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Spinning electrons;Reviews;General;Secondary

ATOM VIEWER. CD-Rom for MacPC from New Media Press, PO Box 4441, Henley on Thames, Oxon, RG9 3YR Tel: 01491 413999. Fax: 01491 574641 Internet: pound;50.

PERIODIC TABLE. Disc for Windows from Future Skill Software, Penrodyn, Pontrhydygroes, Ystrad Meurig, Dyfed, SY25 6DP. Tel: 01974 282428. Free Internet demonstration at pound;20 or 20-user licence at pound;30.

Atom Viewer is a tool for teaching about electronic configurations. You can watch the electrons spin round a nucleus as you add electrons one at a time. You might demonstrate the program and discuss ideas such as shell capacity and full outer shells. The class can then use it to work out the configurations of the first 20 elements on screen and there is a printout that pupils can practise with at home.

The style of this software, where the teacher explains as the class does an exercise, is unlike anything around and this is meant as a compliment. It is not a part of an all-singing, all-topic CD-Rom, but a short exercise that fits any lesson or syllabus.

Periodic Table is a welcome complement to the ubiquitous school science CD-Rom, The Chemistry Set. It covers part of the same ground, but does not need an expensive CD-Romcomputer to run.

With those element boxes on screen, you can show where the metals, non-metals and chemical families are in the periodic table. You can click a gauge to increase the temperature, to show the order in which elements change state. This illustrates an interesting pattern across the table - hard to do with a wallchart.

The most useful feature lets you select elements and graph the trends in melting, boiling, atomic radius and ionic radius. It does this with such ease, and they print so well that you'll be inventing all sorts of homework exercises with it.

A short manual and a sensible price make it worth considering.

Roger Frost is the author of "Software for Teaching Science" (ASE)

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