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Range rovers

PUTTING aside longer term initiatives to connect schools to the national grid for learning, now is as good a time as any to take stock of the range of your geography and history software and, more importantly, the types and variety of information they give pupils access to.

Those who are familiar with the CD-Rom Medieval Realms will be interested to see the new CD from the British Library, The Making of the United Kingdom - Crowns, Parliaments and Peoples 1500-1750. Primarily aimed at key stage 3, the program comprises a significant range of original sources drawn from the library's collections and other archives and museums. The range is extensive and includes chronicles, pamphlets, parliamentary records, poetry, prose, music and ballads of the period, maps, paintings and portraits, and photographic records of secular and religious buildings.

The key developments and changes which permeate these 250 years, from the dissolution of the monasteries to the Act of Union, all have sources available to study. The CD leads the pupils through investigations into the well-known historical questions of the period, and is supplemented by pupilactivity sheets and teachers' notes.

For the geographer, multimedia, particularly in CD form, remains a highly efficient means by which pupils can access the widest range of information about places throughout the world. Iceland - Living on the Edge, being introduced at BETT '98, is the latest in high-quality geography CDs from Matrix Multimedia. Using the island of ice and fire theme, this CD explores the features and processes of tectonics and glaciation and their impact on the physical and human environments. As in previous products, access to images and information is through either a menu of geographic themes or an interactive map.

Matrix Multimedia will also preview Sustainable Development, a CD for pupils in key stages 3 and 4 and aimed at introducing them to the issues of Agenda 21. Being aware and understanding the concept of sustainability is undoubtedly enhanced when pupils can explore the ways in which they interact with the environment and the impact that this has on sustainable development. The CD will include case studies drawn from Germany and Britain.

Primary teachers will be interested to see the new series of book and disc sets which form the Interfact series from Two-Can Publishing. There are several titles which are related to the humanities: Egyptians; Vikings; and rainforests. Also of interest to primary teachers will be the new CD-Rom on Rivers which is to be launched by Ransom Publishing. The CD includes information, diagrams, photographs and video clips about the formation and features of rivers. The "scrapbook" should prove to be a useful aspect allowing pupils to collect information on rivers alongside photographs and diagrams imported from the CD. Supporting the CD will be an educational package which will provide a resource of activities and worksheets. It is intended that both items can be used independently or together.

Information technology has always been a useful means by which to help explain the different features of weather and the relationships between them. The Advisory Unit is building on the interest generated by its CD, Windows on the Weather, to preview its follow-up, Windows on the Weather 2. Apart from access to information and data on weather in the British Isles, the new CD should include animated sequences explaining weather phenomena, formations and patterns. In addition, plans are already in place to include a live link from this CD to a number of dedicated Web sites around the world giving students access to specialised research centres and universities, as well as weather data.

The National Council for Educational Technology will be producing the second in the series of materials to emerge from its History and IT Support project: History Using IT - Searching for Patterns in the Past. As the name suggests this set of materials will be concerned with pupils setting up and using databases to identify patterns in history, and spreadsheets to examine the overviews and depth studies. As with the previous pack, the materials are aimed at key stage 3 and will have examples of the construction and use of databases for teachers and pupils to follow or adapt. There will be an accompanying set of data files with the exemplars in the booklet, available for PC, Apple and Acorn-based software. These files include: Indigenous peoples of North America; English and Welsh Castles; Roman Emperors; and British Trade from 1750-1900.

With the wealth of new and developmental software on offer, the world of information is alive and well and safely in the hands of the historians and geographers.

BETT Connections

The Making of the United Kingdom - Crowns, Parliaments and Peoples 1500-1750 PC and Acorn, Pounds 99 + VAT,British Library stand 530A

Iceland - Living on the Edge, PC, Pounds 79 + VATSustainable Development, PC, Pounds 89+ VAT. Matrix Multimedia stand C114

Interfact: Egyptians; Vikings; Rainforests. PC and Apple (floppy or CD) Pounds 9.99, Two-Can Publishing stand C13

Windows on the Weather 2, PC and Apple, Pounds 80 + VAT, The Advisory Unit stand 720

Rivers. PC, Pounds 34.99 inc VAT, Ransom Publishing stand 834

History Using IT - Searching for Patterns in the Past. PC, Apple and Acorn, Pounds 15, NCET and Historical Association stand 545

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