Pages to put you in control

DESIGN AND MAKE IT! Systems and Control Technology By Andy Biggs, Mike Hoffman and Tristram Shepard. Stanley Thornes Pounds 10.

ELECTRONIC PRODUCTS. Edited by D Barlex. Longman. Teacher's guide Pounds 19.99 Resource tasks Pounds 37.50.


Good news. Standards are rising and the flow of textbooks supporting GCSE courses continues. Other than a shortage of money, there can be few excuses for pupils without access to lively, stimulating resources. The reality is that schools will have to choose only one text from the many available to use as a class set. This is where the problems start. Some texts are linked to specific syllabuses, while others support styles of teaching and learning which may not suit all pupils or teachers.

In the former category is the latest publication from Stanley Thornes in their Design and Make It! series, strongly linked to the NEAB. (The relevance of the exclamation mark is unclear. Perhaps it is meant to echo the expression of surprise when a pupil's GCSE project meets the specification.) The book covers GCSE courses in systems and control. Microprocessor control, pneumatics, electronics, structures and mechanisms are all here. Like the rest of the series, the text is well illustrated with clear diagrams and photographs. Industrial case studies are used effectively, and there are plenty of project ideas. Prompts and checklists highlight key points.

The authors claim the book covers the core requirements of all GCSE syllabuses. It probably does, but whether in sufficient detail to help pupils to that A* grade depends on which exam board you use.

Schools using materials by the Nuffield Design and Technology Project will be familiar with the approach to teaching and learning.

Adopting a similar framework of resource tasks, case studies and capability tasks, Electronic Projects supports both short and full GCSE courses. The teacher's guide has hints on using the resource tasks and a valuable set of capability tasks which lend themselves readily to coursework projects. For this reason alone the book is worth the money.

The presentational style of the student textbook will, I suspect, divide the DT community. Many will find the illustrations fresh and lively, while others may see them as a distraction. This will be a matter for personal preference. More troubling are the typographical errors. The diagram of a Darlington pair of transistors is incorrect, and the student whose speech bubble proclaims, "I want a time delay of about 5s. My resistor is 10kW. So I need a 500 microFarad capacitor" is sadly confused about the units. In an area of project design where precision is important,such errors are unfortunate.

Bob Welch is senior adviser (curriculum and assessment) for Berkshire

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