A CD-Rom adds a new dimension to revision, especially where it evaluates performance and identifies gaps in knowledge and understanding. It also means that pupils take responsibility for their own learning.
The DK GCSE Geography and Test for Success Geography 11-14 CDs allow students to log on with their own password, carry out a series of revision tests and identify their particular strengths and weaknesses. It gives feedback and keeps test scores. Pupils can then return to test themselves at different times. Most of the questions are highly relevant and provide a lot of extremely useful advice.
Software installation follows standard procedures. Though Quicktime for Windows has to be installed, this is relatively easy. There are, however, some technical limitations with these CD-Roms. The PC must be set up for 256 colours and with a screen resolution of 640 x 480. A sound and video card are needed as some help is only provided in audio and video format, without text. It is a pity that the software did not work under a Windows NT 4 operating system. For those who have difficulties, a telephone helpdesk is available.
GCSE Geography covers all 1999 syllabuses with a structured revision programme. The CD-Rom includes interactive tests, past papers, feedback, focus on revision and exam practice and can be customised to specific examination boards. The software allows students to identify weaknesses, and thus to concentrate revision and monitor progress. In all, there are more than 1,300 questions, mostly multiple choice. Full explanations are provided and there is a series of past papers that can be printed out and reviewed. There is also a key facts section that will support revision by providing sensible advice for examinations, with links to the past papers. The hints for success area gives general advice that is sound, but perhaps unimaginative. Some of the revision test questions are very difficult and might discourage some students.
Test for Success Geography 11-14 has more than 750 questions at three levels of difficulty and on a range of topics. It uses the same framework and basis as the GCSE version, but with fewer features and support areas. The materials are attractively illustrated with more than 600 graphics, maps and animations.
Karl Donert is senior lecturer in geography and environmental studies and international co-ordinator at Liverpool Hope University College.