguably the more difficult unit to get to grips with, regarding the depth of treatment of each topic. The depth of network topologies, for example, would do justice to Higher Computing, though an SQA representative says candidates only need to know the difference between a LAN and a WAN and not details of bus, star, ring and mesh topologies.
Greater depth in general is given throughout the organisational information systems and information management software chapters than either the Learning and Teaching Scotland or Scholar materials. The text is enhanced by the effective and carefully planned use of graphics and well structured questions with an exam style about them.
One of the book's weaknesses, however, is that throughout the text there are no answers to the questions and no option to buy a teacher's book with the answers. This means pupils using the book for self-study, without a specialist teacher to turn to, have no idea whether they are working effectively or not. Good, well written exemplar answers would help.
Secondly, when looking for suitable scenarios to take to 3NF, I would like to have seen new examples, as we are already familiar with these tasks.
Finally, the omission of any, let alone all, the three information systems options - applied multimedia, the internet and expert systems - is a serious disadvantage. Each is worth 50 marks out of 140 in theHigher exam and they are all equally popular. Even if the author had stuck with the internet or multimedia, teachers using the book would have moulded the course around it.
The positives of this excellently presented textbook, however, outweigh the negatives and overall it is worth a place on any information systems teacher's shelf.
Alan Paterson teaches at St Margaret's Academy, Livingston